Once upon a time, I had terrible reading comprehension but loved reading anyway. This disparity between ability and desire was most apparent when I was entered high school. After miraculously testing out of remedial English and into Honors classes my junior and senior years, I remember being given The Plague, The Stranger, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, Fathers and Sons, and Pride and Prejudice. I probably would have loved reading all of these books had I understood them better. The problem wasn’t understanding the themes or plot; discussing these novels in class made me realize I did love them. It was my inability to synthesize what I was reading. I remember straining to finish Pride and Prejudice before it was due and the words looking like hieroglyphics. No matter how many times I read over the same page, I couldn’t see what was happening in the novel in my head. This was a bit distressing after reading countless R. L. Stine and V. C. Andrews books where I had no problem with this. I felt like my brain was broken.
Over the years, I did get better at absorbing what I read. Probably just practice and cramming for exams in college. Sometimes, certain books dredge up my old flaw and the accompanying fear of inadequacy. It happened recently when I checked out Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows about a MAGICAL HEIST from my local library. I checked it out as an e-book. Though I liked the novel, I was still slogging through it three chapters in. Then my best friend and partner in reading shenanigans started it and fell head over heels for it in a way that I hadn’t. This was not a matter of us merely liking different things. I knew I would have liked the book more if I followed it better. Sometimes it takes me time to get into an author’s writing style, and Bardugo certainly has a lot of lush world-building happening right at the beginning of the book. But, but, I had a feeling this book would be better read physically. So I purchased the hardback, and my reading experience between the hardback and the e-book was night and day. (I definitely recommend the hardback, because this book is just effing gorgeous inside and out.)
The book has these epic maps and character designations in the front. The e-book does too, but the ability to physically return to the maps while marking the page you’re currently on with your finger is a luxury you didn’t know you’d miss until you don’t have it! Also, just being able to flip back through the book to reread something for clarification is another simple pleasure that reading an actual book affords, while an e-book does not; this book kind of lends itself to rereading certain parts because of how deliciously complicated the plot is (seriously, I feel smarter for having read this book). Also, somehow, being able to see how far I was in the book with regards to the unfolding plot helped me situate myself in some abstract spatial way. Reading purists or anti-e-bookers often cite reading as a physical activity. And I totally get it now.
Let it be known, I am in no way declaring myself a reading-monogamist here. This book has shown me that I read more complicated, involved books better when I can hold it. Novels that don’t require so much…involvement are great for downloading as an e-book and popping out while traveling, standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting for you doctor who never seems to be on time for your appointment.
Any purists out there? E-book or anti? Do you notice a difference in how you read certain books physically versus on a reader?