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Episode Discussions > Ep 156 Classic and Contemporary

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard | 47 comments First, many thanks to Thomas and Simon for discussing how they find time to read. It was a very interesting chat, and it made me realise that I'm lucky that I manage to find as much time to read as I do.

The discussion about reading classic and contemporary fiction was also very enjoyable (and it connected nicely with the 'finding time to read' chat). I read a mixture of both. I have a preference for classics, but I do also read many contemporary novels and short story collections that have special appeal. I have a few favourite contemporary writers, so I try to read a mixture classic and modern. I do that because I like both classic and contemporary, not because I feel that I ought to be reading one or the other or both. I like to read some non-fiction, too. I think Simon is right - the only thing a person should read is whatever he or she feels like reading at the time.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 64 comments I wanted to jump in on the finding time to read discussion because I get asked this a lot, even from strangers. I always end up feeling like I'm some kind of savant. I've actually had people admit to me that until they discussed a book with me they thought I was lying about reading the books I say I read. Harumph.

So anyway, a few strategies:

1. Do not have children. Thomas hit the nose on this one.

2. Have dogs who like to get up between 4:30-5, despite you not needing to get up until 6:30, and live 3 miles from where you work. This gives you some great reading time.

3. Go home for lunch every day (dogs again, also short commute.) On the days you aren't watching TV, read while you eat lunch!

4. Listen to audiobooks on drives (even the short ones) and walking across campus.

5. Read multiple books at once. Not too closely in style or it gets confusing, but somehow the variety makes me read more.

6. Talk about books. The more you do the more you want to read, and the more you'll make time for.

7. Listen to others talk about books... same reason.

8. Buy your partner or children wireless headphones so you can read while they watch tv. This has been a huge godsend to me!! I get bored with most tv but didn't want to feel isolated. Now we can both be in the same room... my husband plays videogames and I read.


message 3: by Louise (new)

Louise | 154 comments Jenny I totally agree on number 5. Read multiple books at once.!

I have two kids - and yes homework, fixing meals, laundry, solving conflicts and spending time with them takes out a good chunk of my after work time, but I also pay someone to clean my house for me, and I rarely watch tv (games on my phone or pc are a worse obstacle...) but audiobooks while shopping, doing laundry and driving are a big hit :-)


message 4: by Nickelini (new)

Nickelini | 7 comments I read a mixture of classics and contemporary. I like listening to the readers because they discuss both.


message 5: by pam (new)

pam | 24 comments Apologies in advance if this question is indelicate or ignorant - but Simon, what is it about monkeys you don't give? Several times I've heard you say you don't give a monkey's. But a monkey's what? Butt? Foot? Uncle?

Here in the states we often say we don't give a rat's ass and I can only think this is the part of the monkey you don't give. But I MUST KNOW. Seriously. I will not sleep again until I know.

Btw - I spent two years living in east Africa (amongst the monkeys) and I have no love of them as they constantly broke into my house, stole my food and pooped in the sink. Cheeky bastards.

Pam


message 6: by Robin (new)

Robin (tijgerlil) | 29 comments Hi all!

So I spent my high school years in the Netherlands so I didn't start reading English classics until I was well into my teens. I read them because I thought I should but to be honest I loved them!!

Before that I read a lot of Fantasy (Piers Anthony) and when in Canada around the ages of 9-11 I read a lot of R.L Stine and Christopher Pike.

It's only in recent years that I have begun to explore more contemporary literature thanks to book clubs and podcasts such as this. I am, in a sense, my own educator when it comes to reading and I do try and select books that are varied in author gender, different cultures and classic vs contemporary.


message 7: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments pam wrote: "Apologies in advance if this question is indelicate or ignorant - but Simon, what is it about monkeys you don't give? Several times I've heard you say you don't give a monkey's. But a monkey's what..."

I messaged Simon about this, but he seems unwilling to give up the goods. I tried guessing some unprintable possibilities but he said no to all of those.


message 8: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Robin Bo wrote: "Hi all!

