Friday, August 18, 2006

Rules for reading, well, if I followed rules.

Joyce Saricks had a column on the April 1, 2006 issue of Booklist entitled "Rules for Readers--and That Means Librarians, Too!" I read it via the old library routing, which explains why it took me a while to get to it. Now, my two readers know that I pretty much prefer to throw rules out when I can, but I found the article to be a nice affirmation of things I do as a reader. When it comes to reading, I am a bit eclectic, a mixed bag. Sure, there are things I enjoy regularly, but I wander now and then. Since life is short, I don't believe in wasting time on a bad book. Saricks cites Nancy Pearl's 50 page rule. I will usually try to give a book the 50 page chance, but if it loses me on page 25, it's gone. I used to feel a need to read cover to cover. Not anymore. I am now a liberated reader.

Mood also plays a role in my reading habits. Mood is Saricks's second rule: "mood determines what books we enjoy at any given time." I usually have two to four books going at any given time because I know I have different moods. Sometimes I feel like nonfiction; other times I want a novel or something short. Though Saricks does not mention this, location plays a bit of a role. I read on my commute, but I read items I can drop and return to with ease. I save the items that require a bit more concentration for home.

As for the "uncomfortable" passages reference, I actually look for those. If you tell me, "oh, that book has some steamy passages," rest assured you know what pages I will be opening. Is it gruesome? I am there. Mayhem and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Hell, I will be glad to help them saddle up, can I ride along? In seriousness, there is very little that I think would make me uncomfortable when it comes to reading, and if it did, I can always drop it.

Saricks's fifth rule is to thumb through books. I do this, especially for nonfiction. If something looks interesting, I will read a page or two to see if it draws me in. It may be the most interesting topic in history, for instance, but if the author does not draw me in, I drop it. Some current events wirters are like this: they may be engaging in person or on TV, but they are lousy on paper, even with when they have ghostwriters. I do note the reverse may be true. Overall, I sample. My better half does it too, especially with science fiction, a genre we both enjoy. She reads a lot in that genre, preferring short fiction. We buy a lot of science fiction books; we borrow a good number as well. She is a fast reader in that area, so she usually reads her stuff, then she comes digging for mine long before I get to it. "I need something to read" is a common plea from her. As a result, when we go shopping or to the library, she will sample. Though she reads a lot, she does not always remember who wrote what. So her sampling is opening the book and reading passages. She then knows if she has read a particular story or not. Of course, this does not work with a brand new story collection. However, science fiction, as well as other genres like horror and fantasy, which we read as well, often republishes "classic" stories in various anthologies, and she has read a lot of them over the years. I have to admit that I do find it amusing to watch her sampling books.

Saricks finally writes that readers should feel like no one is judging them. I would take that with a grain of salt. I think people judge others on what they read all the time. This probably includes librarians, even me. I just keep my judgments to myself when doing any form of readers' advisory. "So, you like to read so-and-so. . .sure I have some other suggestions." Even if I think so-and-so is the least common denominator, to put it mildly, it is what they enjoy, and I am happy to help them find more. At the end of the day, I am very much a believer in "live and let live." I believe in making information as well as recreational materials available and accessible to all. To be honest, I don't care what you read if it meets your needs, and you enjoy it. And if you judge me because you see me on the commute reading X-Men comics, I simply don't care. Hey, just to see your little "tsk tsk" look as you peek at me over your Nora Roberts or Joel Osteen makes it worth it, hehe. By the way, the only reason I picked those two authors is that they are very popular selections for bus riders. Actually, reading and the bus is a post topic waiting to happen. At any rate, I am a librarian and making some people uncomfortable is part of what I do. Again, see the rule above. If it makes you uncomfortable, just don't read it. Having said that, it does not mean I go for making others uncomfortable at work when they come asking for readers' advisory. Overall, the rule is simple: read what you like, enjoy what you read, and liberate yourself. And by the way, if you have any reading suggestions, send them my way.


Barbara said...

I keep plugging a book that really grabbed me - about reading, actually. It's particularly useful if you're working with a wide age range, but for academic librarians, the sections on adult readers and on reading and literacy as a social phenomenon, it's just plain fascinating. (I could do without the broken up formatting - it makes it easier to jump in and out but I prefer a smoother narrative approach.) But it's full of fascinating stuff. The title is Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals about Reading, Libraries, and Community ed. by Catherine Sheldrick Ross and published this year by Libraries Unlimited.

A couple of other books I've enjoyed recently on reading are Francis Spufford's The Child that Books Built and Maureen Corrigan's Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books. Actually, I'm thinking of taking the dust jacket with me on plane trips to wrap around whatever I'm reading. Think it would work?

As for "Rules" - my only rule is "rules, schmules."

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I will have to look that one up. I read the DIlevko on reading and library staff, which I found interesting. It was before I started the blog, so no online note. I may have to go back and look it over to make a note on it. Hey, we like suggestions in this blog, so go on right ahead. I will have to look up the others. The "Leave me alone" one sounds intriguing. Best, and keep on blogging.