I used to read

I used to read. A lot. All sorts of books, popular ones and some obscure ones; they were mostly novels, some poetry (in Spanish) were my usual fare. I read voraciously but with no target; I mean there was no “I have to read X books this year” just read and read. Years later I reduced my reading a lot, part of changing cities, countries, language, lifestyle.

Later came the idea of giving away books. It was too much hassle to keep so many books sitting on a shelf. Then I decided to buy much fewer books; some years I didn’t buy even one. Later there was much dog walking, which consumed a lot of my reading time and then I discovered audiobooks.

Initially, audiobooks felt very different, as usually my problem was “How do you pronounce this name? and now it was “How do you spell this name given the pronunciation?” It was harder to keep all the pieces in place, there was no going back to remind myself what was happening before. My solution, perhaps no ideal but practical, was to simplify stories. Lots of “who dunnit” but audiobooks were quite handy, with 8 to 15 hours for an unabbreviated story*.

Characters sound different from what they sound in my mind if I’m doing the reading. At the same time, it is going back to oral stories, which were the first stories for humanity. One big problem: the audiobook market is a dumpsterfire of a near monopoly, with a DRM heavy offer (Audible, an Amazon company). And I do not want to buy books or audiobooks so my solution is very simple: borrow audiobooks from my public library, which has a fairly large catalogue.

After a while one develops a taste for voice actors. My favourite, by far, is Seán Barrett who does an excellent Harry Hole in Joe Nesbø’s crime novels (here a Barrett interview about his voice acting work).

These “readings” are far from what I used to read, but they are very fun. How many of them? Quite a few, depending on time and books available. I often do not respect the order of book series, as I rarely have the patience to reserve the books and wait that they are in the right order.

Bookcase in my office. Mostly technical books.
Bookcase in my office. Mostly technical books, some of which I’ve given away.

*There are some exceptions, like Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon which is 43 (!) hours.