So I spent my high school years in the Netherlands so I didn't start reading English classics until I was well into my teens. I read them because I thought I should but to be honest I love..."


What were some of the classics you gravitated toward when you started reading them? And what about now?


message 9: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "I wanted to jump in on the finding time to read discussion because I get asked this a lot, even from strangers. I always end up feeling like I'm some kind of savant. I've actually had people admit ..."

I'm a big believer in multiple books at once.


message 10: by Elizabeth☮ (new)

Elizabeth☮ I tend to stick to more contemporary fiction rather than classics, I'm not sure why. I feel like once I started tracking my books on goodreads, I focused on newer books rather than the classics. As an English teacher, I often have to read classics before I teach them. And, just like my students, I don't always enjoy what I am reading.

I like this rule of eliminating should in reading. That releases a lot of pressure.


message 11: by Robin (new)

Robin (tijgerlil) | 29 comments Thomas wrote:
What were some of the classics you gravitated toward when you started reading them? And what about now?i>

I can't remember the first one I picked up. I do know that my parents had a beautiful copy of David Copperfield that I found one day. I remember thinking of the illusionist who was really big at the time. The pages in the book were so delicate I decided to read it.
Following on from that I read Wuthering Heights, Crime and Punishment and even tackled (and finished) War and Peace.

Nowadays I have a certain amount of classics waiting to be read on my shelves but they are mainly selections from 1001 books you should read before you die. So more commonly known ones.

I recently read Middlemarch for a university course (I tweeted you Thomas about what your favourite character was!) as well as some Gothic classics.

So in a sense at the moment my classics are chosen for me, rather than when I started reading them and chose them myself...

Odd turn of events.



message 12: by Lola (last edited Jul 27, 2016 03:50PM) (new)

Lola | 21 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "I wanted to jump in on the finding time to read discussion because I get asked this a lot, even from strangers. I always end up feeling like I'm some kind of savant. I've actually had people admit ..."

Love this list. I often get side-eye from people who find out how much I read (Goodreads busted me)(and I really don't read as much as so many of my bookish friends here on GR-just more than most of my friends)...the unspoken message is often that there must be lots of things I'm not doing that I should be doing if I really can read all.those.books.

Like many, I just squeeze in a little bit of reading whenever I have time. There is always a book (or more) going on my phone (Kindle and audio), my Kindle is always in my bag and there are literally books all over my house. Wherever I sit, there's a book nearby. I also don't watch a ton of TV (giving up Real Housewives of NY gave me so much more reading time :))

For those with kids...all is not lost! I do lots of reading when my kids are at activities and I've got down time waiting to pick them up. Soccer practice is great for getting a few chapters in (witness my Litsy posts- I'm Lola there).

Re classics v contemporary..part of by problem is FOMO when hear about new books. I want to be able to talk about what everyone else is reading! But I do feel like I've missed out on some classics that I know I want to read so I'm making an effort there. Just read Jane Eyre for the first time. LOVED IT. The Serial app is an great way to have a classic going as an extra read. Oh, Thomas, I just picked up Jane and Prudence as a Kindle Daily Deal. Probably wouldn't have done that if I didn't know of Barbara Pym from you talking about her on the podcast :)

I kinda feel like I've just been to confession, lol.


message 13: by Louise (new)

Louise | 154 comments I can actually get quite stressed by both wating to read more by favourite authors, more classics AND keep up just a little with the new books coming out. That's when I'll start 4-5 new books at a time :-)


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 64 comments Lorraine wrote: "Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "I wanted to jump in on the finding time to read discussion because I get asked this a lot, even from strangers. I always end up feeling like I'm some kind of savant. I'..."

I know that side-eye! How do your kids feel about you watching the book instead of them? (I think it's awesome.)


message 15: by Lola (new)

Lola | 21 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "Lorraine wrote: "Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "I wanted to jump in on the finding time to read discussion because I get asked this a lot, even from strangers. I always end up feeling like I'm some k..."

