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So at first I struggled with this topic because I don’t usually quit reading books. Either I like the book and finish it, or I don’t like it and don’t start it. Most of the books I quit were as a kid because it would take me longer to know if I liked them and I was more dedicated to finishing them. Instead of books I didn’t finish, this week I’m going to talk about how my reading practices have evolved over time and the bookish things I’ve “quit” doing.
- Buying full price books. I’m a sucker for a good deal. More often than not, I’ll check out all the books I read from the library. If I think I’ll read a book again, I’ll scout for it at thrift stores or discount sections or used bookstores to add to my collection.
- Checking out every book I can carry. My mom wisely imposed the rule that I could only check out as many books as I could carry, which more often than not meant I was standing in the check out line at the library with a stack of books that went to my chin, arms shaking. Now I typically put books on hold, and since the max is seven, that’s what I check out.
- Collecting bookmarks. Honestly, this is probably something I should start doing again, but over the years I’ve massively whittled down my collection to about four or five bookmarks and have started using random pieces of paper (receipts and grocery lists and flyers) as bookmarks. I also have become much better about just remembering what page I’m on.
- Reading one book at a time. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had just one book started at any given time. As a kid, I devoured them so quickly that it would have slowed me down to have more than one going.
- Reading books alternately. It’s become much more rare over recent years for me to switch from books chapter by chapter (though it’s not unheard of). Though I typically have many books started at any given time, one usually receives my full attention unless I get bored or something else catches my eye.
- Bringing books to dinner. I won’t say that I never bring a book with me (I have a smart phone…), but after my early teen years I began to engage with other people at dinner and no longer brought a book with me to the table. Afterwards, you could find me in a corner reading, but not at dinner.
- Reading a book in a single sitting. I can count the number of times this has happened over the past few years, and it adds up to maybe five. I don’t know if I just have a shorter attention span than I used to, or if the books are just longer.
- Reading anything that comes my way, just because it’s a book. As a kid I used to worship the written word–worship books–just for being books. They were sacred objects and talismans and I didn’t like to speak ill of them. So I read a lot of crap. I’ve become much more discerning, though I still ascribe some magic powers to books.
- Reading “below my reading level.” No matter what age group a book is intended for, there’s just some writing that’s better than others, you just have to search. But when you’re in fourth grade, you’re more interested in reading what other kids are reading (at least I was). I don’t even know how many Magic Treehouse books and books about horses I read. Now I focus not just on the quality of the story, but the quality of the writing, which I’ve learned is definitely related but by no means the same.
- I’ve stopped thinking reading is about devouring. This is a more recent discovery, probably via college or during my senior year in high school, but I used to measure how good a book was by how quickly I could get through it. “Page-turner” was my ultimate compliment. And though some of those books really were fantastic, like Memoirs of a Geisha and John Steinbeck’s The Peal, and Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, I would have gotten so much more out of them by taking my time. I’ve learned that reading is about a relationship that develops between the text and the reader, and the experience is so much richer when you take your time to appreciate the way the book was crafted, to reread passages that moved you, to even take notes and think about the book in different ways.
So though I no longer finish 60 books in a summer like I used to, I feel that I’ve enriched my reading experience in many ways. From devouring, I’ve started savoring.
How has your reading style developed over the years? I think everyone has to find a style that works for them and learning about yourself as a reader is a journey!