I started thinking about how I decide what I’ll read next, and those down times when I don’t read at all, and those frenetic times when I finish the last page and immediately hone in to the next book and I wondered what specific habits I display in regards to reading.
I found I don’t have ‘habits’ per se. Some readers I know decide they will read an entire series of books in order till they finish. Example; Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. Start with A and don’t stop until Grafton’s last letter is read.
Others read one of an author, and switch off to someone else, and on and on. Some grab the latest of a particular favorite as soon as released.
Some won’t read out of sequence in a series, and that can be wise. Spoilers abound. Often the opposite occurs, readers jump around, reading what they can in whatever order is convenient.
How about genres? Do you only like a certain type of book? For me it’s obviously crime fiction-although I fall into classics and straight fiction on occasion, a lot less than I used to, and bios are now rarely read. Do you switch from genre to genre? One day Sci Fi, the next philosophy? Poetry, and then hard core serial killer suspense? Romance followed by self help titles?
I read what catches my eye either from one of my piles or shelves, or if tipped off by a friend or review. I scan my shelves, piles, cabinets, dissatisfied with all I see, even though there are hundreds of choices. I finally settle on a book and start reading. Lately, I’ve noticed I can be reading along fine, and then just stop. Bored, lost interest, or for no real reason, I stop, and put it back on the shelf. I’ve done this with several well known and liked authors. I’ve tried several times to start again, and failed. They remain for another try later.
What I won’t do at my advanced age is force myself to read on. I’d rather try again, fresh, then plow through because I feel I must finish, good book or no. I scrounge around again, pull something out, and begin anew. Most times the second choice works and I happily finish.
I also must be in a specific mood for each type of read. I won’t begin a side-show/carny book unless ready for another dive into a very strange fascinating world. Certain moods crave a cosy puzzle piece-something from the 30s or 40s. Other times nothing but a funny mystery will do. Today’s Tim Dorsey is a manic writer but one title at a time is all I can handle, his books have a frantic pace I can’t keep up with. When I want the cleverest G rated hilarious titles I turn to the Little sisters, Constance and Gwenyth. Nothing beats their madcap screwball style from the 40s and 50s.
When I find myself wanting nothing to do with the lighter side of life I turn to tougher titles-the Connellys, Lehanes, Lippmans–all socially aware and brutally honest.
When British tea time is the ticket, any number of past authors work, all except Christie. I cannot abide Christie. Just a quirk of mine.
Deeply satisfying British police procedurals are good during long winter days-Dexter, Rendell, Robinson, James, Lovesey.
Ah, but the taste for twisted maniacal plots tends to outweigh most all cravings. The Cornell Woolrichs, Barbara Vines, Minette Walters,etc. Nothing more satisfying than delving into a sociopath’s inner child, if he hasn’t already murdered it.
So, what are my particular habits? I don’t read the same author twice in a row, or I hadn’t until the present. I read On Belulah Height, not having touched a Reginald Hill before this, then gobbled up a second I had hanging around, ordered 2 more from bookfinder, searched vainly in a paperback exchange store, and finally broke down and-eek!–bought two from B&N. I’m reading them out of order. I *never* do this. But I became enamored of Daziel and Pascoe and didn’t want to leave their world, even when the second one I read was almost tedious and incomprehensible as well as spoiling the previous book.
So, *most* of the time I read author to author. I want to read in order, but if not possible, I’ll skip. I tend to read one type for a couple of days or weeks even, then push off to a different subgenre. Then again, I can, and do, read a serial killer one day, a laugh riot the next, a social commentary, a 30s P. I., and end up with a frightening psychological suspense.
And then come the deadly dry days developing into months when I simply cannot read. Period. No book satisfies, I can’t even look at them. Why? I’m perplexed. I don’t know why. It happens, all I know. Eventually I return, not a quick, all of a sudden I can’t wait to read again, but a slow recognition that it would be nice to see the printed word.
Less often I can’t stop reading, even when I shouldn’t. I read into the night hours; when I accidently awake at 5 am; when I should be working on jewelry; or taking out the trash; while my mother is talking to me nonstop and I completely ignore her; during short or long drives in the car–no, I’m not at the wheel, I’m not nuts; and every spare moment in between every other moment. One of my best reading times was on the subway, if stuck in a tin can for an hour, it’s only tolerable if a book is flopped open as soon as one fist grabs a handle. I take a book with me to every appointment–doctor, dentist, my mother’s emergency room visits, that’s right, yeah, I grab a book as we dash out the door and race to the hospital, I’m not going to wait in those damn horribly lit cold halls without someone dying–on the page, that is.
I was at an oral surgeon this week. Had my Reginald Hill at the ready. Good thing. After filling out a phonebook of info, I was seated for another 20 minutes until called, then waited on the dental death chair for another 20, and after a course of action was decided, waited another 15 until the dentist was ready to cut. And I read. The impending pain wasn’t on my mind, the Yorkshire countryside and dastardly doings were.
There are certain no-nos in crime fiction, according to me. Do not gratuiously kill a domesticated animal. Children being killed is OK, so long as extreme detail isn’t included. I like hard boiled, but am sick of the serial killer book of women being slaughtered in big juicy descriptions. And I’m not a fan of intensely filled violence, I can recognize wonderful artistry, but if too vividly violent, I demur. And a particular peeve–*do not* kill off a main character! I have stopped reading a series when this happens. I used to enjoy Karen Kijewski’s work, but she eliminated the love interest of the main character, AND killed a cat–done with her. I was appalled when Colin Dexter let Morse die. Dexter felt it was Morse’s time to go. I disagree, naturally, as all his fans did. Stephen Greenleaf *almost* killed off his detective, but had one more book owed to his publisher, so John Marshall Tanner was spared, thank goodness. Even if no more books are to be written with particular characters, I don’t want them to die–only bad guys or murder victims should leave this mortal coil. I found out accidently that a main character in a series I just began is eliminated later on in book 5 or 6, and I really had to force myself to read the next in line. I wouldn’t do so if the writing wasn’t so darn good.
Worried after Morse’s demise, I asked Michael Connelly if he would kill Bosch’s wife, and thankfully, he stated clearly, no. He feels killing a character means you’re unable to find something fresh within an ongoing series, and therefore resort to an extreme. And he’ll allow Harry to retire and go fishing. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Well, I suppose musing on my book habits did nothing to clarify them. I seem to be all over the place in regards to what, how, and when I read. I suppose in the end all that matters is I *do* read.
I’m interested in yours–tell me your addictions and how you go about dealing with those habits!