Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about books. Yeah, here we go. So, we’re going to find out what each of us likes to read, what kind of books we have read as children, whether magazines and newspapers are valid for us.
Are libraries important now? Modern world, right? The best time for us to read during the day, or night maybe. Our favorite genres, favorite books. And whether the book is better than the film.
Modern life – is there room in modern life for serious book reading? Can we just go on, VK? Let’s find out about that! And whether or not, what we’re planning to read in the future, assuming that we do read books. So here we go. Katya, hello!
So, new to the podcast – tell us a little bit about you. Who are you?
Well, I am one of the teachers at the BigAppleSchool. I am originally from Russia, but I spent the last two years in Boston. And I’m here for just half a year and in December I’m going back to teach.
Okay. I think you’ve covered everything. And I think one of your hobbies is reading books?
It is! It is one of my few hobbies actually.
Okay. Few as in negative?
Two? What’s your other hobby?
Watching tv shows – can I say that it’s a hobby?
I would argue it’s a hobby. It’s a pastime at least.
Maybe it depends how serious you do it. I mean, if you just watch tv..
You’re very serious about it… So I guess that’s a hobby. I would argue it’s a hobby. I would acclaim films are a hobby to me, so..
See? Then I’m not so far away.
If I can do that, you can do TV shows.
I allow it, you have my permission.
So, is reading important to you? And what I mean is – what if you were illiterate? I’m not meaning it in a derogative way, but what if you, what if I couldn’t read?
Well, you know, I think that if we were illiterate, we wouldn’t know.
Like, the importance of books, how they can change our lives, but we are literate, so we read and we know how important they are, well, for us. For you – maybe, for me - definitely, cause books for me are way too… Actually for me it’s a way to escape the reality if I don’t like it. It’s a way or me to get motivation, inspiration and whatnot. What about you?
So, I like your point of view – like a blind person, you know, wouldn’t appreciate, if he’s born blind, wouldn’t appreciate the beauty of the sky, or the ocean, or whatever.
And in that sense books, if you never read one and never had the opportunity, you probably wouldn’t appreciate them. Yeah, they are very important to me.
I read every day – it’s one of the first things I do. I, as a Christian, read the bible every day. So first thing in the morning – cup of coffee, I always need my coffee, people know I need coffee…
Nice coffee… Even you know! Nice coffee and start reading a bit. So I start with proverbs, which are, well, proverbs from the bible, which are quite wise and good. But without that.. I mean, that’s something special to me, and it’s a nice time – I have a time to myself and…
And I often say that books are my music and what I mean is that a lot of people listen to music to calm themselves, to shut out, to keep their mood…
…or to improve the mood, and for me music isn’t such important to me, books give me that sort of escapism or whatever. Or just an enjoyment, an alternative view.
Depending on the book, I guess, yes?
Yeah. I mean, maybe it’s self-improvement, maybe it’s knowledge about the world, maybe it’s just to learn about a fantasy world, science fiction or whatever. But it’s something like that. So, how often do you read?
I read every day. Well, I spend three hours to commute like every single day, so I try to spend this time reading.
But usually in the morning I can’t make myself read anything, you know, serious, so that’s why I go into the world of fantasy or something like that. So make my imagination work.
Who said fantasy isn’t serious?
That is so true actually! We’re gonna talk about it.
It’s maybe an idea that promoted by those… I think. But I think it can be serious reading depending on the author.
That is so true. How much thought you put into what you read. That is true. And also I have this rule that at least once in a couple of days I have an hour just to myself – I turn off my phone, I have a nice cup of coffee, and just read a book. No emails, no calls, no messages, no social networks.
Nothing. Just me and the book.
Have you tried that? You, listening? Have you tried that? It’s something… I respect that, it’s a good idea, in the modern world. What kind of books did you read as a child?
Oh, that’s a tough question! Cause to be honest until I was I think until I was 12 I didn’t read much. But I sometimes would enjoy going to a library where I just roamed, you know, around the shelves. And the only type of book that I read at the time was detectives.
