Addicted to Books, Can't Shake My Reading Habit

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!

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Discussion

  1. TC Byrd

    Sounds like we are quite alike. The occasional periods of not wanting to read are indeed perplexing. I guess mine last just a few days til I am off again, though. For a person who read for pleasure all throughout grad school, much to the amazement of my classmates, the periods of lack of desire are notable. It’s a weird feeling, not wanting to read.

  2. Nancy Ellis

    It’s interesting to know about others’ reading habits. I know I’m seriously addicted, I haven’t ever experienced a non-reading day, well, except for when I had pneumonia. I even read walking from one room to the next! There are very few authors who I read one book after the other, except Jeffrey Deaver and Louise Penny – I discovered them after they each had several published books. It seems necessary to take a break in between or I might begin to dislike the characters, much like a long visit in someone’s home can give a reason to start disliking the host… I guess familiarity can be a turn-off. And I’m one of those people who has to read a series in the correct order, and when the author doesn’t write in serial form, I like to read their books by date. Authors who kill off a main character?? Always a let-down! Skipping from one genre to another is fun; I know I can’t sustain the concentration required for certain authors so I’ll switch to another for a few books. Like you, I will not force myself to finish a book, seems like a waste of time!

  3. Igor

    I in general never choose what books will read, I simply call at a shop and in a couple of minutes take that book. so more interesting

  4. Melissa Eisenmeier

    I tend to jump from genre to genre, for variety. It keeps me from getting bored. Sometimes I read books, i.e. Harry Potter books, in order. Others, I read whatever’s on the library or bookstore shelves.

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