The Sunday Salon: On reading with intensity

Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s Sunday Salon.  I’ve been pondering a question a friend of mine posed after reading my 2009 Year in Review:

To what extent would you say that reading with a greater level of intensity has impacted on your life over the last couple of years?

Intensity.  Hmm … the word actually has a number of definitions.  One way of thinking about it is “a high or extreme degree,” i.e.; “why do you always have your nose in a book? Don’t you do anything else with your time?”  I’ve discarded that definition (!!) in favor of, “great energy, strength, concentration”.

I’ve read posts by several other book bloggers (like this post by Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog), which discuss the notion of “reading deliberately.”  Before joining LibraryThing and starting my blog, I took a much more casual approach to reading.  I scanned the best-seller lists and occasionally found something of interest.  Once in a while I’d pick up a classic.   I was a member of a couple different book groups, but sometimes I wouldn’t be reading anything at all.  To some extent this was because my children were young and required lots of attention.  As they became more independent, I had more time to read, and I became less satisfied with the casual approach.

I started off in 2007 going for quantity by joining a challenge to read 50 books in a year, which seemed like a daunting goal.  But it wasn’t difficult, and I enjoyed a number of other reading challenges along the way.  But as 2007 came to a close, my focus shifted from quantity to quality, and my intensity (energy, strength, and concentration) also increased.  I began reading deliberately, seeking to expand my horizons by reading from a few major categories:  prizewinners, classics, books in translation, and books by women authors.

Many of my reads have inspired me to think about historic and contemporary issues in a new light.  But there’s been another benefit, one I would never have anticipated:  I’ve made a lot of friends — other book bloggers and LibraryThing members.  Most of these are virtual friends whom I’ve never met face-to-face.  But I’ve been lucky to meet several; one group in particular has had two weekend meetups.  And many of these communities are so open and supportive, helping each other through life’s ups and downs.  I’m amazed how close one can feel to these online friends.  It’s become a very important part of my life.  Let’s hear it for “reading with intensity”!

Speaking of reading … this week I reviewed two books:

Edith Wharton’s The Reef, which I reviewed for The Classics Circuit, and Elizabeth Strout’s Amy & Isabelle, which I read for “Orange January” (read my review).  One classic, one contemporary, both excellent.  The Reef was typically Wharton, and evocative of its time and place.  Amy & Isabelle was one of the more emotionally intense books I’ve read recently — enjoyable, but not for the faint of heart, especially if you are the mother of a daughter.

I’ll be continuing with Orange January reads for the next week or so, reading shortlisted works. My current book is The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters.  I read her novel Fingersmith some time ago, and have been eager to read another of her novels.  The setting is 1940s London, and it’s shaping up nicely, with lots of complex characters whose lives intertwine in interesting ways.  It should keep me busy for another few days, and then I’ll read The Wilderness, by Samantha Harvey.  More on that next week …

Where is your reading taking you today?

Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

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2 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: On reading with intensity

  1. What a great post, Laura! I would define “intensity” when it comes to reading the same way. 🙂 It really is interesting to see how our reading has changed over the years, depending on what is going on in our lives–and taking into account blogging. I hope you have a great week!

  2. Very interesting! I feel like I’m reading even more intensely this year (so far…I mean it’s not like we’re far in), and I’m loving it! 🙂

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