The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog includes a book-reader coinage that got us thinking about our own reading styles. There, Mark O'Connell confesses his dirty little reading secret: He doesn't finish books; he's a "promiscuous reader," a book abandoner. He writes, "I’ll start a book, get about halfway through it, and then, even if I’m enjoying it, put it down in favor of something else." But it's not the books, it's him. "I like reading too much. I can’t say no," he writes. "I’ll be reading a novel and thoroughly enjoying it. Then I’ll be in a bookshop and I’ll see something I’ve been anticipating, and I’ll buy it. I’ll start reading the new book on the bus home that evening, and that will be the end of the original affair. I’m certainly invested in the relationship with the book that I’m currently reading, but I can’t help myself from pursuing whatever new interest happens to turn my head. Perhaps that’s just a tortuous way of admitting to being a pathetic serial book-adulterer who’ll chase after anything in a dust jacket." He justifies his behavior in the end, as you'd expect of a "book cheater," by saying that maybe occasionally this is a good thing. When he finally meets the book whose fickleness meets his own, well, perhaps he's met his match.
We understand. We, too, have occasionally set one good book down and picked up another, and forgotten the first nearly entirely, even though we'd been quite smitten with it before. Sometimes we engage in threeways, fourways, or even orgies of reading, in which there are so many books involved, well, we might not even be keeping track. It's horrible, isn't it? But, for as many books as exist, there are also any number of different reading types a book lover (or even a book hater) might demonstrate. What kind are you?
The Hate Reader. Oh, you. You pretend to be curmudgeonly, you do, but you really just devour the reading you do in a different way. You're loving it nearly as much as you're hating it, and maybe then some, even as you complain the author can't put two sentences together properly or that the book is dragging hopelessly in the middle and what kind of plot twist is that, even? An elephant in Act 3? These characters are so poorly drawn as to be comical! You call that a conclusion? Vampires, really? If you are a hate reader you will finish each hate read down to its very last word, and you may well close the covers and toss the volume across the room, but you will do it with a great, secret frisson of satisfaction because it feels so good. You may be an aspiring, disgruntled novelist yourself. Suggested hate reads: Twilight; Fifty Shades of Grey; any much-celebrated novelist's latest offering that's bound to be arguably less than all the hype.
The Chronological Reader. Slow and steady wins the race, dear reader. You are the tortoise to the promiscuous reader's distracted-at-any-turn hare. You buy a book, you read it. You buy another, you read it. Perhaps you borrow a book at the library. You read it, and then you return it, and you get another, which you will read. You may not remember where you began, what the first book that kicked it all off was, and you likely have no idea where you'll end, but the point is, you will go through each book methodically and reasonably, until it is done. You might discard a book, but only if there is very good cause, and it will bring you a sense of deep unease, so you'll probably pick it back up and finish it anyway. You are very good at puzzles, and the most reliable of all your friends. Suggested chronological reads: It doesn't matter; you'll get to them all, eventually.
The Book-Buster. Is your home strewn with books scattered about, this way and that, their pages turned, their covers folded over, their backs broken and their limbs splayed out on either side? You are a destroyer of books, but you love them so. Your spirit book character is Lennie of Of Mice and Men. You just want to hug the books, squeeze them tighter and tighter, you adore them so much, you really don't know you're hurting them. And then you've got a paperback with a huge chunk pulled out of it, or a first edition that's suddenly waterlogged from bath water. You take your books out into the sun and their pages bleach away to nothing, but you keep them anyway, because they are books and you love books. Suggested book-buster reads: Whatever you like, but buy a Kindle.
Delayed Onset Reader #1. You are without a doubt a book lover, and when you walk into a bookstore or any place books are available, you can't help yourself, you buy one or many. When you get home you put them aside, often reverently, as if they were art, displaying them on a bookshelf or propping them up on your bedside table, pages ready to meet your eyes as soon as you have the moment. But you're very, very busy, and days, weeks, or months may go by before you actually crack open one of these books. It's not for lack of trying! When you finally do, you will be overjoyed by all the learning and emotional depth and humor and writing quality that exists in this book that's been sitting within reach all along, and you will be amazed that you waited so long to ever open it. Suggested delayed onset #1 suggestions: The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman; The Princess Bride, by William Goldman; Lolita by Nabokov; Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.
Delayed Onset Reader #2. You are not a book lover. You buy books so you can show them off. If you are wealthy, you may have a mahogany-paneled library for expressly this purpose. Since you don't waste time on books, we won't waste time discussing you, but if you ever do pick up a book and read it and love it, you can consider yourself cured. Suggested delayed onset #2 suggestions: The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, Gone With the Wind, A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia.
The Bookophile. More than reading, you just love books. Old ones, the way they smell, the crinkles and yellowing of the pages; new ones, the way they smell, too, the crispness, running your hands over a stack of them at the bookstore. You like books rescued from the street as much as signed first editions; you like drugstore paperbacks, you like hardcover new releases, you like it all. You just like books. To you, they are an object of beauty, and you would never, ever hurt them in any way. Suggested bookophile reads: Anything you can get your hands on. God, that's gorgeous, isn't it?
The Anti-Reader. You are the book version of the person who claims "I never watch TV! I don't even own one!" You never read books, because you find them too long. You consider blog posts too long, too, and are always penning comments that say "TLDR" to express how short something can truly be and still be meaningful. Unfortunately, you are the lady or man who doth protest too much, and you may instead have some deep insecurity about reading that led you to this book-flavorless existence. Pick up a book—a short one, say, start small—and open it, and let your eyes just rest on it for a few quiet moments. You may find yourself changed, because a life without reading is a sad one indeed. Suggested anti-reader books: To get you started, try pop-up books, graphic novels, and comics as well as something on topics you'd normally enjoy watching on TV.
The Cross-Under. You are a grown-up who reads Y.A. or kids books, or a kid who reads adult books, and there is a place for you in society, finally. Your existence acknowledged after so many years, you no longer have to feel shame at your questionable reading habits but can instead bask in the admiration of book blogs and feel a part of the vanguard. You are not ruled by categories; you are a free thinker. When you were in elementary school a librarian told you a book was "Too old for you." You read it anyway, and there's been no going back. Suggested cross-under reads: For kids, Dickens, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Vonnegut, Harper Lee. For adults: Collins, Rowling, Alexie, Chbosky, Lowry.
The Multi-Tasker. This is the nice way of saying you are a promiscuous reader, but it's not that you don't finish reads. Instead, you just have a sort of hippie reading way about you, free love or some such. You might start the day out with a few pages from one novelist, then read something entirely different on the subway, and when you come home from work, another work as well. Your bedtime read, too, might be different, and all in all, when you count up the books, you've got quite a lot of irons in the fire all at the same time. Do you confuse characters or plots? Do you give more attention to some books than to others? Perhaps. The point is, you're not ready for a book commitment just yet, and you're doing a brilliant job dating them all in the meantime. Suggested multi-tasking reads: Short story and essay collections, novellas.
The Sleepy Bedtime Reader. Do you feel the only time you have to read is when you're about to go to sleep? You tote your book into bed with you and it's so very comfortable and the book is so deliciously good, but you cannot keep your eyes open and end up waking up with a book on your face and your light still on at 3 a.m.? Tell no one; if you are lucky, there is no one there to witness your shame, save the characters with whom you are becoming quite close. Suggested sleepy bedtime reads: Whatever you like, just sit in a chair—unless you like falling asleep with a book on your face.
Update: We listed more book-reader types, here.
Insets via Flickr/MyEyeSees; Flickr/Kate Hiscock; Flickr/Dru!
This post previously appeared on The Wire.
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