Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reading Habits

The Shelves of a Charing Cross Road Bookstore

As a reader I'm always eager to hear about how other bibliophiles engage in the act of reading. When people love literature, they quickly fall into a routine in their 'relationship' with books. Here's a post digging deeper into some of those reading habits, inspired by Jillian and Becca.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:
Anything with sugar! I don't like to eat anything that will steal my focus from the book, so reading edibles are limited to non-messy finger foods that I can mindlessly munch. Candy and biscuits, unfortunately, fit the bill. Cinnamon-flavored sweets are often kept on the nightstand for such purposes, and I'm sure I eat more of them than I realize. Oops.

What is your favorite drink while reading?
I drink more water than anything else -- it's my go-to beverage -- but there's nothing I love more than curling up with an impulsively readable story while sipping on a cup of tea or hot chocolate on a chilly evening. 

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I usually highlight the significant passages that speak to me, a star bestowed upon bits I deem to be especially brilliant, but interrupting a narrative with my own words slows things down for me. I'm such an impatient reader! In theory, I don't object to writing in books, I just don't do it myself. 

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
Dog-ears are a huge no-no in my book (no pun intended). The book is a vessel of brilliance. Respect it. Preserve it well for the next reader...and the reader after that. Laying a book flat open damages the spine, particularly if the text in question is a paperback, so I avoid that as well.

This leaves bookmarks, but I'm especially skilled at losing anything designed to mark one's spot, so I've given up on the institution as a whole. Old receipts, spare bits of paper and sticky notes most frequently find themselves wedged between pages in my library. And sometimes there's nothing to be found when searching for a substitute bookmark, so I make a mental note of the page number and hope I remember once the book is picked up again. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
I'm sorry to say I read almost exclusively from the former category. In times past, non-fiction I perused pertained to the fiction I was reading: author biographies, history about my field, criticism. An awareness that in avoiding the non-fiction section of a bookstore I'm missing out on countless literary gems is beginning to creep up on me. I'm slowly discovering the incredible world of non-fiction. It's a slow journey, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. 

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
Breaking at the end of a chapter is my decided preference. Since we all know chapters often conclude in a way that urges one to read on, this doesn't always happen. I like to pick up a book whenever a spare moment presents itself: at a bus stop, while waiting at a doctor's office, on the train, etc., etc. The downside of this practice is that I'm compelled to stop in the middle of chapters whether I want to or not.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
Guilty! It only happened on one occasion, but still. I was wading through a trilogy I didn't like all that much yet wanted to see through to the end. When the only likable character was permanently turned into a tree at the climax, I promptly dissolved into tears and chucked the book to the other side of my bed. What a waste of time.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
No. [Hangs head in shame.] I don't have much tolerance for anything that interrupts the flow of the narrative. I've attempted this a few times and inevitably abandon the practice after a few chapters.

What I do instead: try to glean a vague definition of the word based on its usage and pretend this as ascertaining the meaning from the dictionary. This sometimes results in dropping a word into conversation incorrectly and looking like an ignorant fool. It's such an Anne Shirley thing to do! Remember the time she tells Diana, 'I think I've been rendered unconscious'? Yeah, it goes something like that.

What are you currently reading?
I just finished up The Road to Coorain by Jill Ker Conway -- it rocked my world! At the moment, I'm in the middle of Lady Windermere's Fan (Oscar Wilde) and What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Daniel Pool). Both are fantastic reads so far!

What is the last book you bought?
 This is London and This is Paris by Miroslav Sasek. They're part of a series of fabulous travel/picture books for children that I gave to a dear friend for her baby shower. These books make great gifts for expectant parents and inquisitive children.

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?
Whoever said multi-tasking is an inherently female ability was lying through their teeth! I like to focus on one thing at a time, and this philosophy extends to literature. Sometimes I read two books simultaneously, particularly if they're generically different, but for the most part I stick to one text.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
I love to read somewhere with ample cushioning, like the couch or my bed, wrapped up in blankets. Reading at night when everything is quiet allows me to immerse myself in a story free from external distractions. 

When I try to read early in the morning I fall asleep 99.9% of the time, unless I've stayed up all night to finish a book I simply couldn't put down. Does this happen to anybody else?

