Friday, September 09, 2005

What kind of reader are you? Some thoughts

I saw this question a while back, and I cannot quite recall where. However, I made a note of it to maybe toy with it, see where it led me. I think when asked I would have to say that I am a very picky, yet very eclectic. Allow me to explain. On the one hand, I am fairly particular about what I will read. I have certain favorite genres that I favor. I am sure most readers can say something similar. I enjoy science fiction, some fantasy, some literary fiction, and a variety of nonfiction. I read in both English and Spanish. In terms of literary fiction, this is an area I have been favoring less over time, at least when it comes to American Literature. I could care less about most contemporary white American writers. When it comes to my literary fiction, by which I mean the mainstream stuff that gets often nominated for awards like the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and others, I usually take a pass unless it is really outstanding or someone recommended it to me. In terms of literary fiction, I tend to prefer items written overseas; I just prefer to explore stuff from around the world. I have written before that my only regret as a reader, if I can have one, is that I can't read three or four more languages. That just happens to be my taste, and I am not apologizing for it. It's in the Reader's Bill of Rights. Here is where the eclectic part of me as a reader comes in. I very often will read a book based on a good recommendation, especially if the recommendation comes from someone I know. I may take the risk of finding the book is not the type of reading I favor, but I take the chance. I figure people who recommend a book do so in good faith, and they are taking a chance in revealing their own tastes by telling you, so I figure they at least deserve a chance from me. Anyhow, that is just some of my little ways when it comes to what I like. I am betting a few readers out there may be cringing at reading this, perhaps one or two may think less of me, "oh, but you mean you do not read such and such?" I guess it is the risk I take in writing about this. But this does not totally answer the question of what kind of reader I am.

I think I try to be as open minded as possible. I also try to read as much as possible not just for pleasure but also for work. Reading is an essential part of my life; it is not only a learning tool; it helps define me and helps me make meaning of the world around me. I am also a reader who likes to share what he reads. That is part of the reason I try to make notes on things I read in blogs; additionally, I often recommend books to others, and I love giving mini-booktalks to anyone who will listen. I keep book lists. All sorts of book lists. I don't get through all of them, but I like the idea of keeping them to give me ideas of what to read next. Further, lists often give a sense of what other people may be reading, which I always find interesting. I am the type of reader who during the commute tries to see what else other people on the bus are reading (there is another little post waiting to happen).

Are there things I won't read? Sure, there are a few. But usually I have decided not to read something after having tried it out at least once. I am believer that someone condemning a book should at least read it for themselves. Taking the word of someone who probably did not read it either other than some conveniently selected passages is not a valid way to assess a book. Read it then decide for yourself. I am that type of reader; I like to be able to read what I want and to decide for myself. If it is not within the types of things I like, I don't read it. It does not mean it is a condemnation; it means it is not the book for me (see Ranganathan's Laws on this). However, if I am to condemn something because it is a bad idea or a poor argument, or it promotes hate/discrimination/intolerance, I will at least try to know what is in the pages. As for the last category, hate/discrimination/intolerance, I can be very vocal about denouncing such. I believe people may have the right to say it, but we have the right to denounce and counter them. To be able to do so, you have to be a good and well educated reader. This means knowing where you stand and where they stand. Sometimes you have to read what the enemy writes in order to know how to counter him/her.

So, what have I learned from this little exercise? Well, for one I read a lot. Two, I try to keep it diverse, but I don't always succeed. I think that is ok, that is part of striving. The best part I think is this: I am a defiant reader. Yes, I want to be able to challenge what I read as well as those who write it, those who favor it and those who oppose it. What I read is my choice and my business, not anyone else's unless I choose to share it with them. I am defiant, but I hope I am also fun. After all, there is an element of fun in being defiant. By the way, I wonder if the label "Defiant Reader" is open, sounds like a great blog title.

And since I like to share things about reading, allow me gentle readers to share a couple of other things:

  • As many readers may know, it was recently revealed that Victoria Beckham declared that she had never read a book in her life. The Guardian had a recent article reflecting on the choice not to read, which is also found in the Reader's Bill of Rights. Some food for thought. As an update, she has later said that she has read books, she just never finishes them.
  • The Christian Science Monitor for August 11, 2005 featured an article about our all time favorite Readers' Advisor Nancy Pearl. This reminds me I have to run out and buy her new book. I loved the first one. Anyhow, she reassured me it is ok to have categories you do not get into; true crime is one of hers. She also believes, and I agree, that one should not finish a book one is not enjoying. Way I see it, the world has too many good books to waste your time on a poor one. She mentions the 50 page rule, which I suppose works for some people. I personally have no rule when it comes to that. In the article, she is quoted as saying, "'believe me,' she says, "nobody is going to earn any points for slogging their way through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read." She finishes probably one book for every five she starts.'"Hmm, I never really counted my reading completion ratio. Something to think about? Anyhow, happy readings to everyone.

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