Dyslexia and Me: “So Many Books, So Little Time”

Frank Zappa has created music that has been in my collection for many years and I have learnt valuable lessons about “Yellow Snow” which I will definitely NOT be eating. Mr Zappa once said, “So many books, so little time.” This is a quote I have really taken to heart in the last few years.

I’m covering a bit of old ground here, but it is something that I am becoming more passionate about since taking on the Goodreads Challenge earlier this year. That and jealousy of conversations I have been left out of in regards to popular fiction and classic books everyone seems to assume that you have read. 

The Ultimate Top 100 Books Ever Ever Ever!

Every so often I look at the top 100 book lists posted around the internet by a variety of individuals. I normally look through and will find perhaps 3 books I have read, a few I’ve seen as film or TV adaptations and the rest I hear people going on about. I’ve always felt very left out and inadequate as I look down these lists. What have I missed? Will people think me stupid because I haven’t read these books?

We’ll take The Telegraph’s article 100 novels everyone should read as an example of the books I have read:

77. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (I started and gave up)
21. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
19. The War of the Worlds by HG Wells (read for the first time this year)
14. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (I started and gave up this month)

There are some real classics on that list. Now to The Guardian The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list

98. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
74. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (see The Telegraph list)
63. Charlotte’s Web by EB White (which I read along with my teacher at school)
59. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
34. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (just finished this week)
17. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (see The Telegraph list)
9. Emma by Jane Austen (currently reading)

Though the two papers have different books listed and score the same books differently, there were a lot of the same books in both top 100s that I haven’t looked at in school or otherwise. I did notice that neither had any Shakespeare which I found odd since he usually appears on all the lists somewhere or another.

When the new Harper Lee book came out, I felt very much out in the cold with the excitement in the media and bookstores. I’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird, which people find very odd, “but these are books that everyone reads at school!” Actually, that’s not true. For Standard Grade (like GCSEs) we read Kes, The Merchant of Venice and I don’t recall any other books… In fact, I hardly recall any books we read in high school! I think we were expected to read books ourselves for book reviews, but I could never finish a book in the set time.

Covering Old Ground

I remember my best friend at school chomping her way through books. She loved Jane Austen books, I loved the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and the film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. I could never understand how much she loved to read. It was a complete enigma to me. I was far more into other hobbies that were active or music related. If I could avoid reading, I would! I could always watch the film if the story was THAT good!

By the time I went back to college I had worked in a second-hand book store and picked up a few more books to read. I’d read the first 4 Harry Potter books, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, a couple of George Orwell’s, part of His Dark Materials (though I never finished the Amber Spyglass) and a couple of Chuck Palahniuk books including Fight Club. I thought that was pretty good going since I only ever read when I was on holiday.

At college we read two books and a personal study. We read Romeo and Juliet, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I chose to read Fight Club again for my personal study. We had an excellent lecturer at college who actually made English an enjoyable subject. We read a lot of poetry too, which has always been my greatest strength. I saw the humour in Shakespeare for the first time and really enjoyed Romeo and Juliet. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on the other hand was an absolute nightmare. I hated every minute of it. I couldn’t absorb it, couldn’t grasp what was happening and I bit the book and threw it over the room many times. It wasn’t until I managed to find an audiobook to read along with the book that I could slog my way to the end of it. I gave it away to a friend afterwards as I knew I’d never read it again and didn’t want it in my collection!

University: A Collection of Minds

It was when I started at university that I realised just how much I had missed out by avoiding books. People were discussing books they were currently reading and books that ‘everyone’ had read at some point… All apart from me. It was a sudden realisation that I was not part of the group. I felt pretty much out in the cold when the topic of books was brought up. There’s nothing worse when you’re already feeling a bit of an oddball with new people in a new city.

I had too much reading for subjects at university to start reading fiction that wasn’t part of my course work. I went into old habits of switching off or finding distractions on my laptop when the topic of books resurfaced. People may find it rude, but I would rather be rude than be made to feel uncomfortable. I’ve been made to feel stupid all my life by my peers at school before I was diagnosed as dyslexic, I wasn’t prepared to slip fully back into the feeling of incompetence again after making it so far.

I don’t think people will have realised just how uncomfortable I felt when these topics kept resurfacing. I guess if I had started a conversation on a topic that I was more comfortable with such as music or football a few people would understand the feeling of being left out, but I don’t think it would convey the feeling of worthlessness or stupidity I felt many a time for never completing the Harry Potter series or getting past the first page of The Hobbit.

Post-Graduation Blues

After graduating, I felt as though there was a massive hole in my life. I was no longer learning new subjects or stretching my mind, especially while working in a call centre. I started reading a little bit, mostly historical and factual at first but soon decided I had a load of fiction I had collected over the years that had been collecting dust. Plus with my new iPad and free books available on iBooks and Kindle, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to start reading more.

Since January this year I have read 22 books (and am currently reading Emma by Jane Austen and Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb). I have considered looking to join a book club so I can discuss the books I’ve been reading, but I know the same fear of time restrictions to complete a book will make me shut down to reading again when I’ve only just started to make some progress. Plus I read for the story not for how technical the literature may or may not be.

