The Wheel of Time and What it Has Taught Me About Reading

Wheel of Time is a massive series. I know, because I’m almost finished reading them, and adding fifteen books–none of which are thin by any means–to my bookshelf meant I needed another bookshelf. It’s a daunting task to write a series so lengthy, and that Jordan manages it so well will never cease to inspire me. Yet reading it also proved a challenge, because reading a fifteen-book-long series is nothing like reading a standalone or a trilogy.

Really quick, before I get too far into the post, I want to say that there are no spoilers in this post, except for some context-less ones. Mostly names, but I can’t see how they would be spoilery in any way, shape, or form. So if haven’t yet picked up the series, no worries!

Starting Off

When it comes to books, I generally do not like having multiple open at once. I usually read only one book at a time, and when dealing with fully-published series, I prefer to read the series all at once so I don’t have to worry about forgetting any details in the interim.

I love having books on hand. I bring them to work. When I was still in school, I always made sure to have a book on hand, just in case, no matter that my bookbag already weighed twenty pounds. On vacations, I’d pack several, and a notebook or two of course. Just in case. I just love being able to get completely immersed in a story, to lay in my bed or sit in a chair and have the real world fade away for a short spell.

This is the philosophy I held walking into the Wheel of Time series. I started New Spring (WoT #0) back in May 2019. Looking at all those pages sitting on my shelf, I guess I’m not surprised it’s taken me a little over a year to read it all. Back-to-back, I read through The Dragon Reborn (WoT #3), putting my entire TBR list on pause because I was determined to power through the whole series. (I’m so glad I abandoned that train of thought, but more on that in a minute.)

Caving into Audiobooks

I have no problem with audiobooks as a source of reading, but in terms of personal preferences, their whole allure is that you could be doing something else and listening to a book at the same time, and, well, what I like about reading is that I get to dedicate my whole attention to it. Besides, the cost of audiobooks is still befuddling to me.

But my goodness was it taking a long time to get through these books. They may be small height-wise, but their pages are thin and dense. Except for New Spring, books 1-3 were 250,000+words, and Shadow Rising (WoT #4) was looking to be the same. Eager to start making a bigger dent in the series, I gave up and got the audiobooks midway through the fourth book.

Well, audiobooks are slower going than reading myself, but I listened to them in times when I couldn’t actually read. On my commute to work, while we straightened up the store after hours (and because by this time it was mid-October and holiday is busy, I could usually expect to be there for two hours after the store officially closed)…it wasn’t much, but it added up.

There were, however, a few unexpected drawbacks to listening to audiobooks.

You Pronounce That How, Now?

I suppose, in a way, it’s a good thing that I listened to the audiobooks or else I would have made a fool of myself pronouncing some of these names when talking to others about the series. Hearing it in the TV show would have likewise been jarring.

Because let me just tell you, it took some getting used to. I could go on a whole post-long rant about how these names and places should have been pronounced (as in, how I was pronouncing them) and how the spelling looked nothing like how they were spoken.

Bur-gee-tuh? Are we really doing this?

While actually reading, for a while, I read it “my way” out of spite: like Bridget but with the r and the i swapped. Aiel, I pronounced as ale, Tanchico I pronounced as tan-CHIH-co (rather than tan-CHEE!!-co), et cetera. (Egwene and Siuan, luckily, I remembered the pronunciations from googling them during my first attempt at reading the series many years ago.)

So, it’s funny, in a way, yes, but in all seriousness, swapping between reading the book and listening to the audio did make for some confusing moments where I couldn’t quite figure out who was being talked about.

Stop and Go

More seriously, perhaps simply because of the app I was listening to the audiobooks on, finding my place in the middle of a chapter was a bit difficult, so I did hesitate to begin a chapter if I wasn’t sure I could finish it in the same setting. Starting the chapter on audiobook and finding my place in the physical book was a lot easier, of course, and I did that quite often, but the opposite was a little frustrating and did slow me down to some degree. In addition, reading comprehension was a little difficult sometimes because when you’re multitasking, it’s hard to catch everything being said, done, or described, and certain things you tune out for because it doesn’t seem important, only for it to resurface a little bit later.

However, I relied heavily on the audiobooks to get through some of the slower chapters. Perrin’s PoV scenes were infinitely easier to listen to than they were to read. In these instances, the audiobooks certainly helped my speed more than they hindered it, and if I missed a few key details because of multitasking, well… I’d already spoiled some things for myself by googling. It doesn’t bother me.

So if you’re hitting those slower books of the series, I would definitely recommend getting them on audio, because I’m not sure if I could have pressed through some of those chapters without it.

Returning to My TBR

As you can probably imagine, my TBR list was starting to get long. And when I say my TBR list, I mean books I am actively intending on reading at some point. So many books were getting published during this time, books I really wanted to read, and they were piling up.

By A Crown of Swords (WoT #7), I’d already been exclusively reading this series for about nine months. That’s a long time to be immersed in any single world, and I was getting restless. There’s no point in reading a series if you’re not enjoying it, if it feels more like a chore than a source of entertainment.

So I started paying attention to my TBR list again. Read one book of WoT, read one book outside it, back and forth, back and forth. Flicker, flicker, flicker. (WoT fans, you know what I’m talking about.) Yeah, it just made reading in general more pleasurable. Even now, I’m doing what I would otherwise hate doing. I wanted to get a start on my black author reads, but A Memory of Light (WoT #14) was just sitting there, taunting me, so I’m actually reading two books at once. Which, again, I don’t normally like doing, because then how do I know which book I should bring with me to places? But I save AMoL for right before bed, and my other book, I’ll read during the day or at work or wherever.

TL;DR

If you want to read Wheel of Time but feel it’s bigger than Dragonmount and harder to scale, here’s my recommendations:

  • Audiobook. It will help you push through the slower portions because you can do other things while listening to the story and it doesn’t feel like such a waste of time.
    • Also, you won’t be like me and get five books into a series before realizing you’ve been saying these names all wrong (:
  • Don’t feel the need to focus exclusively on the series. Even if you’re trying to get it read before the TV show comes out, the show will probably only cover the first book, maybe some of the second. There’s no reason to rush if it’ll make you feel miserable, and your own TBR won’t grow massively long in the interim.

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