Uphill, Downhill…

Does anyone else do this? When I begin reading a new book, I make a mental note of how many pages there are (with e-readers of course, I don’t even need to make a mental note any more – it’s right there on the screen!), and, as I make progress, am constantly obsessing about how far along I am. This is especially true of longer books, e.g. A Game of Thrones (that I’m reading now). It’s like an involuntary muscle in biological terms. I can’t really help it and usually don’t consciously think about it (think heartbeats or breathing). Last night I took great comfort in the fact that, “Aha! I’m now over 25% through this monster!” – this after spending time mentally dividing the total number of pages by four – time I suppose I could/should have spent reading a couple more sentences…

The best moments, though, are when I approach and pass that halfway point. Ah, the relief! I’m now headed “downhill.” All I have to do to finish the book is less than I’ve done already! Perhaps this relief is because, at least subconsciously, “proof” has been provided that I CAN finish. There’s also something to be said about the fact that all those pages already read provide momentum. It almost feels like once I crest that halfway point the reading becomes easier. I’m now going downhill. Not quite coasting, but maybe the cargo of words I’ve already loaded helps me pick up speed on the downhill side of the book.

I do the same thing when I’m driving long distances too. Yesterday afternoon I had a 180-mile drive I was not looking forward to. My old mental “progress bars” kicked in there as well. And when I passed the halfway point somewhere outside of Louisville, I felt the old familiar “relief.” (I’m sure I’ll do this again when I drive back this afternoon.)

I also tend to break long drives into smaller, familiar distances, e.g. “Ah,I now just have two round trip drives to work left and I’ll be there.” That sounds a little better than, “Ugh, I have 85 miles to go…” etc. Sometimes I do the same thing with books. E.g. “I’ve only read 250 pages (not even half) of this monster, but that’s the equivalent of some other “whole books” that I’ve recently read.” This fuels my “sense of accomplishment requirement” and helps me to press on.

Am I the only one who can’t help thinking like this when I read? Tell me I’m not alone! 🙂

Sent from my iPad


Ready, set, read! A new family reading tradition?

Each May for the past 21 years my (immediate) family has had an annual “Getaway Weekend” at one of Indiana’s State Parks. I think it was eight years ago(?) when we were at Clifty Falls S.P. (near Madison, Indiana) and Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code was making the rounds and being read by several members of my family. Now, I’m not here to argue any great literary merit on this particular author’s part, but at that time – as you probably recall – that novel was being talked about everywhere you turned, and I guess we got caught up in the hype.

Before last year’s Getaway Weekend I got a text message from one of my nephews asking if I had a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. This was just a couple months after I had purchased my Nook e-reader (but before my iPad, where I do most of my e-reading these days) so I texted back, “No, but I will in a minute…” and promptly downloaded it for reading availability over the weekend. This year the same nephew texted me again asking “What Dan Brown book r we reading this time?” Always a sucker to participate in reading traditions, I looked around a bit and saw two that I hadn’t read and could fit the bill: Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Actually these are the only two other Dan brown books I could find – is that really it (I’d already read Angels and Demons years ago for my book club)?

So I downloaded Deception Point as it sounded more interesting (hey, it had NASA in it!) and we were off. I initially thought one of us could read it on my Nook, and the other could read it on my iPad, but then a fellow reader at work loaned me a paperback copy. Somehow, this year’s reading also took on the character of a “race” to see who could finish first. Luckily, it was a rainy weekend, so we didn’t do much hiking (the traditional invite for these weekends – penned by my Mom and Dad – always closes with the phrase, “Come to hike, loaf, play, or just… getaway!”) and was able to work lots of reading time in between meals, conversation, and card games to finish it Sunday morning (ahem… BEFORE my nephew finished), although my struggles to stay awake to keep reading saturday night (in fear of his staying up and taking advantage of his “college student sleeping schedule” and passing me while I slept) were amusing to many.

How did I like the book? Well, it’s about what I expected. A page turner with a nearly unbelievable plot that really stretched the limits of my willingness to “suspend disbelief.” The sitting U.S. President is a supporter of NASA, while his challenger considers it a waste of money. The book starts off with a mysterious “discovery” in the Arctic that an orbiting NASA spacecraft has found. The president drafts the daughter of his challenger (!!) who is a federal security agent of some kind, to independently verify the find, along with four other civilian scientists, one of whom is kind of a Jacques Cousteau meets Carl Sagan meets Steve Irwin meets MacGyver amalgam and becomes a gratuitous love interest for our heroine. As you might guess, all isn’t quite what it first seems with this “discovery” and many powerful people have a lot to lose or gain depending on how it’s handled. I’ll let you read it yourself for the details. At 533 pages, it went pretty fast for me – aside from the 20 page head start I got before the weekend began, I read it in a day and a half.

So what do you think of Dan Brown? Worth reading as a break from “deeper” material?Brilliant? Avoid him like the plague? Do you and your family have any reading “traditions?” I’m curious to know…

Sent from my iPad