Reading is Like Purring or What I’ve Been Doing These Past Months

Before I begin this post, I’d like to thank everyone who has left one of the many kind and supportive comments on my last post. It means a lot. I was very touched. Thank you so much.

What a long absence. Initially, I thought I’d be absent for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, but it has quickly turned into over two months. I don’t want to go into too many details but for those who are interested, I’ll explain a few things. Part of my absence was due to my eyes, even though I was allowed to read again after a few weeks. I know, some of you thought I was absent because of eye strain but that wasn’t the reason. One evening, while I was about to go to bed, I suddenly saw very bright flashing lights. Since I had had other eye problems for a while, I knew that seeing flashes is something you need to take very seriously and so I rushed to the ER of the eye clinic. As they explained, I had some ruptured blood vessels in my retina, due to the detachment of the vitreous body in one eye. Usually, this isn’t dangerous. Only 2% of the people who experience a vitreous body detachment are in danger of retinal bleeding and/or rupture  . . . I was lucky that it didn’t get worse and since the vitreous body seems fully detached now, I should be OK. Why did this happen, you wonder? I’m very short sighted in one eye and that’s one of the main reasons why this happened so early (usually people get this at a much older age, not at 40+, rather at 60+) and with these consequences. While there is no more danger, I still suffer from floaters, one of which is called “white ring” and rather annoying. It means my eyesight is still 100%, but I feel like looking through a snow globe and moving my eyes too quickly makes the floaters swirl. Reading books is actually OK, but reading on the laptop/computer or scrolling on the iPad is awful.

This brings me to the title of my blog post. As you probably know, cats purr for many reasons. Of course, they purr when they are content but they also purr to calm or placate themselves when they are in pain or scared. I noticed that reading serves pretty much the same purpose for me. I read when I’m happy, but I also turn to reading when I’m anxious and stressed. It calms me. Not being able to read while I wasn’t sure whether the bleeding would turn into something more serious like retinal detachment and I would need eye surgery, was a freaking nightmare. So much so, in  fact, that I had to think about reading at a more profound level than someone else might have in my situation. I don’t think it’s good to be this dependent on something. So, that’s another reason I was absent for so long.

Now, finally, here are some of the things I’ve done instead of reading:

  • Listening
    • Audiobooks – Within a week of my predicament I got an audible subscription but I’ve unsubscribed again. Audiobooks don’t work for me. I’m not sure why but I think it’s because of the voices. I find many readers are too intrusive and almost seem to interpret the books they are reading. I only managed to finish one of the few I started and that wasn’t even from my subscription but it was a CD I’d purchased a while ago. Arthur Schnitzler’s Late Fame (or rather Später Ruhm – I listened to it in German). It was absolutely terrific. The narrator’s an actor and you can hear that. And he’s never overdoing it. The story as such is great as well.
    • Podcasts – Another thing I’ve been listening to, were Podcasts and I’m happy to say that it was an amazing experience. I discovered that I love Podcasts and have tried out most of those that were recommended to me. And I’ve also discovered a few that weren’t as they are not only about books. The book/literature Podcast I enjoyed the most was Simon and Rachel’s Tea or Books. (Here’s the iTunes page). Another one I liked was CBC’s “Writers and Company” and the BBC’s World Book Club. The not fiction related Podcast that won me over is The Emma Gunns show. She talks a lot about beauty and interviews people from the beauty industry (Pixiwoo, Daniel Sandler,  . . .), but there are also Podcasts about other topics that I found super interesting like her conversations with Jen Sincero (about being a badass at making money) or Chloe Brotheridge (about her book on anxiety). Emma seems like such a lovely person. Here’s the link to her site.
    • Music – I discovered the music of Agnes Obel and absolutely love it. 
  • Looking
    • Coffee table books – In my case, not being able to read, didn’t mean I couldn’t look at books. (I had to avoid the rapid eye movements that reading demands). I discovered that I had a huge amount of art and great coffee table books and have started to peruse those. I’ll probably introduce you to some of them in the coming months.
  • Watching
    • Movies – Guy’s suggested a few French movies and I watched all of them. I especially liked the two starring Isabelle Huppert, Elle, a psychological thriller, and L’avenir – Things to Come, a quiet, reflective movie. What an amazing actress.
    • TV – The series I enjoyed the most was season one of Versailles. I could watch the Intro endlessly. 
    • BookTube – Of course, I knew that some bloggers have YouTube channels, but I’d never explored them. During the last weeks, I sampled a few and finally started following one of them – Jen Campbell. You may have heard of her. She’s the author of the hilarious collections Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops (I reviewed the first one here). She’s also written a book about Bookshops, which looks terrific, a poetry collection, a children’s book and her first short story collection is due this autumn. I love her channel. She’s so enthusiastic and knowledgable, it’s refreshing. And she knows something about light and choosing an appealing background. It’s unbelievable how many book bloggers seem to think that talking to a camera in a half-dark, stuffy room, with unflattering light could be appealing to anyone. I get it, they aren’t beauty/fashion YouTubers but still, they could make a minimal effort. Anyway, check out Jen’s channel. It’s worth it. Here’s her YouTube channel.

