E-Readers vs. Paperbacks

Debate has raged on ever since invention of the magical e-ink itself. There are the staunch believers in solid, physical books that you can hold in your hand. And there are those who embrace the innovation of e-readers and their space-saving wonder.

I’m someone who sees room for middle ground in the debate. I’ve owned a Kindle Touch for several years now and I do really enjoy it. But I also love love love the feeling of a physical book in my hands when I’m reading something to savor. So, the long and short of it for me is that I use e-readers and physical books for different reading purposes.

What I use e-readers for:

  • Reading books I won’t read twice
  • Reading books I’m not sure I’ll finish
  • Getting a new book from the library when too lazy to go in person

What I use physical books for:

  • Reading books that I know I’ll read more than once
  • Treating myself for a job well done or goal achieved
  • Borrowing from friends or getting something from PaperbackSwap
  • Enjoying the indescribable joys of browsing actual bookshelves

There’s four bullet points on the physical books list and only three on the e-reader list, so maybe I do come out a little in favor of holding my reading in hand. I want to support local bookstores (the few that are left) and libraries, which may also have something to do with my feelings. But I definitely think that there is room for both, despite each option’s tension with the other.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Review)

Oh, Veronica Roth, what happened?! I enjoyed the first book of this series a lot. It reminded me of The Hunger Games trilogy with its action-packed suspense of trying to figure out what would happen next. In Divergent, Tris was an interesting main character, battling her background growing up humble in Abnegation with her inconclusive aptitude tests that make her “Divergent”, leading her to choose the risk-seeking Dauntless faction.

But the second book in the series, Insurgent, simply lacks the same energy and direction. The novelty of Roth illuminating a dystopian world of factions based on personality traits is kind of over, and we’ve already been introduced to all of the important characters and most of their secrets.

Tris spends most of her time being scared, regretting her past, or mooning over her boyfriend Tobias, which felt like a big change from her character’s bravery and nuance from the first book. There is also a lot of running around and getting captured or trapped, which felt a bit predictable and boring after a while.

However, despite my issues with the plot and one-dimensional characters, I did read the book fairly quickly, which is worth something. I kept turning the pages, because there was a bunch of action and the pace of the book is pretty fast. It would be untruthful to say that I wasn’t engaged with the book at all.

Also, I will say that the ending did pique my interest somewhat as to what the final book will hold. I won’t give the last pages away, but we learn something about the whole world that Tris lives in that could make for a compelling final volume. And I very well may end up reading the last book in the series, since I am a bit curious and I hate getting mostly through something and then dropping it. So, overall, I can’t say I was particularly fond of this read, but perhaps YA readers enjoyed it a bit more than I did.


How I Decide On My Next Book

It’s a sophisticated algorithm. Okay, it’s a carefully thought-out selection. Alright, maybe it’s just a gut feeling… or all of the above.

I’d like to say that I have one tried and true method for picking what book to read next, but it really depends on my mood and goals at the time. For instance, I’ve gone through phases where all I want to read is fantasy, mystery, and light fiction–maybe when life at work or school is starting to feel too reading-heavy. I’ve also been through times where I just wanted to read nonfiction, because I feel that I’m lacking enough information on certain perspectives about the world we live in or on myself. In both those types of periods I tend to hone in on certain books.

Other times, I listen to my gut reactions. Goodreads is a fantastic tool for this. I “collect” books that I want to read through Goodreads and I use their shelf sorting system to help remind myself what books are in what genres. So, often I’ll scroll through my lists and choose a book that pops out to me. I’ve even created a specific shelf where I collect these gut-instinct-have-to-read-soon titles so that I remember the ones I was most excited about the next time I’m looking for something new to read.

And finally, sometimes reading is just about what’s available. I’m pretty sure one of the requirements of being a bookworm is having piles and piles of books in your home that you haven’t gotten to yet but fully intend to read–and I’m no exception. Every now and then it’s just unacceptable not to thin the stacks a little by actually cracking one of those works open and giving it a try.

A variation of the whatever-is-around strategy is taking a look at the local library’s webpage to see what bestsellers they have on the shelf or available via e-reader. That way it’s kind of a combination between surprising myself and picking a book that I’ve wanted to read for a while.

How do you choose what to read next?

Kindred by Octavia Butler (Review)

This is one of those books that socks you in the gut as you’re reading. Octavia Butler takes you through the emotional and psychological tolls of slavery far better than any history book ever could. The innovative blend of historical fiction and science fiction is fairly genius and Butler executes it expertly.

The main character, Dana, is a black woman living a normal life with her white husband, Kevin, in the 1970s, when she finds herself inexplicably time-traveling back to the site of one of her white ancestor’s plantations to save his life. The plot evolves as Dana shuttles back and forth between times and tries to ensure both her own survival and the survival of her family.

Dana makes both friends and enemies during the times that she’s called back to the past and enters a complicated web of truth and lies. She has to take care of Rufus Weylin, who continually gets himself into life-threatening trouble, while witnessing him grow up into someone with a decidedly cruel streak. At the same time, she finds support in the community of slaves that also live on the plantation.

At first, the jolt of Dana traveling to another time was a bit much for me, but the thing is that you just have to accept that you don’t ever quite figure out why Rufus is able to pull her back in time to save him from death. It just is. It’s part of the wonder and mystery of the whole book. (I imagine Butler dropping this book on a table in front of us and walking out of the room with no explanation and a satisfied expression).

This book was intensely personal, and I imagine that one’s race/ethnicity would have a big impact on what you take away from the novel. There are several scenes of graphic physical and/or emotional violence that made me cringe and want to stop reading, because for me this is nonfiction, a part of my own history. One black woman I know who also read this book confided to me that she was actually “terrified” for Dana while she was reading. For her, there was little separation between reading the book and living the experience.

But despite the violence, and the discomfort that it brings, I fully recommend this book. It makes you think about all systems of oppression and fundamentally how easy it is to adjust to any role within it–whether you are a “slave” or a “slave owner”. The final pages and the final “choice” that Dana has to make really underscore this theme.

The only other Octavia Butler book I’ve read was Fledgling, which is much further into science fiction than this book. But after having read Kindred, I will definitely be looking to read more of her works.