It’s a wet Sunday afternoon. The pitter-patter of tiny droplets has turned into a downpour. I’m in bed listening to the rhythm of falling rain. It’s the perfect day to curl up with a book.
I make myself a steaming mug of tea, play some music and reach out for my copy of Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie’s Americanah. But there’s also a half-read copy of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland on my Kindle, so I switch, determined to finish reading all the books I’d previously abandoned. The phone beeps.
“I watched Bridesmaids again. I laughed so hard! Then I missed you like mad,” reads a message from my long-distance best friend. So I’m now re-watching Kristen Wiig and a very unattractive Jon Hamm (pre-Don Draper days) have animalistic sex. There goes the book. Again.
Reading is a drug, you can never get enough. But if your pile of unread books is growing faster than you’re able to handle, if you lug around the same book around wherever you go for weeks but don’t end up finishing it, if you spend more time downloading ebooks than reading them, you’re really not reading enough...
Welcome to the club. We hounded booklovers and shrinks to figure out just how you can get back on track and read more. These little tricks work.
Read the first 40 pages
Some books grip you from the first sentence, some from the introductory character, some protagonists have you wrapped around the spine of the book. But sometimes, you struggle to get through that one painful book recommended by so many others, and you get stuck. Don’t be. If it doesn’t weave it’s magic fast enough, dump it. That’s what publishing houses do.
Random House India receives around 50 manuscript submissions every day. The drill is simple. If the editors don’t like the first few pages, it lands bottom first on the rejection pile. Milee Ashwarya, editorial director, Ebury Press and Random House Business, says that’s the best strategy when you’re reading for pleasure too. Pick up a book, “read it if you like it. If the first 20-30-40 pages don’t work for you, then stop.” And move on to the next.
Busy? Read short fiction
Trishna, 24, an MPhil student at Delhi University, started reading Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red, a few years ago. It’s an excellent book. She was thoroughly enjoying it, “but something came up and I had to stop reading it for a few days,” she says. She never got back to it. “Which is a pity because I think it was going to be a really good read, but I lost track of what was happening.”
So now, during the academic year, she reads mostly short stories and poetry and leaves longer fiction for when she has time on her hands. “Of course, I feel horrible about this happening. Once in a while I pick up something I really want to read and read it rapidly,” she adds. So for some books, make that exception. If it really is gripping, if it makes your heart skip a beat, let it. Pull an all-nighter, read till you can’t keep your eyes open a second longer. Some books are worth it.
Take a book everywhere
A few weeks ago, I was late for brunch with my friend Saudamini Singh Bagai. “I’ll take another 15 minutes,” I apologised profusely on the phone. “Take your time,” she was so zen, it made me suspicious. She’s probably not there either, I told myself indignantly.
She was. But she didn’t care because she was engrossed in a copy of George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones, sipping a half-drunk cup of coffee. “I carry a book with me everywhere I go,” she says. “Even if I’m going to the nightclub. It’s the only way to keep reading. This way, you’re never waiting and you’re never bored.” She’s always reading two or three books of different genres at the same time. “I pick up whichever kind of book I’m feeling like that day. Always one kind of chick lit or fantasy, something easy to read.” Get a Kindle (look right for more on those, by the way). I’ve been reading twice as much ever since it’s become a permanent fixture in my bag.
You know, wrapped in a fluffy blanket, or in a café that smells of coffee, or while sipping beer under the sun. The only thing you need to make sure is that it is at a designated reading time.
So don’t read with the TV blaring on one side or the family arguing on another, don’t read when you know you’ll be interrupted for dinner. Pick a free time, your favourite spot and a book. Lifestyle management expert Rachna K Singh says you should “create an environment which would be conducive to your discipline. Read when you’ve finished your work and your mind is at rest. Pick a book and curl up with it.”
But, she warns, “Don’t get involved in concentration building exercises to read, reading is a pleasure activity.” But you already knew that – it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures! So this Sunday, we suggest, don’t be lazy. Just pick a book, any book, and devour it. The film/TV adaptation can wait. Skip the friends, meet some characters. And if you’ve been feeling lonesome lately, remember what F Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” We couldn’t agree more. Hmm, perhaps I will revisit The Great Gatsby today.
The Evolution Of The Kindle
It’s been six years since Amazon released its first Kindle and nearly a month since the latest version came out (the new Kindle Paperwhite, unfortunately not available in India). We bring you our favourite e-reader through the ages by Pranav Dixit
1. Kindle (2007)
The first Kindle was a wedge-shaped clunker of a device that looked like it was built in 1982. It had had a grainy black-and-white E-Ink display that looks pretty washed out right now but was revolutionary then; and it also had an oddly split keyboard with weird diagonal keys. Though it retailed for a wallet-busting $399, people fell over themselves to order – it was out of stock for five, long months.
2. Kindle 2 (2009)
Amazon got rid of the weird wedge, thank God, and actually managed to streamline the Kindle’s design. The new Kindle was slightly lighter than the first one. Slimmer too. Unlike the original Kindle which could hold about 200 books, the new Kindle could hold about 1,500. And as a part of the promotion drive, Amazon permanently dropped the price from $359 to $259 and Stephen King wrote the cringe-worthy UR, a Kindle-exclusive novella that featured – go figure – a haunted Kindle.
3. Kindle DX (2009)
The Kindle DX was released at almost the same time as the Kindle 2 and featured a giant 9.7-inch display and the same design as the Kindle 2. This was the only Kindle that could sense when the user changed orientation and adjust the text to flow in landscape or portrait mode accordingly. Sadly, the Kindle DX had barely been on the market for a year before Apple’s mighty iPad came along and crushed it to pieces.
4. Kindle Keyboard (2010)
The Kindle Keyboard was the first Kindle that you felt comfortable recommending to friends and family. It had a sleek, graphite body and used the E-Ink ‘Pearl’ display, which had a higher contrast than the previous Kindle that made text much easier on the eyes. It was also slightly smaller than the Kindle 2 and featured built-in speakers for audio-book listening (you could load it up with music as well). And there was a dramatic price drop: the Kindle Keyboard started at $139.
5. Kindle 4 (2011)
The Kindle 4 was the device that firmly put the Kindle in the impulse purchase category: it started at only $79 (for the US-only version with ads, $109 everywhere else). This was the first Kindle to sport a touchscreen, which meant that the unsightly keyboard finally went away. Other than that, this one was kind of ugly, in our opinion. A slightly faster version with a black bezel instead of grey was released in 2012.
6. Kindle Paperwhite (2012)
Five years after releasing the first Kindle, Amazon FINALLY managed to make the perfect e-reader. The Kindle Paperwhite had a gorgeous screen that was lit from “within” thanks to a unique grid-lightning technology that doesn’t shine into your eyes like an LCD screen. While the previous Kindles looked more like black text on grey backgrounds, the Paperwhite looked almost like real paper: crisp black text on a bright white background. At $119 (`10,999 in India), it was more expensive than the previous generation Kindle, but boy was it worth every penny.
7. Kindle Paperwhite (2013)
The same gorgeous screen, just lit more evenly and faster page turns: the 2013 Paperwhite improved ever so slightly on an already perfect product. Same price, of course.
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From HT Brunch, October 13
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