30 July 2011

What Kind of Reader Are You?

As many of you know, I read.  Often.  Entire 8 hour spans with nothing more than a pause to use the bathroom (or to let the dogs use the bathroom).  In fact, today, my guy suggested that I go shopping instead of sitting at home all day reading, and, well, I'm still in my work out clothes (at least I did that today!).  In the rock-paper-scissors world of reading vs. shopping, reading beats shopping every time.  (Shopping beats cleaning, but cleaning does NOT beat reading.  I don't think anything beats reading...)

But what do I read?  And how do I choose?  What kind of reader am I?

In order to explain what kind of reader I am and how I choose the books I read, I need to give you a little history about my life as a reader.  So grab a cup of cocoa, a snuggly, and enjoy.

When I was little my family would watch TV together in the evenings.  After about an hour of Murder, She Wrote, my dad would usually move from the front couch to the back couch and open a book.  I think he wanted to spend time with us but just wasn't all that interested in TV (to this day it's pretty difficult to get him to sit through an entire movie).  As a daddy's girl, I often went and sat with him.  And since he was reading, I had to as well.  I brought my library books out and sat next to him while he his books.  Then one day, I was probably about 13, he finished a book and handed it to me.  I wish I could remember the title - all I know is the cover was blue and it was a mystery novel.  And it had the "sh" word in it!  I felt soooo mature.  From then on, if Dad thought I could handle the book, he'd give it to me when he was done.  If not, he put it in the basket (and I always raided the basket when he wasn't around).  And any book my dad liked, I had to like.  One day he handed me The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.  I started reading it and hated it.  But I didn't want to admit that to my dad, so I avoided reading it or talking about it.  When it became obvious that my dad loved the book and was dying to talk to me about it (he's Italian and prefers silence, so when he wants to talk, you talk), I picked it up again.  Once I'd struggled past the first 80 pages or so I couldn't put it down.  I literally fell in love for the first time.  I felt like the words had power, I wanted to be PeeKay and I really REALLY wanted to work in a coal mine with a big Russian guy (ironic that that part isn't the most important part of the book, but I have loved mines ever since).  That book changed my life, both how I viewed myself and my talents and abilities, and how I viewed reading.

I often look back at that experience and wonder who I would be if I hadn't read that book - both as Suzanne the semi-normal woman, and as Suzanne the reader.  What it did for Suzanne the person is show me what self confidence is, about the effects of our actions, and why it's important to never give up.  For Suzanne the reader, it made me unable to put a book down until I've read it cover to cover, and it expanded my "reading comfort zone".

So what type of reader am I?

I'm a slow reader.  I like to re-read passages that are particularly well worded, or go back and find the clues in a mystery.

I enjoy all genres.  Some more than others, but I have read books of every major genre and enjoyed them all.

According to my mentor, idol and friend Di Herald, I prefer literary fiction (books that don't have clean "happy for all" endings).  I think this stems from the fact that life rarely has fariytale endings.  I'm aware that books don't have to be realistic, I just like them to be a little realistic.  I think reading too many romance novels gave me the wrong idea of what love looks like, so now in my old age I'm a bit...skeptical?...of books with shiny, happy, perfect endings.

I don't get graphic novels.  If the mystery clues are written out, I can solve the mystery in 90 pages (usually).  If you draw it out, I'll miss the clues every time.

I now read every single book from the point of view of a book-recommender/librarian.  Whenever I finish a book, a list of names of people and students who would like the book pops into my head.

I am a reader that refuses to purchase books.  The only books I have actually paid for with my own money in the last two years are either absolute favorites, gifts or textbooks for grad school.  Find your local public library and use it.

I choose books based on recommendations from other librarians, friends, family or reviews I read.  The list of books I want to read is so long I stopped keeping one.  If I see it or hear about it more than once, or if it's on the bookshelf as I'm walking by in the library, I read it.  I always welcome recommendations, though I think the public library would prefer that I didn't - my request list is a mile long.

If I start a book, I have to finish it.  There are very few exceptions to this rule.  If I consider putting a book down, I remember The Power of One and keep reading it. Though you'll be happy to know I have learned that it's OK for me to not like a book my dad recommends.

