As I look at my battered library copy of Gone with the Wind, littered with as many limp flags as any battlefield, I realize that I haven’t done as quite as good of a job of posting my thoughts for each section as I should have. Those little flags are stuck on pages all through the book, and there would be more if some had always been available when I needed them, and I am hoping now that when I flip back through that I will remember why I flagged each page, the passage that drew me, and what I planned to say about it.
When I was in grad school and faced with huge reading loads, my favorite professor gave me some advice that seemed counter-intuitive for someone faced with reading forty some-odd books (some of them 1000 pages or more…Clarissa, anyone?) in the space of fifteen weeks. He told me I should read every book once straight through, without marking passages or taking notes, and then go back and read the book a second time and with my impression of the work somewhat formed, take notes and mark passages. And it worked. My reading pace quickened, my thoughts were clearer, and my ideas were more sound because I could “test” my original impression through the second reading.
Now, for posting thoughts about books here, I’ve sort of abandoned this process, and I’m not sure whether it’s holding me in good stead. I first noticed it when I was writing my post for Wide Sargasso Sea. I read the book, and then sat down to write my post, flipping back through the book just to look for quotes, not really doing a second read. The problem was, I had an idea formed on the “page,” but as I flipped back through I kept noticing more interesting points about the language or plot to discuss–ideas I ignored because I felt like I just needed to get the post done. When I was reading The Manual of Detection, I copied quotes out of the book as I read, but this somewhat interrupted my reading and distracted me from the plot, so I stopped.
Now, with a book as long as Gone with the Wind, there’s a certain logic in posting about sections of the book, but then I find that every time I get an idea, something comes along in later passages to change it. That’s why I decided to just wait and post about my impressions as a whole, although it’s interesting to see thought processes change about characters and such through each post. Each method has its benefits. But truly I would prefer to read it again, and if this copy were mine, I would, and I would mark it up like crazy! Of course, I probably should temper myself, because these are just posts about my thoughts on books, not dissertations. And another thing: even if I may have put the book on my TBR list as the result of a review on one of your blogs, I try not to read reviews before I start writing, unless I am really stuck and need a touch point, something to agree with or argue against.
So I am wondering, what’s your review process? Do you like to read straight through and then dump all your thoughts, or do you flag passages and take notes as you go? Do you read other reviews before you write your own? I think I know what works best for me, but I love to hear about other people’s processes, like my professor’s, because I might find something that opens up my reading in a way I didn’t expect.
Happy Sunday, everyone!