Cause they were like detectives written specially for kids. And it was so cute, and I loved them! So I think that fairy tales, obviously, even at the time that I couldn’t read much, I would just look at the pictures. So I guess those two.
And then when I was 12 or 13, the world of fantasy was introduced to me and I was… the day my life changed forever.
And you haven’t looked back since?
So good memories about that introduction?
It was a good time, yeah.
So my parents… I don’t know if this is a unique thing or not, but my parents always had books. Lots of different kinds of books, ‘Elliot the Littlest Reindeer’, picture books and different kinds of books: some based on bible story, some based on fairy tales, some based on Christmas.
Lots of different different stuff. Some they had from their childhood, and some that were bought new for us – my older brother and I when we were boys. And so either I was reading them, or my parents were reading them to me.
And so I guess, you know, from as early as I remember books were involved, and it was a good time. I mean, it wasn’t something to be honest, it wasn’t something I would’ve done every single day.
I may have made notions like today I wanna read or this week I wanna read. But, I mean, as a boy I watched a lot of tv, so I got my imagination going there. But I didn’t… I have many happy memories of reading books myself.
You know, I actually remember a story. So the thing is that we didn’t have that many books for kids in our home. We didn’t have many books in general, so every time when I was a kid and my parents took me to a dentist they needed some kind of a reward for me, you know -a good girl, not crying much. So we would go to a bookstore…
And they would buy me, you know, just one book.
We couldn’t afford, like, books…
So it was just one book, preferably…
That’s good. Actually, it sorta… I think in Sunday school I would’ve… went to Sunday school a lot… on Sundays and we used to get books there too. So it was kinda reward as well, so a lot of bribery with books going on in our childhoods.
Enid Blyton - I recommend this… If you have kids or you want to share anything with kids, maybe 10ish or so, maybe a little bit younger, maybe not. Enid Blyton – she has written about the secret seven, which are detective stories. Little group of kids that meet up and have like a detective agency of their own.
Oh yeah! That’s kinda… that’s the kinda stories that I was reading!
I have no idea who the authors were though, cause I do not remember, but…
Yeah. I’m not saying that’s the same person, but I really enjoyed those when I was a boy. And something called “A magic faraway tree”, which is also Enid Blyton. And I really really liked it, because there were strange characters in it.
There was a guy called Moonface whose face was literally the moon. I mean, not the actual moon, but it was a replica of the moon.
And there was a guy Saucepan man, who walked around. Human guy walking around with a saucepan over his ears and head.
Cause that’s what you do apparently.
And they all lived up this magic tree. And these kids, I don’t know, three or four maybe kids, I’m not sure. And they have found this magic faraway tree and no one else knew about it of course.
And they had great adventures, climbing up this tree you go into another world and had great adventures. I loved that when I was a kid.
I remember reading about, you know, a house in a tree in books, and I was like, asking my parents, begging them, like, ‘Can we make the same?’ ‘Do you know where we live? Like, no!’ Ugh, parents! No chance!
Magazines and newspapers – do you read them?
Not really. The thing is that the only magazine that I read is the IELTS magazine since I have students that I’m preparing for the exam, so if I can say yes I only read that, then yeah. What about you?
So you read one. I don’t. Honestly, for me personally – it’s not that I have anything against those who read newspapers or magazines, but generally speaking I don’t read them. For me the fact that they are weekly or monthly
… and there can be some significant reading involved, particularly in a magazine, I prefer… my preference would be a book, cause it’s got more longevity to it, you know. It’s more current perhaps, sorry, less transient, you know, it’s there for… it’s an established writing, whereas a magazine isn’t always a necessarily… it could go out of date.
It could, and pretty fast actually.
Yeah. And news… I mean, nothing wrong with reading the news – I tend to do it online, as I guess most young people do.
Or…. If I can still categorize myself as young… I think so, I think so. For the moment. But, I mean, generally, people don’t read newspapers today I think.
