Speed Reading

speed-readingI have a bit of a book problem.

When we were preparing to go on our cruise, one of the things we packed were some books to read.  I pictured leisurely days spent sitting by the pool with nothing to do but read and that worried me.  However, it didn’t worry me because I hate reading.  In fact, I love it.  To me, there is almost nothing better than losing yourself in a good book.  I have this knack for sort of melting into the book.  The entire world around me dissolves, I can’t hear anything else, and all that exists is the book.  No, what worried me was running out of reading material.

You see, I’m a quick reader.  When I’m reading something that I like, I tear through it.  When I was in school, we’d be assigned to read chapters 1 – 5 and I’d read the entire 20 chapter book.  Then, I’d have to try to remember what happened in the first five chapters so I didn’t answer questions using knowledge from chapter 9.  Often, I’d just re-read it a second time and a third time until the class caught up with me.  I’ve been known to devour whole books in a day’s time so the idea of seven days of reading time meant possibly needing a dozen books, not one or two.

The first book I chose was Nobody Gets The Girl by James Maxey.  The second one was the first book in the Percy Jackson series.  My oldest son had been reading this series and loved it.  I’ve long been a fan of Greek mythology so a series that seemed like “Harry Potter Meets Greek Myths” seemed perfect.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get much reading time during the cruise.  There was just too much to do during the cruise to sit around reading a book.  On the bus ride back, though, I poured through Nobody Gets The Girl and finished before the bus arrived at our stop.  Nearly an entire book read in about 3 hours’ time.

During Rosh Hashanah, I had some down time and was feeling bored.  I decided to read something and settled on the first Percy Jackson book.  I poured through half of it quickly and finished it up a couple of days later.  On Friday, I began book 2 and finished that up before Saturday was over.  Book 3 was a problem, though.  That’s the book my son is currently reading.  He takes that book to school to read during free times.  I didn’t want to take his copy from him or have him possibly lose my spot in the book.  B suggested taking the Kindle version out.

If you didn’t know, many libraries have deals with Amazon.  You can take Kindle versions of books out from the library and read them on your Kindle devices (or any device with the Kindle app – which is pretty much any device) as if you bought it.  The only difference is that the rented Kindle books automatically remove themselves when the book is due.  It can be quite convenient over repeated trips to the library.

B took out Book 3 and I began it on Sunday morning.  Soon, I had overtaken where NHL had read up to.  Not long after that, I finished the book.  I grabbed NHL’s physical copy of Book 4 but reading it was slow going.  There are times when I prefer physical books and times when I prefer eBooks.  This time, the eBooks just felt better to me.  B took Book 4 out of the library and asked me if she should take Book 5 out as well while she was at it.  I told her not to because Book 4 would probably take me awhile with work coming up soon.

How wrong I was.

As I write this (on Sunday night), I just read the last words on the last page of Book 4 in the Percy Jackson series.  That’s right, I’ve read 2 books in one day.  The next book is the last one in this series, but then there are five more books in a related series written by the same author.  I have a feeling that, by the time this week is done, I’ll be midway through that series.

As far as my boys go, JSL is just like me.  After a shaky start where he didn’t like reading, he has taken to reading like a son of Poseidon to water.  (Sorry, I couldn’t help putting in a Percy Jackson reference there.)  JSL rips through book series after book series.  He will complain if we go on even the shortest of car rides without a book for him to read.

NHL, on the other hand, varies when it comes to reading.  He’ll complain a lot if we tell him to read over playing video games or watching TV.  However, if there’s a book he’s interested in, he’ll rip through the entire thing at a speed that makes me proud while understanding the entire thing.  (Reading speed means nothing if there’s no comprehension to go along with it.)  I just hope that his love of reading flourishes more as he grows.

As a geek, I’ll admit to loving video entertainment.  I’ll dutifully await the next episode of a beloved television series, will stand in line for a move that I’ve been looking forward to, and will play way too many hours of video games when I have the chance.  However, my enjoyment of all of those pales in comparison to the joy I get when I open a new book, get hooked by the writing, and feel myself being pulled into the story until I look up and realize I’ve read half the book and hours have passed.  There’s just something magical about books.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to tear through the final book in the Percy Jackson series.

