Reading Habits

In Megan’s recent post on To Have and to Hold she talked about needing to have just the right bookmark before starting a book. It got me thinking about reading habits.

I am afraid my children and I are not fussy at all about bookmarks. In fact, all of us are so eager to dive into a good book we forget to provide ourselves with one. In my kids’ books I’ve found “bookmarks” including facial tissue (unused, thankfully!), doll clothing, hair ties. I’m not much better. If I can’t find an appointment reminder postcard, I just search all of our current books. Yesterday I thought I lost the case for my reading glasses; later I found it stuck in a book. The silly thing is that I have so many nice bookmarks: beaded and bejeweled ones I’ve gotten as gifts, author bookmarks I’ve gotten at conference booksignings. Every once in a while I make an effort to remember to use them…

In our household, the bathroom is a favorite reading location. Where else can you be truly alone? My oldest stayed in the bathroom over 45 minutes after bringing home the first Harry Potter. We finally had to send a search party… I also like to read in the kitchen, if I’m eating a meal by myself (we’ve got a rule about trying to be sociable at meals) or if I’m waiting for water to boil. I’ve come close to ruining dinner a few times but the good thing is my kids would understand and forgive me!

Sometimes on the weekends when I’m sick of the honey-do list, I will actually sit down, either on the couch in our family room or (now that the weather’s nice) on our closed porch, and just read for an hour or two. Heaven!

I can read any number of non-fiction books at a time but I can only read one novel. I can’t read romance at all while I’m actively writing. It’s not because I worry that someone else’s voice will infect mine. (I’ve never caught myself writing like someone else–I’d have to work really hard to do that, I think.) It’s really because when I’m reading or writing romance, I like to identify with the heroine and fall in love with the hero. I just can’t do that with two couples at once! So I read romance in between drafts.

I used to finish every book I started. If I didn’t like the beginning, I always hoped (for my sake and the author’s) that it would get better. I’ve finally realized that it hardly ever does. I don’t mind if the plot develops slowly but the characters must interest me. If not, I don’t bother finishing. Life is too short and my TBR list is too long!

So how about you? Do you have any reading quirks? What are your favorite places and times to read? Can you read multiple books at once? Do you always finish? Do share!



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Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I can almost ditto most of your reading habits, except I do tend to find one of my bookmarks for what I’m reading and I hardly ever read while cooking (I’m so not-a-cook)

But I can read any number of non-fiction books at a time but only one fiction. I don’t read Regency romance when I write either, but sometimes I do read other historical periods. I rarely read contemporaries.

It was a marvelous revelation to me to learn that I didn’t have to FINISH a book, not even a good one! The sky really does not fall on my head and all the planets do stay in orbit. Sometimes I read a good book until I think, “Okay, now I know why people like this book.” but then I never finish it!

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

I like to read any period other than Regency when I am writing, and I have to admit that I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, so it’s not an issue.

I don’t read in the bathroom, although the men in my house do. And like Diane, I was amazed to realize I didn’t have to finish things, now I blithely toss them aside if I don’t like them.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I have a bookmark hierarchy. 🙂 First choice is a real bookmark, and when I’m running out of those, I know I’m overdue for another writers conference! Failing bookmarks, used baseball tickets are the right shape and size to substitute, and since we have a 16-game plan for the Mariners, we have a lot of them lying around. If I have neither bookmarks nor tickets, I’ll use a magazine insert card, but they’re not really the right shape.

I generally have two books going at once, a research book and a fun book, which can be either fiction or non. More books than that and I lose focus. I haul my books with me wherever I go, because so much of my reading time is commuting on the bus or at lunch at work.

I have no problem whatsoever not finishing a book that isn’t working for me. Life is too short and there are too many good books in the world to waste time on anything that doesn’t hold my interest!

Georgie Lee
14 years ago

I have so many bookmarks from my RWA chapters that I make a point of using one for each of the multiple books I’m usually reading.

Like Diane, it took me a while to realize that I don’t have to finish a book, especially if I don’t like it. I used to force myself to finish. However, my TBR list is so long, I have to give up on a book if it isn’t engaging me.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I have a rather complicated reading schedule. I usually have something to read for my commute, altho if I am reading through something for a friend or judging a contest entry I take hard copy with me.

I also like to read just before I go to sleep, so I have another book on the go upstairs, usually something lighter (because otherwise I’ll stay awake reading it). I keep the library books in a bag by my bed.

I usually keep a couple of books in the bathroom, just in case. I love reading in the bathtub.

Cara King
14 years ago

I have a lovely collection of bookmarks, kept in a very pretty holder. But do I use them? Rarely. Elena, I’m just like you — if I can’t find my to do list, my receipt, my urgent piece of mail, I look in one of the books I’m reading.