Older generation still have that desire maybe, some of them at least, but I think… I mean, I worked with a guy who’s 60-something and he loved…
his routine was to get a newspaper every day. Absolutely fine, great, good idea! I mean, that was his routine, he enjoyed it, he brought it to work. And when he had time on his break or whatever, he read through it.
You know, I think it’s not the love for newspapers, but just the thing that you’re used to, so you just wanna keep doing that.
You know, to bring stability into your life.
He had interesting local events and in sport, and I suppose that was his simple ways of doing it. I mean… I’m like “pff, it costs 50 pence or a pound!” And that’s every week, that maybe 5 or 6 pounds…
So I remember when I was in London I got some newspapers, you know, to learn English, to learn some new vocab – and that was definitely more than a pound.
Right. It could be. This is how much I read newspapers. When I…
The last time I bought one maybe 50p! Probably now on… I guess it can be 1.20 or something, yeah. But, I mean… For me it’s not my routine, I can see it online and…
It’s fine for those who want to do that. So, well, talking about newspapers and it’s sort of the thing of the past – what about libraries? We got, I mean, online stuff, now you can find books online, whether or not you should… You can find… I mean, you can read on e-reader…
Or iPad, or your laptop, or whatever. Are libraries becoming a thing of the past? I mean, what do we need them for?
No, they are not. But at least not in Novosibirsk, and I can say that for sure, because the books are becoming more and more expensive. It’s getting difficult to afford them, but I know for sure that so many people still prefer, you know, to touch the paper, the smell of, you know, a newly printed book. But we have great libraries here that are getting new books like every month or so.
So sometimes it reminds me of, you know, a hunt – when you wanna read a certain book, you don’t wanna spend like a thousand rubles for that, so you’re like “okay I know”….
Can you search online in the libraries database?
Yes! Yes, that’s the thing. So, and I personally go to the libraries pretty often.
I don’t think that they’ll be totally replaced..
Yes, right. Well, I agree with you I think. Maybe not.. No in the UK may be a little bit different from Russia, I think. Books are more affordable for people, based on wage and the price of books.
But I still think that libraries have an appeal and I’ll tell you what a library needs to do. Any librarians listening – Samuel has spoken! Okay? So listen!
I watched… In preparation I watched a Youtube… short Youtube video about libraries in Australia. And there is a particular library, which is moving with the times. It is making makespace available.
I think it’s called makespace. Spaces where people can come and this is not so much about books per se, but it’s a space where people can come meet as like club, or very loose informal group.
And come up with maybe ideas about technology, about science, projects and things like that.
So it’s not library in the way we know it?
It’s got… It’s moving with the times, it’s got electronic stuff going on, it’s making books available electronically, not just paper books.
Oh, that’s what happens now as well in Novosibirsk.
Okay, so… So moving with the times and it’s happening in Novosibirsk, it’s happening in Australia. In my own hometown I haven’t been to that library in a while, but they do have Internet available.
They have at least computers available. But I don’t know – I haven’t been there for a while, I don’t know whether they have e-books available. But I would say if libraries do that, if they move with the times and don’t say ‘well we’re a library, we must have just paper books and that’s it’, if they move with the times, there’s a future for them. And I have a lot of good memories with the libraries, so…
And you too, so… So we’re happy for them to stay.
I can see, like, the libraries developing and I would say, as you said, moving with the time, so now you can actually get a library card and get e-books on your phone.
Well you have to download an app.
So, that’s modern stage, yeah. I didn’t know about that, so I’m impressed. Okay. What about bookshops?
You know, at some point I would say that they’re getting less popular, but then I see the bookshops that open here, open everywhere.
But you know what I’ve noticed is that these days there’s a tendency for them to have like coffee shops as well, like two in one. So you can go there…
So it’s more of an experience.
Exactly. And you should not even… You don’t have to buy a book, you can, you know, just take it from a shelf and read, and no one’s gonna say a word!
Yeah. Don’t spill your coffee on it, just…
Yes, you’d better not do that, you’d better not do that.
In the UK, unfortunately, I think there are some difficulties with bookshops. Chiefly because it is very… it’s actually cheaper to order online.
