Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How do you read?

I was talking a bit with Miss Jill, the salty, when she was here in my pretty city, about reading. Miss Jill is one of those folks - you know the kind: they READ. Like books! I'm always on the look-out for a new (to me) author that I can fall in love with and devour everything they've written. It's always best when I discover them late and they've already got a pile of things I can catch up on rather than waiting anxiously for the next new book to come out. But that's me, I like my gratification to be instantaneous. Waiting sucks. Surprising just how much waiting I actually do, considering how much I hate it. Okay, that was a tangent. Back to the books.

Whenever I meet another reader, I mean someone who when asked what three books they'd take to a desert island looks at me as if I'd asked them which limb they'd like removed, I like to see what they have read or are currently into. I'm also someone who will pry shamelessly into your bookshelves if I'm in your home because it fascinates me to see what people have on their shelves. The books they keep. The ones they can't part with. With bibliophiles who have not broken the addiction this can be quite an eyeful.

But another thing that I've only recently started asking people is how they read. Not just what they read. It's interesting really. Some people only read when they're on the train, or commuting. Some only read right before bed. Some only do audio books... huh? Others have a book with them at all times for those odd times waiting on line or to meet someone and can dive into the pages for a bit. Some people read the last page first to see if the book will be worthwhile... which I could never do. (And in the case of certain books I wish I had!) Some read methodically - one book at a time, never starting a new one until the first is finished. Some swallow books whole, some savor them slowly and carefully.

My reading style is a lot like the rest of my life, which is why I think it's interesting to see how people actually read - I think it gives you some insight into their personalities. I have to have several books going at the same time. I can't bear to only have one at a time. This has always been my way since I was very young lugging tons of books at a clip out of the library. Oh wait... I still do that. Hmmm. The reasoning behind my reading style is that if I'm engrossed in a book, really swept into that world to the point of distraction, in love with the author's voice and never want to go any place else it is actually heartbreaking to me when it ends. I've been known to weep hysterically. So much so that I cannot even look at another book for weeks at a time because it's not THAT book. A new books means I have to shift gears, learn a new language, meet new characters and it makes it very difficult for the new book to win me over. Usually I end up leaving it. Those, sadly, are the rebound books. But I have found that if I start a few books at a time I will have a taste for that particular book banked in my mind and then I can go through whichever one pulls me in the most while still holding onto that glimpse of world in the next book(s). This way I'm not starting from scratch when I finish something I really loved. It makes the heartbreak easier to go from one beloved read to one that I've already begun and know will make me fall just as hard.

That's all for fiction, or biographies, of course. For non-fiction I'm a holy terror of never, ever actually reading the book through. I'll start somewhere in the middle, bounce around the thing picking out what I'm interested in and then put it down. Something about non-fiction just says research here, no need to follow the rules here, move it along people. But fiction... well, that's where the love is and that love is compounded if you find an author you can't get enough of and you're lucky enough that they have written a lot - all equally compelling (to you). That's a special love affair. If they are living you can catch up and then there is even more to come! If they are already dead, well... at least you know you will be able to read every-little thing they've written.

So how do YOU read? Come on, spill. I'm curious.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Great post and of course directly in keeping with so much of how I spend my life; reading and researching reading.

I have to read so much professional material (for class, for work, etc) and for that I can juggle quite a few books or journal articles at once. But for enjoyment reading - books at least - I only want to focus on one at a time. I get very wrapped up in the characters, language, plot that I can't let it go to escape into another universe. The best is when I am deep into a Dickens novel. When I finish one I feel such a let down that I tend to take a break from reading for enjoyment for a bit to let it all linger in my psyche. Dickens is the best. A dead author, sure, but prolific so I still have many titles to explore.

I guess 'how I read' depends on my purpose for reading. There are so many purposes aren't there. And although reading newspapers, magazines, online and all that is reading I still haven't put it in that same category as 'READING'. Do you get me?

Oh, and I read in many environments (walking down the street, waiting for a subway, on the train, etc) but my favorite place to read is on my bed. On top of the bed with my feet on the pillows and my head at the foot board. Good stuff.