Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My reading list

Online drama can be very hard to resist.

Recently someone online was recommending that I read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The thought of it made me ill. I try to do a little reading when I can, but Jane Austen is pretty heavy stuff. I jokingly replied that I was a working mom and that I really couldn't focus on anything that couldn't be read in fifteen minute spurts with a toddler screaming in my ear. Jane Austen doesn't really fall into that category.

The person replied that she was working mom too and "I'm sure I'm not the only one who's managed to read Jane Austen or other books with at least a little substance." Ouch. It took every fiber of my being to end that conversation and not get drawn into an argument. Every fiber of my being.

But of course, I then went to look at my bookcase to verify that my reading list is not completely vapid (although I've been getting most of my books from the library lately). All right, there was perhaps an overabundance of books with the word "shopaholic" in the title. (Recently read Kinsella's "Remember Me?" So good!) I've been making rounds on the NYT Bestseller List with "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "Prep." I've also got a book called "Murder on the Rehab Unit" which, as a rehab doctor, I was compelled to purchase (although apparently, not read).

All in all, I'm not entirely sure I've read anything "of substance" lately. Actually, I don't think I've read anything "of substance" in years. Unless of course, you count all the zillions of articles that I read for work, the textbooks, and of course, EMedicine and UpToDate. I guess that's why when I read something for myself, I like it to be fun and light.

What about you? Is Jane Austen something you trudge through in your spare time? Do you try to go for the books of substance or do you unwind with the guilty pleasures?


  1. I love Jane Austen. However, when I read books like that, I don't do a "book club" type read where I'm prepared to discuss intricacies of relationships or symbolism of a blue sky versus a gray sky.

    I read them to escape and go someplace entirely different, where there are no hospitals, no boards to pass, no crazy people to deal with. And most importantly, I don't think about what I'm reading or try at all to remember what was read. I try and read something non-medical everyday while I dry my hair. It works sometimes. :)

    Not remembering or being able to discuss what I've read is probably worse in some peoples' minds than not reading at all.

    Done rambling, time for sleep!

  2. You should try Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. :)

  3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: "The story follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but places the novel in an alternative universe version of Regency-era England where zombies roam the countryside."

    Okay... :P

  4. I've read more than three quarters of the books on one of those "Modern Library Greatest Books" lists, most for pleasure, at one juncture or another in my life.

    And these days, when I get home from the hospital, all I want to read are trashy romance novels. I know they'll end happily and I can zone out for pages at a time and not miss much. If I'm feeling ambitious, I will go re-read my favorite sections of old standbys like Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, but only in little 20-page nibbles.

    I'm not sure if it's because I'm a resident or because I'm lazy, but tackling a new Great Work is quite frankly the last thing I'm up for these days.

  5. hmm, I've never thought of Jane Austen as "heavy stuff" or "books of substance" but more as a guilty pleasure. Maybe it's like "Jane" above says - it's not like I'm trying to do a book club analysis of it, it's an escape :-).

  6. For what it's worth, I've never been able to stand Jane Austin, even when I had no job and I wasn't even distally involved with health care. I can't even stand the movies.

    That being said, I do not consider the Time Traveler's Wife to be "fluff." Prep, maybe -- though I do know an IR fellow who went to prep school with the author, so that's my excuse there. Anything by Sophie Kinsella.... yes, fluff. But so what? It's not a competition about who can read books with the most substance! We're supposed to ENJOY reading, right?

    If you want to one up her though, you can try Anna Karenina. I've actually really enjoyed it (all 80 pages so far), and it has the clout of being heavy Russian lit. yet, it's not so heavy going as say, Dostoyevsky. I bought it in a moment of guilt for reading only substance-less novels myself, and have been pleasantly surprised.

    Let me know if you want other suggestions for easy-ish reads that have *a little* substance to them.

  7. Actually, OMDG, I'd go in the opposite direction and say I'd like recommendations for enjoyable books that I might feel guilty about reading, but that will make me happy, make me laugh, and not have to think to hard at the end of the day. Chick lit rocks.