If you have a book in mind, you can order online, you can get it cheaper, and you can get it quite quickly – three to five days by post.
You know, yeah, it sounds like Amazon in the US.
Yeah, Amazon is in the UK too and another websites, yeah.
People love bookshops, but when you think about the time, you know, it’s just too time-consuming to go actually to a place…
If you have a book…. Well, for me, I mean, I honestly used to go to bookshops to look at the books.
That’s what I do, it’s my hobby!
Just purely the colors, the books, the titles, the idea…
You know, the covers, you know, so different…
Just the idea of buying a book…
And then if I saw something I would like – maybe it’s terrible, sorry, forgive me. But if I saw something I’d like, I’d check online and see that it’s…
Oh we’re all guilty of that.
Well, I like that bookshop, but I can get a cheaper online.
Yes. That’s the reality of this world, we all do…
And so I… Why should I pay more? I’m sorry. And in fact the bookshop I’m talking about has since closed, and it’s partly my fault I guess.
So you’re the one to blame!
Absolutely. All my fault. So it is a problem, which bookshops have to address some way. Maybe they need to have an online availability as well… maybe they need to move with the times too. What’s the best time of the day for you to read?
Oh oh oh, there’s no such thing as the best time. I mean…
Whenever I have a cup of coffee and can actually read. So…
For me it’s generally morning, I’m more focused, more relaxed maybe. And generally my mind works better in the morning. Not to say that I wouldn’t read at other times of the day, but for me it’s generally…
And at home. If we’re talking about place. I know people have romantic ideas about reading in the park and stuff, but…
You get distracted, I don’t…
They get distracted, the mosquitoes, the insects would not… So I can’t do that.
Yeah. Someone walks past and you’re instantly distracted whether they’re interesting or not. You’re kinda distracted for that moment and…
Yeah. I think it’s.. yeah. At home.
Or at a coffee shop – that’s what I do.
Well, yeah, if it’s geared for that and it’s quiet enough. But still for me it would be at home – more…
I mean, I feel like a kind of girl being able to read wherever, cause several times I actually… I was waiting for a shuttle and I went to a bar just, you know, to read and have a drink and that’s it. And I didn’t care about the noise, the music and whatnot.
I’m so focused and, you know…
Yeah. Good. Okay. Your favorite genres? So you’ve mentioned fantasy…
And I stand by it that’s my favorite genre of all time.
Have you really enjoyed any other genres?
I mean, I enjoy all the genres. But it’s just fantasy has taken my heart.
It’s by far the best for you.
It is. It is. What about you?
I would probably say that my most favorite is science fiction.
That would be my number two.
Followed by fantasy. I also enjoy… occasionally enjoy history. Anything else.. I think those three would be my favorite genres. I have read others of course.
I’ve read classical literature and stuff. But I would say those three mainly are my favorites, yeah. I do read some comics – it could be put into either…
Well I mean, yeah, I don’t think that we can separate that as a genre, so it can be sci-fi comics or fantasy comics.
They can be quite serious themes…
as well. They can be biographical, so I have read some biographies too and autobiographies, if you…
I’ve tried reading those, but…
If you read ‘Mouse’ – I don’t really wanna go much into detail on comics, but if you read ‘Mouse’, it’s an autobiography in comic form.
And it’s prize-winning and it’s very good. It’s about Holocaust survivor’s life and about his son’s life. And it’s written by his son, and it describes their relationship as well. It kinda affect all of the trauma, the difficulties they’ve had…
Not… Well, in the format it’s light, but in topics – yeah, it’s not so, it’s a bit dark. But he does make… There is quite a bit of humor in it too, so it’s not pure darkness,
…there’s some humor in it too, so… I would recommend that as far as I could. Well… Your three favorite books – can you describe them?
It’s like asking a mother who’s her favorite child. You don’t ask questions like that. I mean…
I am her favorite child. I’m joking, my mom would never…
Just hope that your mom does not hear this.
Oh she knows I’m joking – it’s a bit of craic, it’s a bit of craic mom! She knows.