My last post I was discussing the eye strain I’ve had from reading and the usefulness of my iPad reading to me. It was only when I decided to try to read Wuthering Heights that I thought it might be a good idea to read the classics by ear while continuing to read my paperbacks by eye. It means I now have two books going at a time so when I grow tired from reading with my eyes I can switch to reading a different story with my ears. I have found that I get to a point reading with my ears that I become irritable too and very sensitive to movement or smell almost like a sensory overload. Being able to switch between the two formats is helping me from discomfort while expanding my literary knowledge.

I have a whole load of classic books lined up on my iPad to read at the moment, some taken from the top 100 lists and others that I’ve heard people going on about as ‘books everyone read at school’. I’ve lined up my paperback books too in some sort of order too. I am very much addicted to Robin Hobb as a writer at the moment and half way through the final book of the Farseer Trilogy with the Tawny Man Trilogy lined up and the first of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy lined up on my bookshelf. Instead of chomping through all her books one at a time, I’ve decided that I need to read two paperback books in between so I don’t just turn into a fangirl!

The Here and Now

Waterstones, The Works and Tesco have become my regular haunts for spending money. I’ve so many books now, I’m hoping they keep me going for a while and keep my interest going. I have only given up on one book so far (even though I promised myself I wouldn’t do it) which was Wuthering Heights, but I hope that it’s the only one I give up on this year.

Even now, away from university, I see the book snobbery in social media with regards to adaptations of books into film and TV series’. The worst perhaps being the snobbery around the Game of Thrones TV series and those who have read the whole of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (which Game of Thrones is based on). I am well aware that the books have been out for a long time, but posting up spoilers ruins it for those of us who haven’t read the books or are up to date with the series. There isn’t the same amount of snobbery around series like Doctor Who, which although has a similar cult following, they aren’t specifically based around certain books. To respond with ‘well the books have been out for years’ is no help to anyone and just sounds childish and stuck up. Not everyone is a bookworm though many love a good story!

I have considered writing about the books I’ve read on the blog (obviously without the spoilers) in hope to inspire other dyslexics who are reluctant to read to consider picking up a book (or an ebook). The problem is, I don’t even know where to start with a book review. I know the books I’ve enjoyed and the books I haven’t enjoyed, some I know the reason why, others it’s more the story than perhaps the writing style. I considered another blog, but I am well aware that when I have tried to create collaborations in the past they’ve really ended up going nowhere or it’s all fallen to me to do. Perhaps I’ll just continue plodding along reading for pleasure by myself.

I find myself posting more and more on social media about the books I’ve been reading. I’m pretty sure people are becoming fed up with it, but for me this is a huge achievement in my life to have turned into a bookworm. I really do wish I had an outlet for sharing all the fantastic literature I’ve been reading with people where it doesn’t end up getting people’s backs up. Ah well. One can dream…

I love a good story. I always have done. Now I’m not waiting for the film and TV producers to catch up with the many amazing stories written by authors from around the world on so many different topics of interest. Besides, how many book to screen adaptations have been seen as a disaster? I’m sure I can list a few from the few books I’ve read!

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Posted on August 26, 2015, in Blogging and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Have you tried classic novels in graphic novel format? Graphic novels often have dyslexia-friendly features like an illustrated list of characters. You can use these features to support your reading of the original. But of course graphic novels are also dyslexia-friendly because they provide so much visual content that supports the reading of the text. Some graphic novels of classics use the original text. A good example is the ‘Classical Comics’ graphic novel of Jane Eyre: https://capitadiscovery.co.uk/edinburgh/items/1066133. Classical Comics Ltd. http://www.classicalcomics.com also publishes graphic novels of classics in e-book format. You’ll find lists of graphic novels of classics linked in ‘Overcoming a reluctance to read Part 3’ at http://wp.me/prb2S-4l3.
    There are also various resources available e.g. SparkNotes http://www.sparknotes.com and the SPORE technique http://coe.jmu.edu/learningtoolbox/spore.html which you can use to support your reading / listening of the classics.
    The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide ‘100 Must-read Classic Novels’ gives you a summary of each book so you have the gist before you start. There are more in the same series listed at
    https://capitadiscovery.co.uk/edinburgh/lists/6b22de13-a7e7-5ef4-9af5-6b3f4825fef5.
    You could start up an adult dyslexics’ book group at your local library. Then you could choose books and time limits that are realistic for dyslexics. You could also use a dyslexics’ book group as a real-life discussion forum e.g. you could share tips on books, recommend books, write collaborative book reviews.
    I have found your book reviews on your Dysassemble blog of the ‘Very Short Introduction’ books helpful. So you could post more like them. Write what you’d find helpful to know about the book yourself. Imagine you are the audience. Then other dyslexics will find it helpful and interesting.
    For more tips on engaging with books see the blog series ‘Overcoming a reluctance to read’ on Tales of One City blog at http://bit.ly/1e3y7Cn, which also signposts to some other useful resources.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have read graphic novels in the past but I am not a huge fan of them. I found some free as ebooks too but I just couldn’t get into them. It’s a style of book that doesn’t suit me but I know many who love them dyslexic and non-dyslexic.

      I’m not studying these books, I just want to have read them so I know what they are and see why they are seen as classics. I’m reading them in the same way I read all books at the moment, which is for the pleasure of the story.

      I live in a village with a tiny library so I don’t think that idea would work here sadly. Something to think about though 😊

      Like

  1. Pingback: Dyslexia and Me: “So Many Books, So Little Time” | NYC Dyslexia Research

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