And I’ll leave a trail of these things behind me…for example, I might read a book at the kitchen table, and use my grocery list as a bookmark…then read on the bed, and leave my grocery list on my bedside table and keep my place with a movie stub, then leave the stub in my office and keep my place with a piece of paper that says “send $10 to Amanda” or “nutty nuts wacky odd psycho crazy” or something…

I’ve always done it — when I was in junior high, I’d get on the bus and not be able to find my bus pass, then frantically page through all my textbooks and Half Magic till I found it…

And I read in the bathroom, too. Nice and quiet, and no one asking you what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow or whether Heroes is a rerun… 🙂


14 years ago

Other than carrying three or four books around with me wherever I go…No, I can’t say that I do have any quirks. I mean everyone needs to have that many books. What if I finish the one I’m reading now and need to start another one at the stop light? And what if I don’t like the new one I pick up? I have to have at least one more on reserve until I can get home, the UBS, bookstore or library to pick up another one?


14 years ago

I tend to read lots of books simultaneously. When I was younger, and didn’t read quite so many books simultaneously, I actually used to just remember what page number I was on in each book. But as time went on and my TBR list grew, that proved impractical. 🙂 So now I do use bookmarks, and I keep a pile of them near the bed, which is ground zero of my TBR catastrophe. (I keep a smaller pile in my office, but I regrettably rarely have time to read even work-related books there.)

With magazines, I often dog-ear the pages when I put them down, but I could never bring myself to do that with books! I almost never write margin notes, either. I remember reading a book by Marilyn vos Savant in which she claimed that not writing in the margins indicated that you were not intellectually free. I wrote in the margin of that book “What an idiotic thing to say,” or something to that effect. But I can’t think of many other times I’ve done it. 🙂 I keep notebooks for stuff I want to write down.

Of course, many people do write in books, and more power to them. But it always amazes me to find stuff written in library books. Do they really believe their thoughts are so precious they must be shared with everyone else who reads that book? Or maybe it’s all the work of Marilyn vos Savant.


14 years ago

Cara wrote:

And I read in the bathroom, too. Nice and quiet, and no one asking you what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow or whether Heroes is a rerun… 🙂

Well, excuuuuuuuuuse me! Next time I’ll just look it up on Yahoo.


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I also read in the bathroom, the bathtub is a particular favorite. There’s nothing like a bubble bath, a glass of wine and a good book! I also read on the subway, the bus, while I eat when alone (either at home or in a restaurant), and on the beach. I’m always juggling at least two or three books, one non-fiction, one romance, and one mystery. I don’t read YA while I’m writing, unless it is contemporary since I’m now writing a historical YA.

I used to read every book from start to finish, but now if it doesn’t capture my attention by at least page 100, I’m done. I have a stack of books that just didn’t make the cut.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Todd said:
But it always amazes me to find stuff written in library books.

This reminded me of something. When I first started reading traditional Regencies, I couldn’t get enough of them, so I was a frequent visitor to the local used bookstore. Helen, one of my writing friends (also a trained editor) was remarking about a Regency she read once that was so poorly copy-edited that she got out her red pen and marked every one of the errors. I said, “Hey, I read that book!” It had red marks all through it.
I just bought another used out-of-print book for research and it is full of underlines and notes. I feel like my privacy has been invaded by a stranger.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Ooh, bathtub reading! I’d almost forgotten how I used to love it. I must indulge again sometime.

As to writing in the margins (especially in library books) color me inhibited too. Yes, I’m sometimes tempted to highlight interesting or useful passages in reference books, but I use bookmarks (well, random slips of paper) instead. Maybe sticky notes could work but many of the books I use are too old or fragile for that.

14 years ago

I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with quirks.

I have to have an actual bookmark in use, unless it’s an emergency and all I have are magazine order forms or some piece of paper (oh, I also have to rotate my bookmarks).

The best times to read depend on what I’m reading, usually two at a time. General entertainment are good during the day, but my more mature books are best left for the late evenings (without distractions of tv or my husband making fun of me).

I cannot stand when books have markings or folded corners on a book! That stemmed from rules of etiquette from my grade school librarian and for my overall love of books.

I love to horde books (they are my friends) and it is very difficult to part with them. Plus, I have a whole shelving arrangement quirk, but that’s another story!

14 years ago

Elena wrote:

I’m sometimes tempted to highlight interesting or useful passages in reference books, but I use bookmarks (well, random slips of paper) instead.

If I spot an error in a book, I will sometimes jot down a correction on a slip of paper and stick it into the book at the appropriate page. It’s a far cry from when I was a kid, when I assumed that no one was allowed to publish anything in a book unless it was absolutely correct. 🙂


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