Three of my favorite books… Can I just tell you about my three favorite authors?
Oh thank you, oh thank you. So, number one, the love of my life is Terry Pratchett.
You should be. Anyone who’s not – please read any thing and see if you like it. I love his books, he was an amazing man. My number two would be Neil Gaiman.
Wow, I’ve also read him, yeah.
Well, that’s good to know. And my number three is a Russian author Макс Фрай.
It’s also fantasy, so… you can see…
What book would you recommend from Max Frei? Max Frei?
How is he Russian? Isn’t that an English or American name?
Well, what about pseudonyms?
Oh, okay, it’s a pseudonym, is it?
Well, I love Stephen Fry as well, but… you know, those Frys.
I like an Ulster Fry. Irish Fry or an English Fry – it’s better. Okay. What has he written that you recommend?
I would start with a book named ‘Чужак’. So cause it’s…
And what does Чужак mean?
I would say, like, a stranger, someone who does not belong.
Yeah, cause that’s kind of an introduction to the whole series.
Like setting the place and the time and everything. So that’s how you meet all the main characters.
Okay. So it’s a world he has built, right?
Right. Is he a little bit like Terry Pratchett? We’ll talk in a second about him.
A little bit different. Actually, totally different. I am pretty sure that… well I can’t say no one, but very few people have done what Terry Pratchett has.
So, what about you? Your favorite books?
So... well we should, just for those who haven’t read, we should talk a little bit about Terry Pratchett.
Yes, please, let’s do this.
Because they’re also among my favorite books, particularly the Discworld series.
I have read three of them. There are many – I don’t know how many books. But they are a kind of a fantasy book… I mean, absolutely fantasy, and unusual world full of magic and wonders and interesting creatures and all kinds of hilarious events. And really, they’re… it’s both imaginative and humorous.
Oh the humor there is amazing.
Yeah. It’s kind of sarcastic, dark humor at times, quick witted. It is, I think it is sort of commentary on life as well.
It is, you… While you’re reading, you see so many allusions to real life: the places, the people, everything. And the thing is that if you choose to re-read it, you see more every single time you re-read it.
So, let’s say the first time I read most of the books was when I was 17 or 18. Now if I read the same book again, I see other things. Let’s say, golems – before I used to think of them just as creatures, now I see the allusion to, you know, proletariat.
Like ‘oh wow! I’ve never thought about this!’ So you can see, you know, the historical background of that.
There’s a depth to it as well.
I’ve read some travel writing, and there’s a guy Colin Thubron – we’ll get his name written below. Meanwhile it’s a book ‘In Siberia” and it’s a quite unusual account of his travel through Siberia.
And what kind of adventures he got up to, he’s describing his journey and the places he went to. It was enjoyable to read.
And a classical one – ‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville. An American I believe he was. And it’s a big book, it’s a big commitment.
It is. With Moby Dick you have to commit yourself to it.
I think I was 19 or 20 when I read it. I’ve recently started to re-read it. But it is so well-written. I mean, it takes a time to build up, but particularly towards the end, there’s a crescendo and…
Yeah, well no spoilers please.
And some of the language has actually been since used in other… in even films… And I’d said to my friend like ‘you know that’s a quote from Moby Dick’, and it was one of his favorite scenes in film and favorite quotes, and he was like ‘really? Wow!’
I mean he was quite impressed, the language is fantastic. ‘From Hell’s depth, spit at thee’ something to that effect, you know. It’s really… And it’s in the film ‘Star Trek. The wrath of Khan’, if anyone likes Star Trek, that…
although it’s a bit dated, a bit old, it’s absolutely for drama, for theatricality is the best film of.. in my opinion the best of all the Star Treks.
Forget your modern Star Trek, go to that one. It is… The language, the drama and everything – it is by far the best.
Is the book always better than the film? Yes?
Have you read ‘Harry Potter’?
