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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Books


I sometimes think that my insistence on reading exclusively in Spanish is stunting my intellectual growth. My reading level in my adopted language is quite high and getting better with every book I plow through but I miss reading in English. I feel like someone who has been “on the wagon” for three and a half years (Really going on the wagon scares the shit out of me. How do Mormons and Muslims do it?).  Just a couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of The Silence of the Lambs in English thinking that I would give it to one of my friends studying English. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down until I had finished it that same day. It was definitely a better book than I expected but I think that I was just starving to read something that I understood completely. I’m almost embarrassed to include this thriller among the handful of English books I’ve read since moving to Valencia. What is an intellectual snob to do?

What I have read in Spanish covers a wide range but almost exclusively it’s been novels. I have usually tried to alternate between something originally written in Spanish with something translated into Spanish.  The translations are usually much easier to read and I think the best thing for improving my Spanish is to read A LOT. The more pages I read, the better I feel about my abilities. Reading reinforces vocabulary and grammar. When I read I feel more involved in the language, even more so than when I am speaking—although there is no substitute for speaking.

I spend a lot of time shopping for books. I regularly cruise three used book stores in my neighborhood as well as a couple of new book shops. The two titles you see in the photograph are what I picked up yesterday: Stieg Larsson’s third book in the Millennium series and a book of nonfiction by Gabriel García Márquez.

I have already read the Márquez book but I liked it so much that I thought that I would read it again. It is a brilliantly clear journalism account of kidnappings in Colombia. The Larsson books are enormously popular, at least here in Spain. I have noticed people reading them since I first arrived. I saw the movie adaptation of the first book (dubbed into Spanish from the Swedish). I realize that I should start with the first book but I’m really not that interested in the series. I just started reading this one in the used book store and found it easy. I also like the price (5€). I read about 50 pages last night and only had to look up about five words. On a related note, I have been thinking about watching the television series Lost backwards. I have seen one or two episodes on Spanish TV and they have made absolutely no sense whatsoever as they were in the fourth or fifth season. I think it would be fun to try to make sense of the show starting with the finale and going in reverse. I probably won’t but I like the idea.

What I would like to make more sense of is the Moorish influence in Spain. I have been looking for a good history on the subject but in the past I was hindered by my reading ability in Spanish. I think that I have reached a level that would allow me to make it through damn near anything in Spanish so I should step up my search for a good history. I am also woefully ignorant of the Spanish Civil War (I have heard that the best book on the subject was written in English). For the most part I have tried to keep my reading to the classics, at least the original Spanish books I have read. The translations are a bag of surprises, like this Larsson thing or Ken Follet’s Los Pilares de la Tierra. It seems that mostly what I have been reading is whatever the hell I can get my hands on.

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