January 21st, 2018

Interview about reading

I did this email interview about my reading habits over a year ago and I’ve realized recently that it never ran. Who knows why–maybe they didn’t find my answers very interesting? The editor I did the interview with left the publication so I can’t ask. I actually do find both questions and answers fairly interesting, so here, should you feel the same way–my reading interview:

What do you most enjoy reading, and how often do you indulge in the habit? I read something almost every day—it would have to be a bizarre state of emergency that I didn’t absorb at least some text. Short stories and novels are my staples, mixed in with poetry, plays, and graphic novels. I also adore magazines but try to keep them to a minimum because they will overrun me otherwise. I’m not much of a non-fiction person, but I make occasional exceptions for biography and a delicious kind of sociological/self-help hybrid I come across occasionally. I also read a tonne online, like everyone, and it’s a mix of useful news, humour, and practical stuff, like hotel reviews. I’ve gotten away from reading creative work online as much as I used to—I’m just at a screen so much of the day as it is—but I still do read quite a bit from online journals.

What do you subscribe to and why? Not as much as I want, per above, but here’s the list right now: The New Yorker, Canadian Notes and Queries, The New Quarterly, Maisonneuve, Prism International, the magazine from the CAA and the one from Kraft (the last two are freebies but I do read them so they count). My husband subscribes to Halifax and Malahat Review, so I get a chance to read those as well. Why…these publications are reliably good. A lot journals in Canada publish wonderful stuff and I can’t subscribe to them all, but I can consistently read these lit journals cover to cover and have a lot of pieces resonate. The New Yorker is my way of following American news and politics along with a lot of authors I admire. I’ve read every issue since 2003. I find Maisonneuve has its own voice and beat and politics and it’s an interesting filter on the world. It’s a magazine I’ve watched grow up—I’ve been subscribing for nearly 10 years, and it’s better every year. [Edit: since this interview, I’ve added Room magazine to this list.]

What’s your favourite library, a) in Toronto, and b) somewhere else? I use the Toronto Public Library a lot and I’m fond of my local branch because it’s well used—often crowded with children after school, recent immigrants there for ESL or settlement classes, people just hanging out and reading. But really, I don’t spend a lot of time at the library—just pick up my holds and go, mainly. Libraries are good because they are full of books and people who love them and people who can help you access them; I don’t really have preferences beyond that.

Your bookshelves are on fire: what do you save? Mainly childhood stuff, and probably some signed books if I could find them. If the internet age has taught us anything, it has taught us that you can always get another book if you need it, so very old, odd, and signed things are the only ones that matter to me which edition I have. I have a copy of Little Women with colour-plate illustrations that was my mother’s when she was a kid and which I read a billion times when I was—that is probably the only book I have that is truly irreplaceable.

It’s Tuesday night, around 8pm. How do you decide what to read? I general write on weeknights, so if I were reading it would be because I was ill or very tired, and thus I would be reading something delightful, like a book of brief short fictions. In desperate times, perhaps a magazine about how to make cake.

Do you have a reading routine? I read every morning at the gym on the treadmill, between 30 and 60 minutes—almost always The New Yorker. Then I read whatever book I’m reading on the commute to work—40-60 minutes—assorted internet stuff at lunchtime—and back to my book on the way home. If I’m out somewhere and waiting for people, in a waiting room, on a trip, on the beach, I’ll read, but I rarely read at home except on the weekends (on weekends, I read over breakfast and maybe a bit in the afternoon too if I have time).

How many hours a week do you spend reading? Maybe 10-15, depending on the week.

Do you write in the books you read? Almost never, unless I’m reading to review something, which is in itself rare and even then I would try to avoid writing in a book.

What formats do you read most happily? Paper books, your phone, newsprint, cereal boxes etc? I prefer paper books, but it’s not a huge deal to me. I own a Kobo but it’s older and has trouble with certain downloads and certain computers, so I don’t use it a tonne—when I read on it, I find it more or less fine, but I miss the ability to flip back and forth in the text to check things or reread bits I liked. Certainly you can do that with an ebook but it’s harder, not really intended for that. I find paper books just more pleasant and easier, especially since I read on screen all day for work, and a lot of the evening when I am working on my own projects—I like a break from that. But if the day comes when paper goes out of fashion or we just can’t spare the trees, I’m fine with on-screen reading—as long as the material can get into my brain, I’m not that fussed about the medium.

How did you learn to read? I learned to actually properly read a book to myself quite late, the summer after 2nd grade. I think the delay was mainly because I preferred to be read to and that was always on offer at my house. My mom loved to read to me, she read well, I got a lap out of it, and perhaps I was a bit lazy—reading is hard when you’re learning. I still find being read to really pleasant—my husband and I will do it on long car trips and it’s lovely. Anyway, at a certain point my mom thought it was really time I learned, so she said she’d only read me a chapter if I read the first apge—so I learned. Get’em hooked first, then make’em work for it—it’s a good policy.

2 Responses to “Interview about reading”

  • Laura says:

    My son is in grade 2 and is having trouble reading, and I’m doing exactly what your mom did (starting with just the first sentence in each chapter) – this gives me hope!


  • Rebecca says:

    Sounds promising, Laura–all best to you and your son!


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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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