The History of Universe Set To Rhyme

universe-verseI’m a big fan of science.  I also love comic books.  So when I heard about James Lu Dunbar’s comic – The Universe Verse – I wanted to read it.  When I learned that it was a rhyming comic book, I definitely wanted to not only read it, but wanted to read it to my children.  I actually posted about the first two books of the Universe Verse three years ago.

Since then, James has released a third book in the series.  Bang! (Book One) covers the Big Bang, the formation of matter, and how stars and planets were made.  It’s Alive! (Book Two) handles the origins of life, Evolution, and DNA.  However, It’s Alive! only hinted at the scope of life that came to be.  James ‘ third book Great Apes! goes back to those single cell organisms and shows how they became more complex.  It takes us to the era of multicellular organisms, the end of the Dinosaurs, the rise of the mammals, primates, humans, language, and finally science.  If you think this quick summary tells the whole story, though, you are sadly mistaken.  Throughout the book, James takes complex subjects and makes them easy to understand.  He also makes it all rhyme which can be helpful when little kids hear words like photosynthesis, mitochondrion, or eukaryotic.

I would definitely recommend James’ work to any parent who loves science or any kid who loves science.  I know I’ll be reading this book to my kids (as well as re-reading it myself several times).  If you want to sample it, I’ve got some good news for you.  For the month of December (which, as of this writing still has nine more days left), you can download the eBook version for free.  Yes, you get all three books in PDF format for absolutely nothing.  These could easily be loaded onto a tablet or computer to read.  For a more offline version, though, you’ll probably want to buy the hardcover version which can be purchased at 20% off of the normal $24.95 price by using the coupon code "fanclub".  (NOTE: I’m not sure how long this coupon is good for so I recommend buying his book quickly.)  There are also bulk discounts if you want to buy three or more copies and distribute them to your friends and family.  It’s probably a little too late to buy them for Christmas or Chanukah, but there is never a bad time to give the gift of science!

NOTE: I received a free copy of James Lu Dunbar’s The Universe Verse in PDF form via the deal I mentioned above.  At no point was I required – or even asked – to review it, though.  All of the opinions expressed above are my own.

Meeting Authors Old And New

Growing up, I loved to read.  My mother would always joke that she was the only mother who had to tell her son to stop reading and go outside and play.  Though I read a lot of books, my favorite author by far was Isaac Asimov.  I really wanted to meet him, but alas it was not to be.  He passed away when I was sixteen years old.  So I was very happy when the boys were able to meet some authors of books that they love to read at The Albany Children’s Book Festival.

First, we met the author of Belches, Burps, and Farts, Oh My!, Artie Bennett.  This might not be the most polite book in the world, but I love how it mixes actual facts in with the potty humor.


Next, JSL insisted that we track down Nick Bruel.  Nick’s got a special place in our hearts.  Only a short while ago, JSL couldn’t read.  Well, he could, but he would insist that he couldn’t and get more and more frustrated when he needed to.  Then, JSL picked up a Bad Kitty book.  Twenty-four hours after he first opened the book, he was done.  Then he moved on to the next one and the one after that.  JSL is now at the point where he refuses to go in the car without a book.  Sometimes, he insists on taking two just in case he finishes one book en route – can’t have any non-reading time, after all!  All this is thanks to Nick’s book sparking a love of reading in JSL.


Then, there were the new authors.  We let the boys select a new book each.  Not only did they get the books, though, but they got to meet the authors and had their new books signed.  So here is NHL with Tommy Greenwald after he picked Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading and JSL with Lenore Look having chosen Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things.

Tommy_Greenwald Lenore_Look

If you could meet any author (still living or not), who would you want to meet?

Speed Reading Quandary

reading_ahead[1]Awhile ago, we showed NHL the first two Harry Potter movies.  After he was hooked, we made a deal that we would need to read the books before he saw any more of the movies.  I began reading the books to him starting with the first.  This was a treat for me as well as him as I had never read the books before (though I had seen all of the movies).

Slowly, we made our way through the first three books.  Then, as we read the fourth, NHL balked at watching the third film thinking he would be afraid of the werewolf.  Finally, he watched it and enjoyed it.

When we hit the fifth book, we faltered.  NHL didn’t seem to be enjoying them anymore.  He was having some problems with his teachers and, though they never tortured him the way Dolores Umbridge tortured Harry, I think the subject of a mean teacher hit too close to home.  We eventually picked it back up, though, and finished it.  He really enjoyed that movie as well.

