Where, When, and How I Read

I read everywhere. If I don’t have a book with me (or these days, my Kindle), I constantly glance around, feeling as if I’ve forgotten something. Like a limb. Going out for the day always involves deciding what I’m going to bring with me to read.

For the most part, I read fiction. I read it fast, in greedy gulps. When I was younger, up through my first years after college, I tended to re-read favorite books, or often just my favorite parts of those books. Favorites from the library, ones I’d checked out over and over to re-read, were some of the first used paperbacks I bought for myself–for the most part, I couldn’t afford to buy new books, but I bought as many used ones as I could. I wanted to own them. I wanted to make them even more mine than reading them had done. Even now, I still have that strange sort of emotional and intellectual greed.

I don’t think it’s the books themselves, I think it’s the stories. I sometimes get impatient and skim if I’m not enjoying the story or the author’s style, but even in those cases I often want to know how the story comes out. I’ve been trying to train myself not to do this, to simply stop reading if I’m not enjoying the book. There are too many books in the world (and in my terrifying TBR piles) to waste time on dull stories, or stories whose moral implications revolt me.

And…I think I was supposed to be talking about mechanics. I have several ways in which I read. First is immersion. That’s when, for example, I spend most of a Sunday lounging on my bed reading a book, with occasional pauses for hot tea, petting the cat, etc.. Or I sometimes immerse myself after a long day at work. When immersed, I stick with the same book for a long time, or until I’ve finished it.

Second is reading in the cracks. I read while waiting for the bus in the morning, on the bus, while eating lunch, in the restroom, while waiting in line at the post office, etc., etc., etc.. I have been known to choose the bus over walking on a nice day because I really want to read, and I can’t read while walking. Well, I can and have, but I live in a city, and it’s not wise or safe to do so. In this kind of reading, I might be carrying around the same book all day, or I might be reading several books at once (usually on my Kindle).

I’m not sure if reading before bed is a third category; it’s sort of a mixture of the first two. It’s rare that I’m so tired I can’t read before I go to sleep. Sometimes it’s the current fictional offering, or light nonfiction, which is likely to keep me up later than I planned. Sometimes it’s dense nonfiction that I am deliberately parceling out, to keep myself from skimming. Books of that type are also my usual “insomnia books” for when I wake in the wee hours – a few months ago, I finished a yearlong reread of The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination in that way.

Fourth is reading while on the elliptical, at the gym; if I have the right reading material, I lose track of time passing, which is not the case when I listen to music, unless the songs are very long, and then it only works up to a point. My gym reading has only been going on for about a year and a half. I started with printouts of newsletters and articles, then bought a Kindle, and now I use that pretty exclusively in the gym. My gym reading is usually easily-accessible fiction and nonfiction. I’ve found dense sentences or slow-moving stories can’t hold my attention if I’m exercising at the same time. Henry James is terrible for elliptical reading. Plotty genre stories are excellent for elliptical reading.

I also often read samples of new writers while on the elliptical; the short length is very suitable for the purpose, and my judgement is affected by the exercise, so I’m less likely to buy something, when I’m trying not to buy too many more books! On the other hand, twice I have bought a new book with my Kindle, while exercising, after having read the sample, and then continued to read it while I continued exercising. Yes, I’m a bookoholic. Since I bought the Kindle, I have sampled a great many more new authors, recommended to me or not, than I have done for a long time.

On the Kindle, I’ve learned I tend to be more of a butterfly, flitting from book to book. This might be a practical result of having so many books available on a single device.

This is getting kind of long, so I’ll stop for now. I think I’ve covered the basics of my reading practice.

This post came about because of these posts:
Where, When, and How Do You Read? at Read React Review.
Evaluating Books at Teach Me Tonight.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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2 Responses to Where, When, and How I Read

  1. addie says:

    wow, finally someone even more ravenous than me fesses up! i’ve been known to read the back of shampoo bottles if for some reason i ended up in the bathroom without a newspaper or book…

  2. And cereal boxes…that’s another good one.

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