    (I love TTTW, but honestly, it WAS too heavy. I cried. Then I told my husband the plot and he cried.)

  8. how about voltaire's candide? or Dr. Zhivago

  9. I'm a different Anonymous from those above...
    There was a time in my life when I only read "fluff" becaue the in the last serious novel that I had read, the heroine died on the last page, second to the last paragraph, and I wasn't expecting it. I was "down" for days and put away serious lit for about 20 years. Because I really needed light and happiness in my life.
    I just recently started reading non-fluff again coincidentally when I had time to go back to the gym rather than timing showers and making lunches. I would recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. There are heavy parts, but you can pick it up and put it down and it ends happily.

    By the way, I consider Jane Austen part of my "happy fluff" books. Absolutely love them.

  10. I love reading, although ..to be honest, now that I'm in school full time ... Psychology, Biology and Philosophy are getting all of my reading time.

    My bio professor hooked me onto this site

    (then I asked her if I got a pass on the quiz for the next day since I'd spent all night on it instead of studying, she didn't go for it)

    It's a great way to organize what you love, what you've read, what you want to read ... and a wish list!

    As far as something as 'heavy' as Jane Austin. I have read P&P but I was younger and the language didn't seem as oppressive. But trying to relax while reading something intense on language that is not what we speak ... is challenging, not relaxing.

    Which, challenging can be good, but my brain power that is challenged is all being channeled.

  11. One of the joys of Austin is that she gets better when you hit about 35. For some reason, at that point, the humor just sparkles through.

    Maybe give her a few years?

  12. I must confess I never thought of Jane Austen as "heavy!" I loved Pride and Prejudice and remember being unable to put it down. Is it scandalous that i think of it as the "chick lit" of her era? Chick lit is fun! :)

  13. I always get sucked into those online spats and can't stand it. Kudos to you for managing to rise above it. I have 3 kids 2-5 yrs old, so I hear ya about the reading spurts and the background ambiance. I'm currently reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The issues it deals with (missionaries and the good/bad of what they do, Africa in political turmoil, etc) are not light, but the writing is FAN.TAS.TIC and the book is really readable! Bonus: it's written in little chapters where the events are retold through the eyes of various characters in the book. So, you can absolutely read it and set it down and come back to it. I'm excited that she has so many other books, and this is only my first read! Other recent things I have enjoyed are Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies Detective Agency series of book--very light, very entertaining--and anything by Milan Kundera (best known for "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" but many others too, many of which are better). I also read Glamour Magazine, but only for the articles. ;)

  14. When you deal with the heavy of medicine during the day, I am all about light reading! I just watched a patient die today due to terminal cancer and delivered a baby. I am EMOTIONALLY SPENT and can't afford that on a book right now.
    Plus I'm the type of reader who can't put a good read down. So, I don't want to be tired the next day and when I come home not have fun with my little ones in the FEW moments we have together! Ditto to Tempeh above on the books she mentioned. I must admit I just finished the twighlight series - they were good guilty pleasure books, but gave me some weird dreams?? Also rec - Good in Bed - Jennifer Weiner is great but stay away from little earthquakes - it was hard for me to read with little ones - I only want happy endings :)

  15. Reading is my way to relax and de-stress. I will read almost anything, but my daily favorites are usually not hardcore literature. I like it, but not for a 30-minute read on the weekend. I liked Jane Austen more after I saw the movie Pride and Prejudice; I had read the book before seeing the movie, but seeing live action somehow grounded the book in reality better for me. I find the same phenomenon with Shakespeare.

    Lately, I have found myself enjoying historical fiction. Many of the books are entertaining and easy to read (like Rutherfurd's work), and the stories make the history stick in my mind. How else would I remember that King Charles I was beheaded?

    Other books I've enjoyed include Arthur C. Clarke's complete short story collection (great for a stop-and-go reader) and the Clan of the Cave Bear series.

