Developing as a reader

Recently I have been thinking back on my reading journey and how I have developed as a reader.  But not in the sense of growing up and finding new reading tastes.

I was always a reader, even through high school, I read for pleasure and hated to dive too much into things.  I also actively was suspicious of books we read in class and looked for reasons to hate them.  However, I defend this position by the fact that the books I read in class that were annoying, boring or terrible vastly out numbered those that were ok or good (in my opinion, everyone has different feelings about school books). 

Starting my own creative writing projects has really helped in my ability to critically read and evaluate books.  While I’m never going to be an author (outside of the science sense to the term) and I’m not as good at others in critiquing and evaluating books, I come miles compared to past self.  It makes me wish I’d taken more of an interest in creative writing earlier in life. One, because of all the friends I’ve made from it, but also because it would have made English classes easier and interesting.  I would have gotten more out of them, from the basics of grammar to the fancy terms and techniques used to keep people interested.

There are just so many things I could have learned in high school that might have stuck with me but didn’t because I wasn’t interested in ‘that type’ of writing at the time.  Essays and scientific reports, sure I wanted to improve, but I never really wanted to learn and apply creative writing techniques to my own writing.  I could understand why they existed and why they might be used to spruce up writing, but this information for me was just that: information.  It wasn’t really something I was interested in actually learning.  At the time.  

Now that is a different story.  

Part of it was the way all this was taught to me.  It wasn’t in a way I was interested in.  For example I remember a long discussion on what the meaning of the colour of the curtains in a scene in a book had to do with the overall story.  It was something like they were blue which reflects the main character’s depression, but the main character wasn’t even in the room and really did the author really care that much about the curtains?  This memory and others like it still haunt me and to this day I still dislike thinking about symbolism in books, even though I know it can be interesting to learn about and add depth to the books.  Themes in books is another area that I I love and hate to think about. 

This is slowly changing, and I am becoming more interested in these sorts of things in the books I read, yet, I feel if I had taken more of an interest in creative writing or book reviewing sooner I would have appreciated English class more.

It’s amazing how much more I would get out of high school classes if I took them now that I’m done all schooling then when I was forced to take them.


Long versus short: opinions please!

I recently read a book with really short chapters.  Normally I don’t pay attention to this sort of thing, but these chapters were so noticeably short that I noticed it.  Some were only a page or two, though a few were longer at 10 pages or so.  

As I never really noticed chapter size before (I am perfectly fine stopping in the middle of a chapter, page or even sentence), I never really had an opinion on which I preferred.  I knew others had an opinion, and I swear most of the BookTubers I follow have said they prefer shorter chapters. 

As a child my dad would be all ‘you have to go to bed after you finish that chapter’ but it was always Harry Potter with massive chapters and 90% of the time I had just started the new chapter so got to stay up like another hour.  

However, this book that I read with short chapters showed me that I actually prefer longer chapters.  Short chapters have the opposite effect on me then they seem to have on other people.  Others like that short chapters make them feel like they are making progress in the novel as each chapter is another part of the novel you got through.  For me, however, short chapters make me feel like I am getting nowhere.  The chapter ends but it has only been two pages.  It makes the book feel longer to me whereas after a long chapter I feel like I have gotten somewhere and made progress.  Some people like the book being broken up more often, but since I can stop in the middle of a chapter, that doesn’t really effect me as much as others.  

So, what is your opinion on the matter?  Do you prefer long or short chapters?  Is there other reasons for liking one over the other that I have not considered?

You are a reader!

thoughtsThe average person in the US (and likely Canada and many other countries of the world) reads less then 5 books a year.  If, like me, you think that is a very small number, congrats you are likely a reader!

Now, the word reader means a person who reads.  Despite what anyone might tell you, it does not specify what type of things you need to read to be a reader.  It can be books, poetry, short stories, novellas, zines and magazines, fanfiction, instruction manuals, ‘trashy’ internet erotica, role-playing posts…..the list is a long one.  The list I provided is also only things that a ‘reader’ might read, but reading is something essentially everyone does on a semi-daily basis.  Reading a menu or a price tag would make you a reader by the above definition.  

However, in colloquial terms ‘a reader’ tends to be someone who reads ‘a lot’ (and also the types of things I mentioned above and not the ‘everyday’ things), but as the average person reads fewer then 5 books in a year, anything more then that can be classified as ‘a lot’.  That means 10 books a year can make you a reader.  So that ‘only one book this month’ you read?  Congrats, you are still a reader!  ‘I only read a few magazines or fanfic’.  Still a reader!  

Don’t let the words of others define you or bring you down.  You may not read as much as you want or as much as the gatekeepers to reading might say you need to, but if you think you are a reader, CONGRATS!! You! Are! A! Reader!

The year of the re-read

thoughtsI re-read a lot of books in 2016.  Some I had read only last year, others closer to 8 or 10 years ago.  To put a number on that, about 15 books of 51 were re-reads (I say about as I’m not too sure where I stopped in the the Young Wizard books the first time).  

