3.6 Reading Habits

Have you noticed how your reading habits have changed over the years?

I don’t recall how old I was when my mother gave me my first Buddy Book or when she graduated me to the Hardy Boys.   Could she have taken me to the local library and got me my own library card when I was only seven or eight?   I know I was a reading junkie before I was ten.

Forty years ago I was the sort of reader that writers today set prayer flags for.  Once a month I’d go into my favorite bookstore, Bell, Book, and Candle on Ashford Avenue in San Juan, and buy 20-25 books.  I’d buy authors I recognized and other books in the same section. I read everything: action-adventure, sci-fi, historical novels, and mysteries.  I’d buy novels, short story collections, and nonfiction.  I’d buy bestsellers after they came out in paperback.

As hobbies and pastimes became passions, I would build a reference library for the topic.  A year ago my library included over a 100 books on yacht design, yacht racing strategy, chess, bridge, and writing.

I’d read every word of every book of fiction.   That has changed.  In fact nothing about my bookish addiction is the same.

Today, I don’t buy as many books.  I get books as pre-publication editions, and I buy books at library fund-raisers, and am given books during my travels by people who unload on me books destined for the library sale.   I do buy books at author events, for twenty dollars, I get to feel like a patron of the arts.

Another change is that I read shorter pieces:  blogs, news articles from newspapers, magazine features, op-ed pieces and book reviews.  The sources available to us are legion.  I start with Googlenews for headlines and top news stories.  For features I go to ALDaily.com. Someone took notice of the initials and asked if I wrote it.  LOL.  AL is also short for Arts & Letters.  I can easily wile away an evening hopscotching the main page of ALDaily.

Nor do I read everything I start.  Since attending a workshop about how acquisition editors read manuscripts (taught by writer/editor/coach/publisher Charlotte Cook) I read books more critically.

Fiction writers must engage me early, introduce interesting characters, and bait me with a good story.  And keep it up.  That is, the author gives me a reason to start and reason to continue.  The author has no more than three pages to set the hook, no more than ten to begin reeling me in, and another forty or so to net me.  Much more often than not, I am gone like a missed flight before fifty pages.

Although I read fewer books, I enjoy everything I read much more.

Tomorrow the topic will be speedreading.  I could teach you to double your reading speed, but do you want to?

15 Responses to 3.6 Reading Habits

  1. linda says:

    When I’m reading a book I dog ear the corners to point at the phrase I want to remember. If the entire page is important it gets a vertical whole page fold and if both sides are good a double fold. Weeks later I review the folded pages and if they are very many I reread them and save the book to review again later. If the book is derilect I tear the noted pages out and the page listing other books by same author. This are stapled together and reviewed during spring cleaning.
    If the book is in good condition, the pages are xeroxed, yeah sue me, then stapled together and the book is sent back out into the world.
    Most of my books are from RV parks exchange shelves or the Salvation Army. Goodwill went to $2.99 for hardcovers and are out of my range. I have paid retail on one or two books, grudgingly. For purest who revere the pages, sorry but the back must be broken and the spine lay flat.
    No library books for me, for same reasons.
    Dad was a reader, he only finished 8th grade and yet knew current events, economics and world history like a professor.

  2. tanya grove says:

    I know that while you’re traveling around, a library isn’t exactly convenient, but I have rediscovered the library, and I’m so happy that I have. I go online to my library account and type in all the titles of the books I want to read after perusing the New York Times Review of Books or listening to NPR. Then, one day like magic, I get an e-mail when one of them is ready to pick up. (Even when it appeared that there were over 100 people ahead of me waiting for Jonathon Franzen’s Freedom, I got it in a few months.) Then I pop over to my local branch, go just inside the door to the shelves designated for books on hold, find the book I requested, and check it out.

    And it’s all FREE! The world of literature at my beck and call. What could be better?

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    I use the library a lot. I belong to a book club and MOST books are readable, some ridiculous..but, then I only scan them and try to keep my mouth shut at discussion time. There are some that are so much a part of my life that I have actually purchased them- Gogil’s Collected Works, with my favorite “Diary of a Madman”, anything by Faulkner and some D H Larwrence. Some paragraphs have to be read and read again..I don’t dogear, but I bookmark and lose myself in the passion of it all.

  4. David Pierce says:

    Al, we have met via the SW Trek Club. My suggestion is to acquire a Kindle and the first book to buy is about getting Kindle books for free.

