Reading Quirks

Over at Justine Larbalestier's blog, they're talking about idiosyncratic reading habits.  I didn't think that I did anything particularly odd, but reading the comments, I notice people mentioning quite a few things that I do also.

I read very quickly and like to read a book in one gulp if possible.  Once I get to a certain point in the book (about 2/3 of the way through perhaps) I have to keep going until I've finished even if that means I'm sitting up until 1 or 2 in the morning knowing that I'm going to be a tired and listless mother the next day.  I read faster and faster, compulsively checking how many pages I've read and calculating how many I have left and about how long it will take me to finish. 

When I'm immersed in a book, I'm deaf and blind to the world around me and I lose track of time.  I've been known to miss my bus stop, make myself late for work, and fail to notice that Travis was bathing Petra right beside me.  I tend not to read in the morning because if I do, I just don't get anything else done. 

I used to always finish a book even if I wasn't enjoying it, but over the few years I've shrugged off the completist urge.  And I used to flick the pages of the book as I read which drove my mother so crazy that I had to break myself of the habit.

I am still an obsessively tidy reader.  I don't bend or crease covers or pages, nor do I break the spines of paperbacks, and I take the dust jackets off hardbacks so that they don't get bent.  And I never never write in a book.  Petra is doing her best to break me of this habit though.  She bends covers, creases pages, and augments books with her own writing and pictures if she gets the chance.  I'm learning to be zen about crayon scrawls in my favourite old children's books; I'm also learning to hide the pens.

I don't need to identify with the characters or situations in the novels I read.  I read to expand my sense of worlds and possibilities so I want to read about people and times and situations that are alien to me.  Hence my enthusiasm for Victorian (and earlier) novels as well as kids' fantasy, and even detective fiction with its careful renderings of very specific communities.

I don't like to read anything too violent, sexual violence especially freaks me out, because what I read stays with me much more vividly and viscerally than anything I see on tv or at the movies.  I think this happens because when you read, you are a co-creator, interpreting the words, imagining the scenes, and filling in details for yourself, whereas when you watch something you are a passive recipient of other people's imaginings.  I'm also not keen on sad endings – they can affect me for days, weeks, forever.  Almost 20 years later, I still vividly remember spending a couple of days of my final year as an undergraduate at home with a cold, huddled in front of my one-bar heater with a blanket over my shoulders, sobbing my way through Elizabeth Gaskill's Life of Charlotte Bronte.  Knowing beforehand what was going to happen didn't make it any easier to read.  Everyone died tragically early – mother, two older sisters, Branwell, Emily, Emily's dog Keeper (the dog's death was the thing that broke me), Anne, then Charlotte.  Only Patrick Bronte lived to be old.  I've never been brave enough to open the book again.

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2 Responses to Reading Quirks

  1. this really resonated with me. i can relate to your reasons for and habits of reading.

  2. Janette says:

    Thank you. Reading is an enormous part of my life, but not one that I stop to analyze very often, so I enjoyed thinking about how and why I read.

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