And, finally, once I was better

  • Reading
    •  Fiction – I’ve read one novel in the first month – Martha Grimes’ Hotel Paradise, a very engaging coming of age story with a terrific, original narrator. It’s about a crime, but that’s more in the background. The book is far more character than plot-driven. Once I felt better I rushed through three crime and one fantasy novel and a short story collection. Shari Lapena’s thriller The Couple Next Door is one of those super twisty thrillers. There are so many twists and I didn’t see them coming. I think I’m not that much into this kind of thriller anymore but if you are – read it. It’s definitely one of the better ones. Clare Mackintosch’s I See You was a disappointment for me. I liked her first novel I Let You Go so much, my expectations were quite high. It’s also quite twisty, and I didn’t see the ending coming. Unfortunately though, not because of the twist but because it seemed so farfetched and implausible. The next novel was the second book of Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series The Janus Stone. I didn’t like it as much as the first but still enough to pick up the third soon. The fantasy novel I read was the third in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series Bitterblue. It had a very slow start but after two hundred pages I loved it so much, I was sad when it ended. Talk about a book hangover. The short story collection I’ve almost finished is Cees Nooteboom’s The Foxes Come at Night. Nooteboom has written some of my favourite books but I didn’t/don’t get along with this collection. I find it forced.
    • Nonfiction – I’ve tried to downsize and rearrange my closet and have gotten a few books about reorganising/style  . . . Currently I’m working my way through Anushka Ree’s The Curated Closet. It’s very enjoyable.

Overall, after the worst was over, I had a good time. I discovered a new way of reading. I don’t read as quickly as before, nor as rushed or obsessive. I stick to one book and savour it.

And how are you? What have you been reading, listening to, and watching these past months?

48 thoughts on “Reading is Like Purring or What I’ve Been Doing These Past Months

  1. Oh, my dear Caroline, so good to hear you are back and more or less recovered, although it does sound like you need to be careful with those eyes henceforth. I’m glad you managed to find things other than reading to occupy you. I can imagine I would feel it was a tragedy and moan about it a lot more than you! I think I’ll explore some of your suggestions sooner rather than later…

    • Thanks, Marina Sofia. Oh, I do moan, believe me. It’s stressful because I need the computer for writing/translating. I still don’t know which glasses to use as it has upset my eyes.
      Yeah well . . . I hope youll find some suggestions you’ll like.

  2. Thrilled that you are back amongst us! I have also had retina problems in the past so can fully sympathise with the problems you have experienced. I hope all continues to be well with you, and lovely to read your catch up xxx

    • Thanks so much, Ravencrime. I’m sorry to hear you had problems as well. It’s beastly, isn’t it? And scary. I know they can do a lot with laser these days but it’s still scary.
      I hope to visit soon xxx

  3. Hi, Caroline, and welcome back! I’ve missed reading your posts, and am glad that you are basically okay again. As we get older, lots of things sort of change. I’m in physical therapy now for knee and back and hip problems, and I’m finding it very beneficial, though I don’t manage to practice as much as I ought. I too have been taking a holiday from blogging, not only because I haven’t been reading as much, but because I’m busy once again crocheting gifts for Hannukah and Christmas and my brother’s Nov. birthday, and just find there isn’t room in a day! It’s still sedentary non-activity, though, so I have to keep taking breaks to walk and etc. so that all my physical therapy doesn’t go to waste! We are enjoying a warm and pleasant August where I am; I hope your weather is equally inviting, and that you continue to improve. I look forward to your next post, and am really glad you’re back!

    • Hello Victoria. Thanks for the kind words. Aging is overrated. 😉 I’m sorry you’re having knee and back issues. I started crocheting but I’m rubbish at it. Every square I tried to crochet ended up as a triangle. We had a very hot summer – Switzerland was one of the “red heat alert” countries, so over 100°. And now it has droppend is ridiculously cold. I prefer it though. At least, I can sleep again.

  4. It’s good to hear that things are improving. I don’t particularly like audiobooks but could probably put up withem if it came to it. Did the doctor suggest you reduce your reading permanently?

    • Thank you, Jonathan. It’s much better. I’m allowed to read but it’s stressful because my eyes are so different. One needs glasses for one thing, the other one for something else.
      Reading works quite well. It’s the computer (distance) that’s a problem.

    • Thanks, Simon. I’m glad to hear you felt that way too. I was disappointed in myself. I thought it was me. There are a fee stories I found interesting/good. Uneven, indeed.

  5. What a treat to read your latest post! There are so many excellent suggestions in it, I must return and read it again. I’m so glad that you’re doing better.

  6. Welcome back. You’ve certainly had a rough time but glad to know the worst is behind you. I do like audio books but you are absolutely right that the choice of narrator is critical. I abandon quite a few because the voice grates on me. Podcasts I enjoy but have not got into video versions yet

  7. Wow! Sounds absolutely awful and I’m glad things are returning to normal a bit. Having just wrestled with a small print version of War and Peace which tired my eyes out, I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve been going through.

