Sonic Youth

Enhanced Reading

We all have a favorite chair, a preferred beverage to sip upon, or a perfect pet companion to lie nearby while reading. These are some of the traditional ways we enjoy the practice of reading; some things that make it even more pleasurable.

While reading Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a Band recently, I noticed that I was doing a number of things that expanded my experience while reading her book. Gordon was a founding member of the alternative band Sonic Youth, so as she was relating stories about how a particular album was created I gravitated to our catalog and began requesting Sonic Youth CDs to listen to while reading. I now had these as my soundtrack to read on. Sonic Youth is also known for their ground-breaking music videos, so it was natural for me to search YouTube and take breaks to watch the music videos she references in her memoir.

This experience helped me to realize that it’s become an organic part of my reading practice to turn on my laptop, look into other books, CDs, or DVDs within the MORE catalog, watch videos online, or do some extra research that expands on my overall reading experience and enjoyment of a book I’m reading. Sort of like Reading 2.0 perhaps?

For example, The Friends of the Library Evening Book Group recently read For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose. The book concerns the British East India Company using Robert Fortune, a Scottish Gardener, botanist, and plant hunter to make clandestine trips deep into the interior of forbidden parts of Chinese territory to steal their deeply guarded secrets of tea manufacturing and horticulture. Fortune encounters many dangerous predicaments as he commits brazen acts of corporate espionage. The book makes reference to Robert Fortune’s travelogue published in 1847. My interest was piqued so I did some research and found that The Google Books Library Project has made available an eBook copy of the travelogue Three Years’ Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China. So as I read one book, I was able to simultaneously browse and read his first hand and clearly embellished accounts of heroic feats, and consider the many maps and illustrations to enhance my reading.

Another way reading can be enlivened is through “Reading Maps.”  Neil Gaiman’s American Gods has a great example of one the American Gods Reading Map.  As much of the story takes place throughout the Midwest and Wisconsin (in particular House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI), it’s natural to want to explore these locations. This companion site contains suggestions for further reading on American Gods thematically tied in topics like road trips, gods and goddesses, and tourist traps. Your appreciation for the text can further be augmented with links to reviews, a Reading Guide for the Book, images of Gaiman’s notebooks for American Gods (he wrote the book in longhand) or listen to a sample excerpt of the audiobook. So if you were inspired you could plan out a road trip to explore the locales described in the novel. Someone has even mapped out your route for you if you’re ambitious this Summer.

Thanks for allowing me to share some ways I’ve noticed our reading can be enhanced. I’m curious, what have you done to enhance your own reading experience? Leave a comment below.




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