I love YA Lit and am darn proud of it.  I don't care if you think it's silly.  Read this article by Gretchen Kolderup and you'll understand why.  "But even if I were to switch careers, I would continue reading YA Lit because it’s good."  I agree with her completely.  Kolderup does an amazing job of explaining what YA Lit is and isn't, but I think it is sufficient to say simply, YA Lit is good literature, reagardless of your age.  My one soap box for this post is this:  if you think YA Lit is just for teens, you're absolutely wrong.  Email me, I'll chat with you about your likes and dislikes in reading and prove to you that there are equal numbers of YA Lit and adult lit books that fit your taste.  And parents, if you have kids, get over it and start reading YA Lit.  These books are not only interesting, they contain big issues that you can discuss with your children.

So what kind of reader are you?


  1. Great post! Now, one more question for you- prefer e reader or regular old book? have you tried an e reader yet? Me personally, I like the feel of a good old book in my hands, but I like having an e reader to send free samples to it, to use as my to be read list, lol!
    I too enjoy books from all genres. But, although I love the library, I love owning, collecting and buying my books!!

  2. Truthfully, I don't own an e-reader. I also have never owned an MP3 player. I'm wicked old school. However recently, I've started to realize that an e-reader would be WICKED convenient (hello 7lbs of books in my luggage to Germany?)
    I think the reason I haven't made the switch is because I spend soooo many hours staring at a computer screen, I like having pages to look at. And I am still completely in love with the smell of books. And I love bookmarks. These may be silly reasons, but they're mine and I'm sticking with them.
    I also love buying books, but I've restricted myself to buying books I truly love. I then buy 2 copies - one hardback to keep for myself forever, and one paperback to give away whenever the time is right. My tight budget just won't allow me to spend that much $$$ on books.

  3. I SO agree with you on loving the smell of books, and bookmarks!!! I completely get you when you say that!
    Ugh, you are smarter then me. Hubby and I really need to learn to restrict ourselves (him more than me ;) ).

  4. Ok, after such a wonderful time discussing books with you this morning, I will bite.

    Growing up, I really enjoyed reading and found a good book a handy companion where ever I went. I read fiction in broad genre strokes and wasn't terribly picky. I just wanted a world to enter and revel in. The Power of One was a pivotal novel for me, as well, and I remember being terribly disappointed when the movie came out. Not just because it was terrible, but because others wouldn't know what they were missing in that great story. I also distinctly remember reading Jane Erye and Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters back to back and not realizing until later in life that the former had preceded the later by almost a century. They both seemed pretty racy to me.

    As I grew into adulthood, however, fiction began to loose its appeal. I still enjoyed a good read now and then, but it wasn't the companion I remembered. I don't know why I suddenly found fiction lacking. Perhaps the headiness of college classes or the nature of my work in my early twenties. I found myself dabbling in magazines and reading the newspaper.

    Then I discovered Rising From the Plains by John McPhee and fell in love with reading all over again, but this time to a new genre: non-fiction. I read the book as I drove to Teton National Park in Wyoming, directly across the very landscape described in the book. Who knew that the eons of time that created our surroundings could be depicted as a narrative with conflict, intrigue, and bald emotion? Who needed fictional characters when the real happenings of this earth could reveal metaphors for life's turbulent nature? I was hooked.

    I searched for more non-fiction and was fortunate to find a new market growing. In truth, I found more magazine and journal articles than books. However, that didn't seem to matter.

    Then I started teaching middle school. Today, I am just as likely to pick up a graphic novel or Harry Potter novel (yes, I read all of them and saw all the movies and considered going to a theme party, but was out of town) as I am Zero by Chares Seife or Uranium by Tom Zoellner.

    So, what kind of reader am I?

    I'm slow and find that I am constantly working to relate what I am reading to what I already know.

    I read for enjoyment. I read to understand. I don't necessarily read to the end.

    I like to think of my adult reading list as well-rounded, but in truth, I am either reading young adult fiction (in graphic or non-graphic forms) or a non-fiction essay about something like the state of the food industry in the U.S. Either way, I am glad to spend the time.

  5. Joan - you're amazing. I love love LOVE your comments and your reading journey. Having never had a time in my life where reading wasn't a companion, it's interesting to read how you came back. Did you know most people who don't love reading actually prefer nonfiction to fiction? I've learned that recently and it's helped me understand my reluctant readers much better. And I beg you, if you love nonfiction, read "They Called Themselves the KKK" - it's amazing. Also, after talking to you today, I think you'd really enjoy "Hush" by Eishes Chayil. It's a true memoir, but written under a pseudonym, so it's considered fiction. Both are great.


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