So, reading is kinda my thing, and has been since I was a very small child. I grew up in a rural area, and it was just my parents, sister, our animals, and I on 250 acres of farm and woods. (Don’t get me wrong – we had friends and went on trips and vacations and whatnot, but our everyday life was quiet, and a little isolated.) I read a lot. Those were the days – I could get up and get my chores done, and then disappear into my tree fort for the rest of the day with my book and a sack lunch. Reading was part of my daily life; I always had a book in my hand, no matter where I was. And that has not changed. If I could make a living as a professional reader, I’d sign up in a heartbeat. (Publishers, you hear that? I’m available. Just so you know.) My husband says I have a “problem”; I say it’s a gift. (Husband is wrong, btw. Just in case that wasn’t already clear.)
When one reads upwards of 100 books a year, it’s inevitable that one will develop some reading tricks and preferences. It’s also inevitable that said reader has habits, loves, and dislikes when it comes to reading, and to books in general. BUT not everyone is willing to talk about these most guarded of secrets. I am. I’m here to confess. And this is what I have to say. (You may want to take notes.) Side note: there’s no order to these – number 1 isn’t any more important than number 10 – it’s just how I thought of them.
- If a book is really good, I cast its movie in my head. In addition to books, I like movies. Correction: I like well done movies. So when a book captures my attention/imagination/love, I want to experience it in as many forms as I can. I think this also comes from me being a writer, and a visual learner; when I develop characters in my own work, I find a photo of someone who resembles what the character looks like in my head. Sometimes it is an actor/actress; sometimes it is a celebrity. It may have to do with a character they once played, or it may be that they simply look the part. It’s a habit, and when I read, I assign faces to characters. It happens, deal with it. (You, over there, you who doesn’t think that the movie is ever better than the book and that movies aren’t worthy of book inspiration – all I’m going to say is: The Prestige.) I love it when books are made into movies, and I have no problem when the movies is different from the book. “Sacrilege!” you cry. “More versions of what I love,” I respond.
- When I see huge chunks of exposition, I skim. Some description/exposition is completely fine. Entire pages of it? Ain’t nobody got time for ‘dat. I loathe info dumps. This may be why I am staunchly against most prologues. Yes, some authors (Clive Cussler and Maggie Stiefvater come to mind) use prologues masterfully; most do not. I find prologues to be a convenient way for writers to be lazy, and rather than find creative ways to fill in backstory or detail, they rely on a prologue to do it for them. Same goes for huge paragraphs of description within the narrative. Bo-ring. Give me the info in dialogue or in small bits, not in super-size, coma-inducing boulders. Show me; don’t tell me.
- I judge a book by its cover. Well, initially, anyway. I am a visual person, and covers are the parts of the books that I can see. Books with pretty/interesting covers draw my attention; books with terrible/boring covers repel me. Don’t ever believe that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Publishers know that covers sell books. When they want a book to do well, they give it a great cover. That’s not to say they intentionally sabotage books by giving them horrible covers, but actually I think they kind of do. I like buying books that will look nice on my shelves. Call me shallow, but I don’t want to spend my life looking at ugly books.
- I blame the dark circles under my eyes on my kids, but it’s really from staying up until four in the morning reading. I’m not sure what else there is to say about this. If I was a “plugged in” parent, I would park myself on the couch with my Kindle while my kids are playing and read while they imagine. But I don’t want their first memories of me to be me distracted by my phone and missing the important stuff. I’m gone during the day at work – surrounded by books all day at the library – so I do my best to stay off my devices until they’re in bed. So, night time is my reading time. This means that sometimes I do not sleep. At all. (Ok, reading time cuts into sleeping time a lot.) And I’m ok with that.
- I don’t use book marks – I dog-ear my pages like a savage. And I don’t care who knows. I don’t have time to worry about trying to remember where I put my book mark. Not only that, I use my books. I read them, they bang around in my bag, they ride with me in my cars. Not often do they remain in pristine condition. They are well-loved. Plus, I like dogs.
- I hate 1st person present POV. When I pick up a book and see it’s written in that tense, 9 out of 10 times I put it back down, no matter how pretty the cover is. There are few authors who can pull off this combination of tense and POV well, and I mostly find it to be pretentious and a cry for attention. The character’s voice has to be one I really, really like, because it means I’m stuck for x-number of pages in this character’s limited, immediate point of view. There aren’t a lot of characters I like that much.
- I dislike book snobs. You know the type. “Well, I only read literary fiction“, or “I only read nonfiction.” OR… “Oh, I don’t read YA books – they’re for kids.” Ugh. A good book is a good book is a good book. It doesn’t matter who wrote it, what genre it falls into, or who its intended audience was. I feel a little bit sorry for people who are so narrow-minded that they won’t read outside their preferred taste. Think of all the things they’re missing! And what makes it worse is when that same person looks down on others for what they read. Different people read different books – that’s a fact. My books aren’t any less legit than your books. And my books just might teach you something. Now, that’s not to say I think people who always read the same types of books are wrong; people read what they like, and that’s completely fine. But what’s not completely fine is when people judge others for what they read, or don’t read.
- I am a book hoarder. I believe the correct term for my “condition” is bibliophile. I have books everywhere. Towers, piles, shelves, baskets, crates – you name it, it houses/holds/displays books. Books bring me comfort, they give me peace. I enjoy reading them, I enjoy looking at them, I enjoy shopping for them, I enjoy adding them to my towers/piles/shelves/baskets/crates. (*whispers while looking over her shoulder, “Some books I even own multiple copies of.“) And some day, if I go missing and can’t be found, it’ll be because one of my book towers collapsed and buried me beneath it. I may suffocate, but I’d consider it a good death.
- Sometimes I write in my books. Yes, it’s true. I spent enough time as a student that I’m ok with this. I have thoughts while I read, and there are times I want to refer back to those thoughts. I don’t want to have to expend the brain power to try to remember which of my 1,236,735 notebooks I wrote said thought in. No, I want it right there for ready reference. When I buy used books, the first thing I do is look for notes made by previous owners. I ❤ reading the thought others have had about books, as well. (See: “Marginalia” by Billy Collins – a magnificent poem about just this subject, courtesy of Poemhunter.com.)
- Most of the time, I prefer books to people. This is probably why I always have either a book or my Kindle with me at all times – so if there are too many humans around, and it looks like I might be drawn into a conversation, I can hide my face. That is not to say I dislike people in general – I just dislike drama in all its negative forms, and with people comes drama. So when the dude in front of me at the bank starts to get belligerent because he doesn’t understnad why he can’t go back into the vault to look at his money, and looks at me for support, he’ll find me oblivious. “Nothing to see here – busy in Narnia. Thank you, move along.”
Yes, it’s all true, Dear Blog Follower. I am a beastly reader. And unapologetic about it. You know why? Because I know you have reading confessions of your own.
Let me know what some of them are!