The Vengeful Polyglot

How I Read Things

Posted on: May 21, 2011

 

Are there people out there who only read one book at a time? I’m just kind of curious, because I don’t think there’s ever been a prolonged period in my life where I’ve been in the midst of fewer than four or five books. I usually have around that many that I’m actively reading — usually I’m also in the middle of somewhere between 5-10 more which I’ve put on hiatus for various reasons (left them at home, lent them out, got bored or creeped out) but intend to pick back up again once my queue opens up.

I started thinking about this when my roommate asked me when I would start reading the copy of Mistborn she lent me, and I explained that I was already full up but intended to start it once I had some more time. I know she juggles more than one book at a time, too (and she knows it’s the same for me — she called me on not starting it yet in favor of reading something newer along with my current stack, haha). I know Matteo pretty much sticks to one at a time (and mostly reads what I force on him), but I’m not sure if that’s because of inability to keep the stories straight or preference.

I could never have just one book “active,” though — what do you do if you’re not in the mood for that genre? Take the most recent books I’ve finished: Bossypants by Tina Fey and On Writing by Stephen King. (I know I wrote about the first, but the second really deserves some mention. I think it was the best book on writing I’ve ever read, and endlessly inspiring. I am a Stephen King fangirl, though, so maybe take that with a grain of salt.) The reasons I jammed through those were a) because they were both quite compelling, even though I usually don’t read a huge amount of autobio stuff, and b) because I could not stand to read any more of Invasive Procedures (Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston) without taking a break. Mind you, it’s a good book, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest, it’s just that some part of it was rubbing me the wrong way (maybe it’s because of this Johnston person, maybe he was cramping my OSC’s style!) and I needed to read something else for a bit.

I suppose I could have turned to one of my other in-progress books, but starting new ones is unfortunately a guilty pleasure of mine. I let books cut in line all the time. As a result, there are some less adorably shiny books just sitting on my shelves waiting for their promised day in the sun… waiting, and waiting, as newer releases or the works of more beloved authors move in front time and time again. It’s a character flaw to some degree, I know, but I always strive to read what I feel like and not feel obligated to read something I’m not in the mood for. To do so would be ridiculous; the point of reading for me is the enjoyment. Plus, I’ll get to them eventually. I never have enough money to keep up with my book appetite, which is voracious. (My mom has always said that I spend more money on books than clothes and food combined; I’d say she was disappointed by this, but I think she was pretty much the same way growing up!) My quick reading speed is also a double edged sword; I get the satisfaction of each book more quickly, but I always need more of them more often. God, do I sound like a drug addict or what?

Either way, I just can’t imagine only having one at a time. Maybe that’s why people say they get “sick” of reading (this is a foreign concept for me). I guess they take breaks from reading anything at all instead of just switching to something they like better for the time being. I remember when Matteo (in an attempt to please me, I think), wanted to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest before watching the movie. He wound up hating it but refusing to give up on it in principle. The result was a prolonged break from reading; he couldn’t stand to keep reading the stupid book, but he also didn’t want to feel like he was giving up. It was a break in a fairly intense me-induced reading spree, and he had actually been enjoying the things I was suggesting/demanding he try. I eventually got him to abandon it and start A Game Of Thrones, and that got him out of the slump.

For what it’s worth, my advice is: if you don’t like a book, just toss it aside and find something better. Sure, you shouldn’t be quitter in the face of rewarding-but-difficult reading (say, if the diction is high-level, or the concept mentally challenging), but forcing yourself to read a book that just isn’t ever going to be enjoyable isn’t going to make you love reading any more. It’s liable to make you hate it. And who has time to waste reading bad books? There are so many good ones out there to find instead. Or if you insist on finishing, but have to take it in small doses… read something else in between, to keep your head working and having fun. Maybe I just think this way because reading is one of my greatest joys and also my best teacher, but I couldn’t imagine ever taking a break from reading all together. Finishing books also tends to make me feel, well, hollow and kind of sad, so I like to have something else to turn to for comfort when I’m done. I’ve always got to have something in the works! Or maybe… several.

(For those interested, my current main four are: A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (reread), Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, Different Seasons by Stephen King, and La Bella Lingua by Diane Hales. This will probably change in, oh, a day or so. :P)

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5 Responses to "How I Read Things"

I only read one fiction at a time. I sometimes supplement that with non fiction, but I never read two fictions at a time.

Interesting! I don’t think I could pull that off. I’m so absent minded sometimes that I leave books all around. Sometimes that’s enough to make me buy another copy (I have two of AGoT at the moment because I went to Japan without it and I was halfway through and hooked), but mostly I just grab something else that’s handy. 😛

Hopefully you throw my beta read into the “current mains.” 🙂

I try to keep only one fiction and one non-fiction at a time myself (and sometimes a separate learning book like a programing book). And I used to try to finish everything. But lately if I stall out and find myself slogging I deliberately stop forever and move on to a newer book. Life really is too short for crap.

I will, I will! I’m hoping to actually finish two of them shortly, it’s just that “Apt Pupil” in Different Seasons kind of creeped me so I put it down for a bit. I used to have a completionist streak in me, too, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that bad writing just isn’t worth it. It won’t be as satisfying to finish as something that’s actually good!

Yeah. It’s such a relief to actually read a novel that’s great and fully enjoy it. As I get older it happens less and less. In high school I enjoyed a lot of light fun reads that are just a bit of a chore now. Last week I read Before I Fall and was thrilled to have something I didn’t want to put down (it isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly enjoyable). Or last summer I also reread all 4 Game of Thrones and tore through them in a single week, even on a reread.

BTW, a friend of mine who has/read an ARC of Dance of Dragons says it’s awesome.

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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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