Now, we are on the sixth book, but NHL is again slowing down.  I think part of the problem is that the books take their time in the beginning.  They set a lot of situations and characters up while the movies rush through these – or leave them out entirely.  Arguably, this makes the book better, but to NHL is means the book is a huge project to wade through while the movie can be over and done in an hour and a half.

To me, though, books hook me in.  I’m a bit of a speed reader, especially when it’s a book I like.  I was really liking Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  This was odd considering that this movie was my least favorite of the films.  The film made it look at though Harry didn’t really do anything.  He just kind of meandered his way through the film.  In the book, though, Harry is determined and focused.  Perhaps not always on what he should be focused on, but focused nonetheless.

I couldn’t take the slow pace so I forged ahead.  A couple of nights ago, I finished the book – having read about 490 pages in around four days.  I would have finished sooner, but I only had about an hour per day to read.

Now comes the quandary.  I would love to proceed on to the last book in the series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I want NHL to catch up with me.  If I go ahead, I’ll get hooked on the last book and won’t want to stop until I’m done.  Without me pressuring NHL to keep on, he might just drop the series.

One of the problems is that NHL was spoiled.  He was told about a certain major character’s death and he thinks this has ruined the book.  I reminded him, though, that there’s still much he doesn’t know.  He doesn’t know HOW the character dies.  He confidently told me that he figured that out and gave me his explanation – which was completely off.  Now that there’s some mystery left, he might want to read on.  I might even drop some non-spoiler hints about exciting story events to spur him on.  (e.g. "You’ll never believe it when SPOILER fixes the SPOILER and the SPOILER comes out to SPOILER SPOILER and SPOILER SPOILER!")

How quickly do you read when you really like a book?

Discovering The Classics

rg1024_cartoon_tv_smallThis past week, the boys and I have been discovering some old classics both on television and book form.  Growing up, I was a big fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  I would tune in every day to see what new schemes Skeletor had come up with and how He-Man and his friends would defeat the villain.  I even had many of the toys.

Fast forward thirty-something years and I noticed that He-Man is on Netflix.  I had toyed with the idea of introducing the boys to it for awhile, but decided to rewatch it myself instead.  One piece of advice to anyone thinking of reliving their childhood by watching old cartoons you grew up on:  Don’t.  Don’t watch them again.  Chances are, you’ll find the writing horrible and the animation simplistic.

I experienced this first when I watched the first episode of Voltron for the first time since my childhood.  I remembered an incredible show where five folks board robot lions that somehow combine into and incredible, evil-busting robot.  I saw a show with plot holes big enough for Voltron to fly through and animation that my memory had clearly digitally enhanced to make it seem better.

He-Man fared little better during my re-watching of the show.  It seemed very simplistic animation-wise and plot-wise.  To begin, I showed the boys the 2002 reboot under the theory that the more recent show (which I had watched when it aired as half-guilty pleasure and half-nostalgic remembering) would be better than the older one.  Before the boys could finish the reboot, though, NHL found the old show.  They began to watch that one.  After an off-hand comment by me, NHL then sought out She-Ra and watched that as well.

Oddly enough, as the bad writing was making me cringe more than Adam’s fearful pet (named Cringer for those non-He-Man fans out there), the boys were thoroughly enjoying the show.  They didn’t care about the poor animation quality or the bad writing.  All they knew was that He-Man was very strong and would constantly beat Skeletor no matter what evil plot he concocted.

On a personal level, I’ve been delving into a classic myself: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I had heard a lot of good things about this book and even got familiar enough with some of the often quoted lines to repeat them to people at the proper times.  (For example, giving "42" as the answer to any question asked of me.)  However, I had never actually read the book.  20 Geek points from TechyDad!

(Yes, I did just make a quasi-Harry Potter reference while writing about Hitchhiker’s Guide.)

Two Kindle eBook borrowings from the library later, and I’ve read both Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  (The latter I read in under 24 hours.)  I’ve now moved on to Life, The Universe, and Everything.  I’m really enjoying these books and keep wondering why I didn’t read them sooner.

What classics have you read/watched recently or have you introduced to your children recently?

NOTE: The "cartoon tv" image above is by rg1024 and is available via OpenClipArt.org.

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