As I keep track of my reading, I have to make some decisions as to what makes it onto my list of completed books. Does it count if I skim or skip a substantial portion? What if I stop reading partway through and then take it up again — should I start over from the beginning? What about reading aloud, where there are often interruptions — my husband reads one night instead, or my son takes the book and reads part of it on his own? How about collections of essays, poetry, short stories and such, where sometimes there are pieces that just don’t speak to me and that I don’t want to spend time reading?
When there are are substantial gaps like these, I usually don’t count those books as “read.” To do so would make me feel guilty, as though I were perpetrating some deception. But am I being too strict? Do I have to read every single word of a book in order to put it on my list? Do you have a rule of thumb in these cases — a percentage, or a page count that you could skip and still consider that you’ve read the book?
Then there are format questions. Some people seem not to consider audiobooks as “real reading,” which I think is nonsense. Yes, a voice actor has taken over some of the activity that normally goes on in your head, but you still have to pay attention and take in the words. The book comes alive in your imagination through listening, just as much as when you process it by reading. Still, it is a somewhat different activity, even if we don’t have a different word for it in our language.
E-books raise questions for me as well. Of course this is just another way of taking in words on a page, so it’s certainly “reading” from that point of view, but after completing an e-book — especially a complex and many-layered one, like Awakenings — I often feel as though I haven’t really grasped it. When only one fragment is available to me at at time, the whole seems to slip beyond my reach. Can I truly say that I have “read” it, that I have gradually come into possession of that wholeness which is the book?
Trifling questions, perhaps, yet they nag at me. What are your thoughts? How do you decide which books to count as “read”?