    David

    • allevenson says:

      I remember you and Sue very well. The Kindle is an ideal device for us RVers. There is surely one in my future–I need to read and pass along a hundred pounds of my DTR, dead tree books.

  5. john miller says:

    Al
    you began with the Hardy Boys. Horatio Algers matchboys, etcetera were my working class origins. Then I discovered Richard Halliburton and I travelled the world on the ROYAL ROAD TO ROMANCE

  6. Colleen Rae says:

    Intersting Al. that you began with the Hardy Boys and I began with the Nancy Drew Mysteries. I think I read everyone of them by the time I was ten. In my twenties I used to buy ‘literary’ books and even if I deemed them ‘dull’ I read them cover to cover – all of them. Gradually I began to hone my reading tastes and today I don’t always read a book all the way through. I give the book 50 pages, and if it doesn’t catch my interest, it is given to the library. I think I keep the Barnes and Noble store near me in business. I ALWAYS buy books – I love them, like an old lover. I like them close to me and always ready to be touched. I love the tactile sensation of the smooth cover, the joy of flipping the pages, the way it fits into my two hands.

    Since I began writing in my twenties, I became more decerning as to what kind of books I read. I have put down ‘literay’ best sellers because they just didn’t hook me. Edgar Sawtelle was one such book. All my writing friends raved about it; I couldn’t get hooked. I have read a book completely, persevering, hoping it would get better, and at the end would not recommend it to anyone. So goes my life with books.

    I understand your action of unloading yourself of books when you moved to the RV. It makes sense. And your friend’s suggestion of a Kindle sounds practical for you.
    When Chihuahua Enchilada is released, I intend to have it available on Kindle, at your suggestion.

    • allevenson says:

      Colleen,

      I am not surprised that your early life with books paralleled mine. And that you have a sure yardstick today to measure which books to proceed with and which to put down.

      I do envy that you encountered your writing muse early in life and that you make time for writing daily.

      I look forward to the launch of Chihuahua Enchilada.

  7. I learned to speedread when I am working through a book that fails with me. I don’t give up because I have at least earned the right to see the ending.

    • allevenson says:

      Now you are on to the important point. Reading speed can be adjusted to the purpose of the reader. If you can scan or skip sections without losing significant content, this is the equivalent of reading faster. How to select what to skip involves some technique and differs between text and story.

      AL

  8. AL PEDERSEN says:

    HI, PAL,
    WOW! YOU CERTAINLY EXPOUNDED UPON READING. I’M SITTING HERE WITH LITTLE TO DO BUT DON’T FIND MYSELF READING AS MUCH AS YOU SEEM TO. AFTER I FINISH WITH THE WASH.POST, CHECK THE STOCK MARKET 20 TIMES, WORK ON MY PROVERBIAL JIGSAW PUZZLE AND WASH MY PRIVATES I START LOOKING FOR SOMETHING INTERESTING TO DO OR READ. I MISS ANN BUT DAYS ARE BECOMING MORE BEARABLE. I PLAY BRIDGE WITH OLDSTERS THREE TMES A WEEK IN AN ATTEMPT TO REMAIN COHERENT. IF YOU COME MY WAY, YOU WON’T FIND US AS MUCH FUN AS BEING ON THE ROAD BUT WE’D LOVE HAVING YOU STOP BY. SMOOTH SAILING, YOUR OLDEST PAL, AIG AL

  9. When I was a teenager, I often read two paperbacks a day. When I was in 10th grade, I worked in the high school library where I found more books to read. I returned to work in the library in 11th and 12th grades.

    I also had a 30 hour a week job washing dishes nights and weekends in a May Co. coffee shop so I have no idea how I managed to read so many books.

    I buy books. I should check them out of the library but I enjoy owning them. I still buy books as if I read two a day but I’m fortunate to finish one a month. Probably have a three or four year supply now and many I may never read because I keep finding new and used ones to buy and add to the unread collection.

    The only reason I haven’t bought a Kindle yet is because of all those books waiting to be read.

    • allevenson says:

      And my avalanche of books is the only reason I have not bought a Kindle. I do have a Kindle App (free) for my Mac. Since most of what I read these days is on line, I think I will slide right in to the Kindle Mac–probably build a library of hundreds of books to read and getting around to only a few of them.

      AL

  10. Emanuel says:

    Thanks in favor of sharing such a nice idea, paragraph is
    good, thats why i have read it fully

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