As long as I watch the actual game, dance performance et al, all is well. No one expects me to endure the agony of practice/rehearsals etc. The key is to remember to look up when half-time/intermission is over ;)


message 16: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (goodreadscomdawn_irena) | 27 comments Ok, my sneer to all questions ! I have always read the classics as these were the books gifted to me as a child . I loved them all! My very favorite authors were always the Brontes, Dickens, and Poe, and then I developed my own personal curiosity for popular favorites during my age which are now class YA literature! I went further in search from there as my English teachers brought up more classics , I continued to try to read where they led to more and still searched new contemporary serial murder mysteries and thrillers.

I called the classics " proper reads" and popular fiction novels " just deserts"! HA! My reading tastes are so eclectic that I read everything that I am attracted to as a shiny light sparkling in a corner !

YES! YES! YES!! The only way to read is multiple books at one time ! It is better than changing Chanel's on a TV . You have even more control !!! I also read wherever I go and whenever I can . Especially, in the summertime , reading is the best when reruns and nothing exciting is going on and you can just relax and READ !!!

Some people do not really feel right about reading many books at a time . These folks must complete one think at a time ! I suppose my mind is fickle !
I say this is the best way to roll . You always have some book new to talk over with anyone to recommend!
So goodreading and keep it going !

Dawn


message 17: by Richard (new)

Richard | 47 comments It's interesting that so many people read multiple books concurrently. I'm a one book at a time man.


message 18: by Elizabeth☮ (new)

Elizabeth☮ I only can focus on one book at a time Richard.


message 19: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Sevitt | 13 comments Richard wrote: "It's interesting that so many people read multiple books concurrently. I'm a one book at a time man."

Me too. One book at a time, from start to finish. I read whatever I want to read and reward myself with something lighter after something more challenging.

For the record I have three kids, a full-time job and I find time to average over 2 books a week.

I've cut back on TV and focused on my reading having calculated that I probably have less than 3000 books to go before I die.

As an observant Jew, I have one key advantage which is Shabbat. From sundown on Friday for 25 hours, I don't use my phone or the computer. I take a book with me to synagogue and spend large amounts of time on the sofa, at the park or lying in bed reading. Truly a day of rest and relaxation.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimfurry) | 12 comments I love classics. It all started many years ago with a boyfriend who suggested to me all the books he thought I should read, and I read them (he didn't). Doestoevsky was an early favorite. I was surprised, as Thomas noted, by how readable these books were. I loved The Three Musketeers, too. Still think about it. Many years later I discovered Trollope. How was it I had never heard of him? He's wonderful. Then I devoured George Eliot and Dickens, my favorite being David Copperfield, and my least favorite Great Expectations. I also liked contemporary novels, back then standouts being Catch 22 (so funny), and Bonfire of the Vanities. This year I loved The Turner House, Nobody's Fool, and The Summer Before the War, all entertaining and enjoyable books. I Capture the Castle is an older book that is utterly charming, another one I read for the first time this year.

Thanks so much to Simon for introducing me to M.C. Beaton. My mother and I love her books. My mother has read them all, the Hamish and Agatha Raisin series. I'm saving them up. I don't want to run out!

And thanks so much to Thomas for being an advocate for the classics, and for talking about loving "housekeeping" descriptions in books: I love that, too, but didn't know how to verbalize it.

I like both classics and historical fiction, though I'm not a historian so I don't worry too much about inaccuracies. Hilary Mantel is a fantastic historical fiction novelist and I think her research is pretty good. Also, The Signature of All Things was a beautiful novel (who would have thought such a lovely, deep novel would come from the writer of Eat, Pray, Love?).


message 21: by Alex (new)

Alex Graham I find that I read more contemporary over classic. One of the reasons for this is because contemporary novels tend to be more diverse and inclusive. There are a lot of contemporary books that are by and about people of color, women, people in the LGBT community, etc. These are the people who are often underrepresented in classic literature. That's not to say they didn't exist, obviously we have Austen, Bronte, etc. But they didn't have the same presence that they do now. I was an English major in college and I loved reading all of the classics. But I really feel like contemporary novels are just as important and mostly because they are more inclusive.


message 22: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Alexandra wrote: "I find that I read more contemporary over classic. One of the reasons for this is because contemporary novels tend to be more diverse and inclusive. There are a lot of contemporary books that are b..."