But I’m not upset by this.

Firstly, I got to revisit old favourites and discover they are still really good books.  Others I re-read and they didn’t hold as much water, but that was part of why I wanted to reread them. 

Re-reading books is something I used to do quite often.  As a child it was because I didn’t have exposure to books as much as I do now.  I didn’t know what was coming out or can out recently so I couldn’t ask for them from the library.  Also my home town library is tiiiiiny (same with my school one) so it was hard to find new things to read.  I also have a lot of old favourites. 

As a young adult I typically re-read because I really want to read something by the time exams hit in university, after a semester of refraining from all contact with books.  At this point I need a distraction and my self control is at an all-time low so the best way to combat the problem and get back to studying is to read an old favourite.  This way I know what is going to happen and don’t feel the pressure to stay up all night because I really need to know what happens next!! as a do with many books.  I can stop in the middle of the action to continue to study (in theory, at least!).  I can read through the book in a hurry since I already know all the little details.  Typically my go-to reads for exam periods is Tamora Pierce (Protector of the Small most often).

Last year I didn’t re-read anything.  It was all new books after finishing off my schooling for good.  It was a fun year!

This year there has been no Tamora Pierce as I revisited Harry Potter, some Maria V Snyder and Diane Duane.  I suspect I’ll get back to Tamore Pierce next year as there might be (finally) a new one of hers out.  

I have no regrets about re-reading so much!  Sure, I found new favourite when I did read new books,  but while reading new books is fun but there is a risk of reading a bad book.  Many of the books I read this year were merely ‘meh’ or average books.  

So if anyone gives you flack for re-reading ‘too much’ send them to me!  I will defend re-reads to my dying breath!  Please don’t ever feel like you are not a ‘good’ reader because you re-read old books instead of new to you books. 

The last page

thoughtsAre you the type of person to read the last page/chapter before the end of the book to see how it ends and then finish reading the book or do you need to read the book in order, no skipping allowed?

For me, I never really understood how people can skip all the good stuff to spoil the end!  yet my mother swears by this reading method: first read the first few chapters to get a sense of the book, plot and main characters, then read the last few pages of the book to know how it goes, then read all the middle.  It’s apparently something to do with not wanting to wait to see how it ends and makes the reading part more enjoyable and I think it also has to do with her reading books over the course of weeks so she doesn’t need to wait forever to figure out how it goes.  Yet, that just seems to suck the fun out of the book!

What do you think?  Which type of person are you and why?

I will saw, though, that I will still read books that I have been spoiled for if I wanted to read it before I was spoiled, but I do also go and spoil myself for books that I don’t really want to read but am interested enough to want to know what happens.  So in a way you can say I do actually ‘read the last chapter’ before reading the middle in certain cases. But that’s different?

I really want to know how you do it!  Please tell me!

My Number

thoughtsI read an average of 40-50 pages per hour.

There, I said it.  THE scary number for any reader.  It has shame associated with it as, for some reason, reading slowly is seen as this terrible thing even though you are spending time doing something you like.  Why would the time it took you to do that thing you like to do in your own personal time be something to be ashamed of?  Then if you happen to be graced with fast reading abilities there is shame because people don’t believe you read that fast, that you are bragging, or think you can’t get as much out of a book then if you read slower (for real I have a friend that had an old white man professor at a university berate her in public in class for reading too fast because somehow that meant she read it contemptuously??).  

My number is longer then a minute per page.  That’ll seem quite slow for most people, but I’d expect it’s actually in the average range for reading speed.  While I know I can, and do on occasion read faster, I don’t in general do.  I like to take my time reading and also read every word.  At this pace I often catch foreshadowing and little important clues to the story.  I have greater recall when I’m reading at this pace then when I’m reading faster.  Also this pace includes me stopping to think about things or to savour a line to to go back to re-read a paragraph (often to make connections) I want to.  It includes a scribble or two for notes for my review.  It does not include phone time or TV time or computer time.  It’s my no technology, butt in a chair with only a book reading rate.  It’s my average number. 

Now my number depends on things like page size, font, story content, how tired or interested I am, etc.  There are times when I read faster and times when I read slower, but on average that is my magic number.  Obviously, I’m also talking about physical book pages as e-readers and reading on phones is a different beast with different screen sizes. 

Everyone has their own number and it’s pointless to compare your number to someone else’s number too much as everyone is different and wants and needs different things out of books.  Some people don’t need to read every word.  I don’t.  Some people like to take the time to sound out new names they encounter.  I most often don’t.  Some people want to take time to write down a quote they really connect with.  I do too. Some people like to take a break to text a loved one in the middle of a gory death scene.  Everyone reads differently so everyone’s number is different. 

My number is my number.  I like my number and it works for me.  I hope you like your number and it works for you.  If you want, you can share your number in comments and pledge with me to not 1) be ashamed of our numbers and 2) not make someone else feel ashamed for their number.