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
Stand alone books, for sure. Investing in a series is a gamble. Sometimes the later installments fail to maintain the quality of their predecessors. Nothing is more disappointing that arriving at the end of a lengthy series only to conclude it would have been better next to begin (see above). Obviously there are series I count as favorites, but I think twice before buying a book I know to be the first of four volumes.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
The Tenant of Wildfell and Cranford are classics I recommend again and again. In the case of the former, the enduring popularity of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre has led to the unfortunate neglect of 'The Other Bronte' Anne. No doubt about it, her sisters are deservedly remembered for their fantastic contributions to literature. But Anne holds her own splendidly, thank you very much.

I also recommend P.G. Wodehouse all. the. time. The fact that friends thank me for introducing them to his delightfully droll fiction only encourages me repeat this suggestion.

How do you organize your books?
I have a very specific breakdown for the organization of classics. Titles are first displayed alphabetically by publisher, then format (leatherbound down to paperback), alphabetically by author and alphabetically by title. Does that make sense? This system makes my shelves look fantastic! I'll have to post pictures. (I don't exhibit the slightest symptom of OCD. How dare you even suggest it!)

This concludes the peek into my literary quirks. What are your reading habits? I'd love to hear!


JoAnn said...

What a fun post. I loved The Road to Coorain, but loaned it to a friend years ago and never saw it again! Should pick up another copy to reread...

Jillian said...

Ha ha ha! You and I are opposites in most parts of the reading process. I'm messy and unorganized and honor the book by dog-earing it tremendously. The more dog-eared pages, the more I have loved and hugged it. (My own books, obviously. I wouldn't love a library book into shreds.) :)

Yay water!

Cassandra said...

Doesn't sound like OCD to me. Would you care to clean up my shelves too? ;)Good God, this post makes me feel guilty in so many ways!
Drinking unhealthy, sugary stuff? Check.
Dog-ears? Damaged spines? Oh yes.
Throwing books through the room whenever the characters do something stupid? Uh-hu.
At least you're not immune to sweets...huzzah!

Brooke said...

LOVED this post! So fun! My New found favorite way to read a book is with those little snack-sized "nutella to go" packs. I ate one the other day while playing a game with my family and instantly, I missed my book I was reading at the time. It's now a "trigger food" I suppose!

Diana said...

JoAnn: I'm glad to hear you also adored The Road from Coorain.

How sad that you never got your copy back! I borrowed it from a friend, but am now considering buying a large stack of copies -- one for myself, and additional texts to hand out to all my reading friends. I want to share it with the world now! :)

Diana said...

Jillian: I did notice that we have very different attitudes towards 'the book.' It's been fun to see varying opinions on this!

I have this rather romantic idea that even my own books should be preserved for my future readers. Like, if I keep them in good condition, my children and grandchildren can enjoy them too. :)

Diana said...

Cassandra: LOL. No, I am *definitely* not immune to sweets. They're a real weakness of mine, actually.

And don't feel guilty: the beauty of literature is that we get to read in any way we see fit. :)

Diana said...

Brooke: haha, I like the idea of having foods that trigger the desire to read. Maybe I should 'train' myself to react that way to certain foods!

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

I love your bookshelf organization! Mine is simpler by comparison (divvy up hardcovers & paperbacks, then chronological by author) but I imagine yours looks fantastic.

I don't think I have too many bookish habits or peculiarities, other than I seem to be no longer capable of picking up a book unless I have a nice chunk of time to read it in--which rather gets in the way of making progress through my books!

Caroline Helstone said...

I'm glad to see you like Anne Brontë as well. I often think if she wasn't one of the Brontë sisters she would be better known in her own right.

Diana said...

Amanda: Yes! I get so frustrated when I don't have a proper amount of time to read a book. Some books, classics especially, are difficult to read in small bits. They demand attention, and I don't like it when I can't devote time to a text.

Diana said...

Caroline: Anne fans unite!

What an interesting perspective on the recognition of her work. She does get overshadowed by her more popular sisters, but I always worried that if she weren't a member of a literary famous family, she might not have been remembered at all. In any case, I'm happy to let others know how fabulous her writing is.