I am reading the third book now, but I watched all the films, so…
Look, I don’t think I’m the one to comment on that, cause I have crazy people around me who are like huge Harry Potter fans…
And if I say something wrong…
Find my dead body somewhere in the alley. So we don’t want that, so…
You know, there’s one exception though. Just several months ago there was a TV show that came out – ‘Good omens’, based on a book written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. And this is the first time ever that I’ve watched something and said ‘Wow. This is.. This feels exactly like I’m reading a book, word by word’. Like, so. Good.
They’re two great authors. Neil Gaiman. I’ve read Sandman. Is Sandman his?
Oh my god, it’s so good. Brilliant.
It’s not… It’s a comic again, but not superhero at all. It’s more about existential ideas, life, about philosophy. And it’s very very well-written, he’s a very talented author.
Anything from him is great as well. I have read ‘The Hobbit’ and that in particular… I read it before I watched the three films and I did enjoy the first two films, particularly the first one.
And then it got to the third film and I was disappointed. Not that’s it’s not… Not that it’s a terrible film, it’s fine, it’s good, but I mean, a lot of people didn’t like them actually.
I had no problem with them per se, but having read the book, I was… the book was emotional for me. I’m gonna say that.
And the film – not so much. So.. and they had made some changes, which to me… I dislike… I mean, this is the problem and poor directors, because they have a difficult job trying to dramatize…
And also trying to fit everything…
They’re trying… I mean, the format of the book and the format of the film is different.
It’s totally different, yes.
And so they’re trying to make it an entertaining watch. I mean, you can read something and enjoy it, but if you saw the same thing visually, you’d be like ‘this is boring’.
So they’re trying to translate that and it’s not an easy job, but unfortunately the changes in the film compared to the book disappointed me, and didn’t have the same effect.
So, yes, in my experience, from… majority of time the book is better. Is there room in modern life for serious book reading? We’ve eluded on that already I think.
I mean, we have to define what a serious book is then.
Do you mean classic books?
Serious… Not serious books, but serious time, serious, you know, spending a chunk of your day… Not by force, but by choice…
Reading that book that you have on your list.
Could I… That’s becoming more and more of a problem, cause you know, in that self-improvement craze that people are experiencing now, they just don’t want to, maybe, to devote just part of their day to just reading…
cause they’re like ‘No, I need something that will bring more result into my life! Something that will improve me!’, so it’s…. you know, it’s controversial I would say.
Sometimes we can be impatient.
Yes. I feel like this is what we are these days – I mean, more information in a shorter amount of time.
Maybe we have so much going on and so much information hitting us that it’s difficult to sit down, switch off and read a book, cause it takes a bit of concentration.
So I think…. My opinion is if you want to, you will do it.
But many many people choose not to, that’s so simple.
So it’s really up to you, it’s up to you, you, listening! It’s up to you whether you want to read seriously or not. Okay.
We’re gonna judge you if you don’t.
If you don’t, that’s okay. E-mail us if you don’t. What book are you reading now or planning to read?
So I am always reading two books at a time – one of them non-fiction, and one of them, you know, a piece of fiction. So, a fiction book that I’m reading now is actually ‘Sandman’, part 2.
Cause I just enjoy Neil Gaiman. And a piece of non-fiction that I’m reading currently is about how to fit more into those 160 hours a week that we have.
Any lessons you’ve learned so far from that?
The one that I have is that we have more time than we think.
So… I’ll let you know how it goes…
You and I have more time than we think.
Maybe to read, yeah. Maybe it’s more about management than anything.
‘Sirens of Titan’ is on my list, purely because it was recommended by Goodreads, actually, which I use.
I use… Well I use the website, and it was recommended to me based on what I’ve read. And so that’s on my list – don’t know what it would be like.
I think it could be all about life and philosophy and science fiction at the same time. Maybe it will be humorous. I don’t know, but that’s something I’ve planned to read in a few days, in the near future.
So there you are. That was the craic about books. We talked all about our experience, whether it’s important to us to read, what we did as a child regarding books. What is relevant nowadays, the modern world and books. The best times, the best genres, and our favorites. So that was the craic about books.