Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How Do You Read?

When I find a book that I like, I jump into it head first. I'm voracious. I devour it, if possible, in a single sitting. If not possible, in as few sittings as possible. I'm distracted by the characters and their stories. I think about them when I'm not reading, wondering what's going to happen next. It's a lot like how I write, too. The compulsion to find out what happens keeps me moving forward, keeps me turning or writing the pages. I read so quickly that I find myself skipping words and description for the next line of dialogue to see what the response is. Skimming paragraphs of scenery in favor of the next clue about the plot.

After that first read through, if there's more books in the series, I leap into them the same way, swallowing them whole. If there isn't more than one book in the series, I put the book I just finished aside for a couple of days, digesting what I read, thinking about the story, the characters, what I might have done differently if I had written the book. But it isn't long before I pick the book back up again and start reading it for a second time.

The second reading is much more relaxed. I take it more slowly. Reading in shorter bursts over a much longer period of time. Maybe if I have nothing to do, I'll read for a few hours while I'm home alone. Or if I'm busy, I'll put the book aside for a couple of days between chapters. Where I skimmed things before, I read more closely now, absorbing the description I was too impatient to read the first time. Almost always there is something new in this second reading. Something I missed in the first run through that gives the book something new. I savor it.

If I didn't love the book the first time, sometimes it will be weeks or months or years before I read it again, but unless I hated it, I'll always go back. This is why I buy books, rather than getting them from the library. Because I never know when the urge to reread is going to strike me, and I want to have the book available at my fingertips for when it does. If I loved the book, thought it was fantastic, I'll reread it a dozen times. Maybe even four times in the same year. Maybe just annually. But I keep going back, exploring the characters. Sometimes I'll go online and do searches. Google a favorite character to see what comes up. Dig through scraps of information until I'm sure I have every morsel.

At that point, I start reading books from the middle. Looking for a favorite scene and then reading on from that point, getting to the end, and going back to the beginning to read the stuff I skipped. At that point, I know the story so well, I don't have to finish. I start and stop fitfully, skip entire chapters just to read the pieces that I want at that particular moment. Another reason why I have more books than I have shelves for,  I guess. Because I love them. I love stories. I love characters that come alive, and revisiting them.

So. How do you read?


  1. Not nearly as quickly, but one interesting thing I picked up from my wife is reading the last few paragraphs of a book first and using that to help decide whether to continue.

  2. I think that would ruin half my fun. I love the discovery aspect, and the not knowing.

  3. I used to read books in one or two sittings, but since having my daughter I can't do that. But if I'm into a book I'll still manage to finish it in a couple days. I only go back to the books I absolutely adore.

    And I can't read the end first! That would be so wrong! :)

  4. I don't know what I'm going to do when I have kids... That's going to be an adjustment to my reading and writing habits, for sure :)

  5. You appear to have inherited "Gotta know what happens" from your mother.

    I counsel "Patience! Savor the first time through."

    That's my way of reading. No matter how anxious I am to "find out" what happens, I read every word, every sentence, every page methodically. Life can't be skipped. Hours can't be fast-forwarded. Nor can it be rewound or re-played. So I take the book as close to life as possible.

    To invest myself in the story...to really be embedded in the action, as opposed to just being an adrenaline-fueled specatator, I think I have to take my time.

    And I never read a book twice. OK, maybe three books in the course of my entire life.

    What is it that propels you to skip and skim? What itch needs scratching so badly that you can't savor? I challenge you to examine!

  6. I accept the challenge! I will meditate on it when I get my next book in this Diana Gabaldon series, and start reading it through.

    But I could never stop rereading. I love it!

  7. Amalia, I think you know this, but sometimes I have to read the end. And then the beginning. And then the middle.

    I've gotten better about that, though... I didn't read the end of ANY Harry Potter books!

  8. I always, always start at the beginning. The first line, the first paragraph, is always the most important thing to me.

    I'm a bit of a slow reader, I take my books to the couch or to the bed, anywhere that isn't my desk, and I let myself take my time imagining the details of the scene. I like to picture the way characters are saying things in my head -- the tone and attitude, play with that a while, and continue on.

    I have to wait at least six months before I can reread a book, usually! After I finish a book, I'll spend the next week or more thinking about what happened in it and what I think happened after it ended.


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