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How We Read: Perspectives

The Books We Read Blog is conducting a series of interviews with contributors and friends of the blog to get a snapshot of our reading habits: the things we like to read, the circumstances in which we read, and more.

Judit H. Ward is a science librarian on the Cook Campus and program director of Books We Read and Summer Tales. She is the author of several books, articles, and book chapters in English and in her native Hungarian, working currently on Shelf Help: Handbook for the Accidental Bibliotherapist by ALA Editions, forthcoming in 2023, with co-author Nick Allred.

What kinds of books do you like to read?
Good books! I read all kinds of genres, for work and for fun too. The most important factor is that if I spend time reading on a text, it should be well written, with every word carefully selected, scenes fully developed, and registers appropriate for the characters.

Do you have format preferences (print, ebook, audiobook, abridged, original language/translated, etc.)?
Old fashioned as I am, similarly to many of our respondents, I love print. However, sometimes it’s more convenient to carry an ebook reader along. My most frequently used format is definitely the audiobook. It saves the eyes and I can listen to something while running errands or doing household chores. Try it loud to suppress the vacuum cleaner, it’s fun! The problem with audiobooks is the limited selection. I also love re-reading the same book in its original language after I read it in my first or second language. It’s a whole new book in the original sometimes.

How do you find new books to read?
Word of mouth, booklists, authors I read, and sometimes I am being snobbish too and read something because everyone else talks about it. Developing Rutgers resources such as Books We Read, the Recreational Reading Collection, and Summer Tales has also been helpful finding the next book to read.

Where and when do you read? Outdoors or indoors? At home or out and about? Mornings, evenings, or just before bed?
I read all the time and any time. I don’t think I’d ever be able to fall asleep without reading a few pages, or chapters in the evening. I love reading outside in the sun, which is not terribly healthy for the skin or the eyes. Listening to audiobooks helps me get through doing some not-so-fun stuff around the house or running a few more miles.

Do you use any libraries or library resources for non-required reading?
Of course! In addition to the Rutgers resources mentioned earlier, CloudLibrary and Hoopla are my favorite sources to find audiobooks in the local public library. I appreciate freebies too, although I’d rather stick with libraries as trusted sources for electronic content.

What do you get out of your non-required reading?
Peace of mind. Distraction. Company. But most importantly, books are great opportunities to reflect on what’s going on––in the book, in our lives, and in the world. No matter what we read, the text speaks to us, providing, if not solutions, perspectives at a minimum.

What are you currently reading, or what have you read and enjoyed most recently?
I was reading some incredible war poetry from Ukraine in a bilingual volume called War: New Poems from Ukraine. I am not sure I can explain why we need to read things like that, but I tried. I am reading Bullshit jobs by David Graeber, a great topic after the pandemic when people had to face the real value they provide in their jobs.

Recommend a book in one sentence that you think everyone should read:
The Good Soldier Švejk is a dark comedy set in Austria-Hungary during World War I, guiding us how to survive basically anything with humor and attitude, including the worst situations in life, with incredibly absurd methods of passive resistance chosen by the “hero.”

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