Good point. Two LGBT modern classics to check out if you haven't already: The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall - the prose can be iffy, but the L story still resonates for this G. And Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin.


message 23: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Kim wrote: "I love classics. It all started many years ago with a boyfriend who suggested to me all the books he thought I should read, and I read them (he didn't). Doestoevsky was an early favorite. I was sur..."

I just read the passage in Hemingway's Movable Feast today where he writes about Dostoevsky writing impactful, but poorly written novels that one doesn't want to re-read. I don't necessarily agree but I thought it was pretty funny.

I love, and am not surprised, by your story of the boyfriend who didn't read his own reading list. I know the type.

When I was 19 in 1989 and in England for the first time, I came across shelves and shelves of orange spined Penguins in a book store in Lincoln with a hand-written sign that said "A Whole Lot of Trollope". It still took me another decade before I tried reading him. (And now I think about it, Hemingway also mentions (positively) reading Trollope in Movable Feast.)


message 24: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Daniel wrote: "Richard wrote: "It's interesting that so many people read multiple books concurrently. I'm a one book at a time man."

Me too. One book at a time, from start to finish. I read whatever I want to re..."


Hmm, 25 hours of no devices. That is a habit that could be quite enjoyable.


message 25: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Lorraine wrote: "Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "I wanted to jump in on the finding time to read discussion because I get asked this a lot, even from strangers. I always end up feeling like I'm some kind of savant. I'..."

We love book confessions. Hope you like Pym. J&P is one that I have only read once so far.


message 26: by Tricia (new)

Tricia Culp Thomas, I just wanted to thank you for championing classics. I do read a mixture of things, but I'm almost always reading a classic, and most of my most beloved books are classics. I'm new to the Readers podcast, and it can be hard to find podcasts where they talk about classics at all. Thank you!


message 27: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimfurry) | 12 comments i>Thomas wrote: "Kim wrote: "I love classics. It all started many years ago with a boyfriend who suggested to me all the books he thought I should read, and I read them (he didn't). Doestoevsky was an early favorit..."

Ha, ha, that is pretty funny what Hemingway said about Dostoevsky. Interesting that he liked Trollope, though.

I just finished "The Sympathizer". Can't wait to hear what you think about it...I'll say no more.


message 28: by Books_Steve (last edited Aug 22, 2016 06:14AM) (new)

Books_Steve | 19 comments I agree with Richard in the first post on this thread and Simon on the show. Read what you want to and furthermore don't worry about the opinions of others. Recently I'm really into the classics but I like to enjoy some newer fiction too. I've just finished Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens thought it was his best novel but I'm not so sure. The American episodes are overstated and clumsy. However other parts of the novel are well worth reading. I've just moved onto Graham Greene's The End of the Affair which I think counts as a modern classic. I have it in a lovely centennial edition cover which I'm very happy about and I recommend. After that I have Chesterton's Father Brown collection waiting in the wings. Finally, I'm a one book at a time man myself. Happy reading!


message 29: by Karen (new)

Karen (bookertalk) When I was working full time I imagined that come retire,went I would have a lot more time I read. It hasn't quite worked out that way because I've discovered that there is only s much time in one block I can read. About an hour and my brain switches off.


message 30: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 135 comments Karen wrote: "When I was working full time I imagined that come retire,went I would have a lot more time I read. It hasn't quite worked out that way because I've discovered that there is only s much time in one ..."
I am used to reading on my commute so my brain has got used to about 1-1.5 hours reading and then I start to get restless.
I find alternating knitting in front of the TV with reading I get the best of all worlds and also avoid muscle strain caused by knitting for prolonged periods of time.


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