An iPod For Books

Continuing my initial assessment of the Kindle, the device seems to me to be best suited for pleasure reading. The most significant drawback I’ve noted is the difficulty of random access: while it is possible to jump ahead and back within a book, so far I’m finding the process clumsy and imprecise. As a result, the Kindle seems most useful for fiction or for non-fiction written in very linear fashion.  I tend to flip back and forth constantly when reading most non-fiction, so I don’t see using the Kindle for serious reading very often.

But that’s okay. The gizmo seems perfect for sitting out on the porch and reading for relaxation, or stashing by the bedside for a chapter or two before sleep. And it should be a godsend for air travel: no more cramming the daypack with several pounds of books  to get me through interminable flights.

So what do I have on it so far? Here’s the list, after almost two weeks, at a total cost of $7.49. Yes, that’s all: seven-and-a-half bucks for a library that would have kept a nineteenth-century lighthouse keeper happy for a year. Very heavily skewed toward light summer reading, but it is August. And yes, I find myself on a westward-ho kick. These things happen.

  • Astoria, or Anecdotes of an Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains — Washington Irving
  • Collected Stories — H.P. Lovecraft
  • Complete Novels — Sir Walter Scott
  • Complete Works —  William Shakespeare
  • The Expedition of the Donner Party — Eliza Poor Donner
  • The Gallic War — Julius Caesar
  • The Histories — Herodotus
  • History of the Donner Party — C.F. McGlashan
  • The History of the Peloponnesian War — Thucydides
  • The Lion of the North — G. A. Henty
  • My Man Jeeves — P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Oregon Trail – Francis Parkman
  • The Roughriders — Theodore Roosevelt
  • Three Men in a Boat — Jerome K. Jerome
  • The Time Machine — H.G. Wells
  • Two Years Before The Mast — Richard Henry Dana
  • Under Two Flags — Ouida

I’ve got room for another 1400 titles or so, but these ought to keep me amused for a while.

Some thoughts on what I’ve been into so far:

P.G. Wodehouse is funny in any medium. Of course he basically writes the same story over and over– Bertie’s in a pickle, Jeeves fixes everything– but that’s fine. When it comes to Wodehouse, I’m like a kid: “Daddy, read me ‘The Poky Little Puppy’ again!”

G.A. Henty, I find, managed the apparently impossible: writing a dull novel about the Thirty Years War. One-quarter the way into The Lion of the North, there’s really no plot to speak of, nor any character development at all. Rather, it’s all exposition, like a Cliff’s Notes review of Europe’s most shattering conflict before machine guns and poison gas changed the rules. Characters stand around giving each other history lectures, even (I swear to God) employing the despicable “As you already know…” gambit. Meanwhile, the main character… well, he’s there while stuff happens. I think I’m done with this one.

You want to be real mean to Mr. Henty? Read a little Walter Scott after slogging through his sludge. The contrast is downright cruel: Scott’s vivid scenes, his lively dialogue, his gripping plots are everything that Henty’s lifeless verbiage is not. This will be at least my third time through Ivanhoe, maybe my fourth. Either I’m old enough that I’ve forgotten stuff, or it really is true, “Every time you pick up a classic, you discover something new.”

Richard Henry Dana is a fine writer, with an expressive and concise style unusual for the 1830s. What surprised me, though, is how much of Two Years Before The Mast takes place not on the open sea, but onshore in California, where Dana’s ship is involved in trade. May have more to say on this one in a bit.

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2 Responses to An iPod For Books

  1. Mary says:

    Kudos on the Wodehouse – I read a little bit of his stuff when I was in college and keep meaning to go back for more. Just recently, I’ve been getting “Jeeves and Wooster” from Netflix (the version starring Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry), and those have been fun to revisit.

  2. Ranger Bob says:

    Yes- I think Laurie and Fry do a wonderful job of translating the spirit of the stories to the screen. I pretty much picture them when I read the books now, which isn’t always a good thing, but in this case I’m quite content.

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