Monday, January 17, 2011

Changing reading habits with the Kindle

I've had a Kindle for three or four months now and, as I've mentioned previously, my experience has been highly rewarding.  I've never been one of those "love the smell of fresh paper" types, and I've found reading a small, light device more satisfying than trying to fight the spine to hold a paperback open or prop up a hardback.  There's no question that I prefer reading on a Kindle to a traditional book - philistine though this may make me.

What I didn't expect is that Kindle would change not only how I read, but what I read.  Kindle books allow the first chapter or two to be downloaded as a sample for free.  This is normally enough to decide whether a book is worth reading, and there's no barrier to downloading a slew of samples.  Some are discarded on that basis, but others make it on to my reading list where otherwise they would not have done.

This year already I've read and enjoyed three sports biographies which I would otherwise not have picked up.  In ascending order of brilliance:

In Search of Robert Millar - Richard Moore
Moore documents the life and career of the famously prickly Scottish cyclist, who became a recluse after his retirement from the sport.  Moore's "search" is not only for Millar's whereabouts (in which he is unsuccessful) but for understanding of the most idiosyncratic of men: in this latter quest he gets much closer.

Coming Back to Me - Marcus Trescothick
Trescothick's autobiography charts in agonising detail his battle with mental illness which brought a premature end to his international cricket career.  It won a string of awards for its unsparing honesty, and the courage with which Trescothick tackles the subject earns the reader's admiration and sympathy, but never pity.

Fallen Angel - William Fotheringham
The story of Fausto Coppi, the legendary Italian cyclist of the 1940s and 50s, has just about everything.  Coppi rose from poverty to become a multiple winner of cycling's greatest races, as well as conducting a very public affair with a voluptuous (and highly manipulative) brunette at a time when adultery was still illegal.  Continuing to race well beyond his prime, he died aged only 40 after contracting malaria during an exhibition trip to Africa.  The complexities and contradictions of Coppi's character make him a Shakespearean tragic hero, and Fotheringham's biography captures all the subtleties of his life.  Bravissimo!

I have been fighting a battle for many years with the space constraints of my bookshelves.  With out of copyright titles free on the Kindle, I may yet box up and ship out my paperback Dickens, Austen, Hardy, Bronte, Zola...

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