    Bookworms of the world unite! :-)

  16. My answer is an unequivocal, both!

    I love love love Rebecca Brandon nee Bloomwood and the Shopaholic saga. + Has anyone had the pleasure of reading books by Emily Giffin? She's top notch; I found her when I'd raced through everything Sophie had to offer.

    While I have never read a page of Jane Austen, I do enjoy picking up some heavies... Any book by Daniel Quinn is worth reading twice. I'm also currently in the middle of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers, which is quite good.

    My all time favorite book--and #1 recommendation--is "Women Who Run With the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Phd. It's an excellent guide to the beautiful and difficult things we face as women.

    For me, I have to read more than just my Organic Chemistry textbook, even though I am fascinated by what I find out about alkenes, constitutional isomers and the like. :)

    We feel guilty about enough things, let's embrace whatever it is we like to read!!

  17. Didn't like Jane when forced to read her in high school, don't like her now either. My reading time is very limited and by granny I'm going to read something I enjoy. It doesn't matter a hoot to me whether it has "substacne" or not.

  18. When I was in Med school I had a patient who was a high school librian. I was reading Jane Eyre at the time and LOVING it. She gave me a reading list based on our conversation (Rebecca, Gone with the Wind, and several other) I keep the list and read every one and so enjoyed them. Now I always get into (too long) discussions with patients about books. I even give my patients reading assignments sometimes (and get irritated when they don't read them. (Seriously a teenager on bed rest should read Twilight)

    I'm also obsessed with Twilight.

    I also Loved Poision Wood Bible. Tempeth, when you finish it you should read "King Leopold's Ghost"

  19. Grinning at Bardiac's post ... I enjoyed it far more when I was younger (it may have been one of the ones I read when my children were young.

    I'm significantly past 35 ... and it's too much. I feel my younger brain was more capable of handling her. But then, when I was reading when I was younger, when I should have been in school ... I was enjoying books of all kinds. Now ..it's text books all the way for this middle aged student!

  20. I have to admit I've always snobbishly looked down my nose at chick-lit, but while staying with a friend for a few days earlier this year was totally sucked into her collection of Emily Giffin books and read two of them in quick succession... thereby putting myself FAR behind in classes right at the beginning of the semester! I actually avoid novels except during vacations, because I have so much trouble putting them down, whether they are fun light books, darker stuff (I read TTTW in two days while staying with my boyfriend's family over fourth-of-july... he was amused but not entirely pleased!), or even something with more "substance" (I was totally drawn into Michael Cunningham's "Specimen Days" a few years ago -- a result of the last time I allowed myself to wander into a bookstore and leave with whatever caught my fancy). These days, I usually limit myself to the New Yorkers that pile up week after week, and poetry or short stories. But, I completely agree that feeling guilty about what we read is not worth it!

  21. Jennifer Weiner, although I'd avoid "Little Earthquakes", which is (IMHO) the weakest of her books and not a fun read for a mother with small children. Or big children. All her other books are delightful, well-written, and fun. Ditto Laurie Colwin, both her fiction and her cooking books.

    I was an English major in college and am a serious bookworm, and these days I read mostly mysteries and "light" novels. I see plenty of deep drama in my actual life. I don't need it on the page. Or in the movies.

  22. I loved both the Poisonwood Bible and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society after reading the Book Thief and some books about the Rwanda Genocide, a few MSF bios and a story about concentration camps earlier in the year. It was a good antidote.

  23. The Hunger Games is awesome. It's a YA novel, very similar to Battle Royale.

  24. I am sure this has been mentioned... check out the PBS 8 hour pride and prejudice. It is awesome. You don't have to read just because someone said something STUPID. I like my nine hours of sleep a night, thank you very much. No time for anything but the essentials!

  25. I read, but not as much as I would like. Full time surgeon, mother and wife takes way too much time and energy. When I do read, I seem to have completely different tastes than all the above commenters. I'm a murder mystery/Stephen King/Dean Koontz fan. I'm going to have to spread my wings a little bit (after I'm done with the latest John Sanford and Stephen King books!


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