Monday, November 17, 2008

What Kind of Reader Are You?

I wrote a blog on this same subject the other day at another website, but loved the answers I got from readers over there so much that I thought I'd pose the same question to all of you as well.

There are all kinds of readers in the world—those who love books, those who like books, those who are pretty indifferent to books and those who read only when they have absolutely nothing else to do in the world, just to name a few. It will probably come as a surprise to none of you that I, like most writers, fall into the category of those who love and can’t live without books.

Interestingly enough, however, I married a man who reads only when forced (unless it’s some boring, boring, boooooring electrical engineering or sports magazine. Then he’s all eyes). This is the same man who—each of the seven times we’ve moved in our twelve year marriage—has done nothing but complain about having to carry my fifty or so big, heavy boxes of books. The same man who enlisted the help of movers this last time, and who had them moaning almost as loudly about my book boxes as he usually does.

Which is just one of the reasons I found it so funny—and sweet—when my big strong alpha male sat down with his copy of A Christmas Wedding within hours of my receiving my author copies in the mail-- and read it cover to cover. What I found even more amusing, was that when this big, tough guy-- who has very little use for books that don’t contain copious amounts of technical information—was finished, there wasn’t one crease in the book’s spine. Or one dog-eared page. Nor was a drop of water—or anything else—allowed to come within twenty feet of the book.

“Books,” he told me, with that serious look he has when he means business. “are sacred and should be revered.” And then he walked away, after a pointed glance at the book in my hand—which was, I should explain, tattered, stained, dog-eared and nearly coverless. It was also only two days old.

I know, I know. Most people think this scenario should be just the opposite--that it should be I, the book lover, who treats books with the reverence they so deserve. That it should be I, the literature professor, who protects and values books. To which I say, reverence is in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, my books often look like they’ve gone through a war zone by the time I’m done with them—and the more I enjoyed them, the more use they show. But that’s because I hold down two jobs, mother three boys, cook, clean and play chauffeur on a regular basis. And my books go everywhere with me. They go to football practice, where they chance being dropped in the mud or run over on the field. They go to the gym where, often or not, sweaty workout clothes or a wet bathing suit rest next to them in my gym bag. They stay in the kitchen with me while I cook, so that I can grab them and read a page or two while I wait for something to finish cooking. They hang out on the floor with me when I’m wrestling with the baby and risk getting milk or banana or any number of things smeared on them. They ride in the car with me, and get trampled by tennis shoes, cleats, and hiking boots. They go in the bath with me and deal with wet fingers or worse—being knocked into the water by my two year old as he tries to climb in the water with me. I can barely survive a day in the life of me—is it any wonder that my fragile paperbacks have an even rougher time?

But then, I’m not sure I would have it any other way. For if I read only when I had time, as my husband does, I doubt I would ever pick up a book. And that would make me a miserable, miserable person—not to mention a terrible writer and a worse English professor.

So what kind of reader are you? Are your books perfect when you’re done with them—like my husband and best friend, who wouldn’t let me open her copy of A Christmas Wedding fully, even when she wanted me to sign it? Are they disasters, as mine often are? Or do you fall somewhere in the middle?


Helen said...


I read every chance I get I love my books life wouldn't be the same without the joy of reading and going on wonderful adventures all over the world and in different times. But my books are really well looked after I always have one in my bag but in a bag to protect it but they do age and I have so many that I read back in the 70's and since that do show how old they are. Some have finger marks on them from my grandchildren who love to grab them of the book shelf but they are learning to leave Nana's books alone they are precious to me.

Have Fun

Gina said...

I just love, love, absolutly love to read books. My books are in good condition. I dont like to see creases in them but sometimes l re-read them so it cant be helped.

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

I read all of the time and I have books in my car, tote bag, purse and unlike your DH, mine are creased, have chocolate smears, torn pages from my dog Annie, and I adore each and everyone of them. So much so, that I share with friends and family every chance I get plus post reviews. The reviews are my appreciation for the authors' efforts and thanks for the pleasure the book gave me.

Pat Cochran said...

I'm a reader who loves her books,
especially the autographed copies!
The ACs do receive loving care, those
that are not signed get normal every
day care. The non-signed copies are
shared, the ACs are not !

Pat Cochran

Tracy Wolff said...

Helen and Gina-- my husband would be impressed, as am I.

Marilyn-- I'm with you. I lend books out all the time and my friends always laugh at the dog-eared pages and cooking smears ;)

Alyn said...

I love reading books. I read it whenever I get the chance to. I also tell my husband about the books after I read them, like an oral story, and he loves listening to them. Well, some of them any way. Most of the books I buy/receive are in good condition still. The only ones that are somewhat tattered are the ones I sometimes buy online that are used.

Avi J said...

l love reading but l do not lend my books. One time l let my sister take home one, and the book came back with stains and her dog teared a few pages. I have them in great condition and organize them according to author and series. What l do is tell them where l bought it.

Ellen said...

I am one of those who loves books and always has one with her. My books can be in very good shape or trashed depending on where I went with it.

Liza said...

Mine fall somewhere in the middle. For the most part, my books look really great, but every once in a while one will start looking bad. Normally the ones that look the worse are the ones I've read over and over again.

Michele L. said...

Reading is the way of life with me! I read every chance I get! I save a lot of my books and have lot's of favorite authors.

Have a great week!
Michele L.