    • Thanks, Karen. It was no fun. I noticed that I have a problem with small fonts too. And long paragraphs. It’s stressful for the eye. It might be easier to read something like War and Peace on the kindle.

  8. I also saw the lights and have floaters, but luckily it never went beyond that. They settled down after a few months and I don’t notice them so much except when I read the computer. You know not to exercise (well maybe stretch a bit) for a while after this happens, don’t you?

    I also just finished Late Fame and it’s going to be the next review. I’ve been watching Game of Thrones and really should try Versailles.
    Nice to see you back.

    • Thank you, Guy. I think the lights and floaters part is quite common but the bleeding is critical. I glad no idea about exercising until I saw a specialist. Seems I was lucky because I worked out pretty much like before.
      I’m curious to see how you like Late Fame.
      I can’t watch Game of Thrones. It’s not on our Netflix. I really enjoyed Versailles.

      • I always tell people with the eyes, to get them checked out immediately because things can deteriorate quickly. I didn’t have the bleeding so I was lucky.

        Too bad on Game of Thrones. It’s really very entertaining. Oh well, perhaps someday.

        • I agree. But I’ve heard some people say they experienced something similar and didn’t get them checked. They were lucky. My doctor even said I shouldn’t go on a holiday until it’s absolutely certain that the whole process is over.
          I watched season one on DVD and loved it but I’m not in the mood to keep on buying them.

  9. Glad to see you’re back, Caroline. Sorry to hear about your eye troubles. I hope the worst is over.
    Like you, I could never get into audio books. It’s just too…distracting somehow. I love podcasts, though. You’ve made me curious to try some of the ones you mentioned here.

    • Thanks, Delia. It’s nice to see you too. It’s been a long while.
      The worst is over.
      Some of the narrators if the audio books I tried were so dramatic. Really annoying.
      The Podcasts are great.

  10. So glad to see you back. It is nice that you spent your time in things other than reading. I do not listen to alot of podcasts. But occasionally I give them a listen. I am glad you enjoyed Jen’s channel. Coincidentally she was on The Times as well today.

  11. Today, Caroline, is a good day! So pleased that you found a way of coping and even more pleased that you’ve written about it. It is great to see you back on line.

  12. Welcome back, Caroline. I’m glad to hear that things are improving. I’ve missed reading your posts and seeing you around the blogosphere, so it’s really good to have an update from you.

    I absolutely Loved Things to Come as well, one of my favourite films from last year. Mia Hansen-Love’s other films are worth catching too, especially Goodbye First Love.

    • Thank you so much, Jacqui. I missed blogging.
      Things to Come is wonderful. I think I saw another one of her movies but can’t remember the title. Thanks for the suggestion.

  13. Welcome back Caroline. It is so good to see you up with a post again.

    I am also glad to hear that you are doing better. Vision is something that one should not mess with.

    I agree, reading is like purring 🙂

  14. I know nothing about it but I remember how there was a trend to cover reading with a coloured transparency sheet to aid learning disabled students to read. No idea if it works or if it still a trend. Maybe one of the primary school teachers or google would know more. Hope you continue in a positive direction. All the best.

  15. I was so happy to see your post this morning. I’m glad that you are on the road to recovery!

    I share your feelings about audiobook readers and their sometimes invasive interpretations of the text. One audiobook I thought was very well read was Beautiful Ruins. The reader’s nuanced voice added a lovely depth to the story.

    Have you read Anna and the Swallow Man? It’s a young adult novel set in 1939 Krakow. I was captivated by the spare prose and interesting perspective.

    FYI — I closed my old blog and moved to a new site (http://jacquelincangro.com) in case you couldn’t find the old URL

    • Thank you so much, Jackie.
      It was a scary thing.
      I know you suggested A Gentleman in Moscow but I think I’d prefer to read that. I didn’t try it out. I still got one audiobook I can download, so I’ll look into beautiful ruins. I hadn’t hear of Anna and the Swallow Man. I’ll have to check that.
      Thanks for the link. I didn’t know you moved.

  16. Glad things are improving for you 🙂 Long may it continue.

    I’m totally with you on Isabelle Huppert – I only saw 8 Women for the first time last weekend, for some reason it had passed me by. Have you seen it? I thought she walked away with it (no mean feat next to Catherine Deneuve) & was completely hilarious! It was such a surprise as I’m used to seeing her in much heavier serious roles.

  17. Happy to have you back, Caroline.

    I’m really glad you’re doing better and that you’re back. Eyes problems are probably what all booklovers fear.

    I can also recommend posdasts on France Culture. They have excellent ones on literature.

  18. Great to read from you again! and glad things are under control. I can imagine this is a particularly worrying thing to go through.

    I have never really understood audio books either – but that’s just me. If I had to I’m sure I would give them a proper try.

    I’ve read that Nooteboom, the only one by him so far. I liked it well enough I think – must dig it out and remind myself of the stories. Lots of men living on their own by the sea, is that him?

    • Thank you so much, Ina.
      It’s not a fund thing to go through.
      I really didn’t get along with the audiobooks.
      Mostly men and women living by the sea on their own. Yes, that’s him. They justs didn’t reach/touch me at all. With one or tow exceptions.

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