My Funky Reading Habits

I’ve gotten better about not always finishing books that I start, which is a very good thing. Feeling compelled to finish a book I don’t like has been a bit of a curse for me—a curse I’ve had hanging over my head since high school.

Case in point: One year in English we were running out of time to read a novel before the end of term. Miss Drummond (whom I idolize; it’s because of her I’m a grammar fascista) summarized something like ten chapters and then told us to skip ahead.

I COULDN’T DO IT. I had to read the whole thing, which necessitated a few long nights of extra homework so I wouldn’t fall behind the rest of the—sane—class.

I know. I’m a sad, sad person.

Part of my obsession with finishing books is getting personal "credit" for them, because for many, many years, I’ve kept a running tally of the books I read. If I don’t finish a book, I can’t very well put it on my list of books I’ve "read" for the year, now can I?

Well, for 2008, I decided to make a sub-list: "Partially-read Titles." I cannot tell you how liberating that list has been. So far I’ve added half a dozen books to it in just the first five months of 2008. That is UNHEARD of for me.

Yippee! What freedom!

My other reading habits are still a bit odd, and I’m the first to admit it. The other day my husband noticed me swapping between various books and teased me about leaving four—yes, FOUR—books on the couch, all with bookmarks in them.

"Exactly how many books are you reading right now?" he asked.

"Oh, not that many," I assured him, with a dismissive wave of my hand. And then I began counting.

I always have at least one book in my purse or in the car. Ya never know when you’ll have time to read in a waiting room, lobby, or whatever. A car book is a MUST. That’s one.

There’s the one I’m reading to the kids at bedtime. That’s two.

The novel hubby and I read together before bed. That’s three.

The book I read a page or two of each night as I brush my teeth. That’s four.

And the classic I’m slowly working my way through (it’s not one you can sit down and absorb hundreds of pages of in a sitting, but I do love it). Five.

The library book I need to get through because it’s due in a couple of days. Six.

And don’t forget the one that #2 and I started awhile back and haven’t gotten around to finishing. Seven.

And the audio book I’m listening to via iPod. Eight.

The non-fiction book I pick up when I have a few spare minutes. Nine.

Not to mention two writing books I’ve cracked open a bit here and there but haven’t really committed to reading. I don’t think I should count those, though. Not until I have actual bookmarks in them.

I did have two books I was going through for research, but that project is on a backburner, so I'm not finishing them right now.

(No, I don’t have a book in the bathroom. At least, not right now. I have read plenty of books that way in the past, though. For now, that’s where I do my magazine reading. Of course.)

I have a stack of other books waiting for me on my dresser. I have two big cardboard boxes stuffed with books that I’m "storing" for my parents while they’re away. (In reality, Mom let me raid her bookshelves before she packed them up prior to their latest mission. She’s got some of the coolest books ever.) Then there’s the huge list of books I plan to read that grows faster than I take away from it.

Hubby asked if keeping all the stories and writing styles straight isn’t a bit difficult. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I suppose it is a bit odd to flip between Victorian literature, Fantasy, Non-fiction, LDS literature—and a couple of other genres—in the course twenty-four hours.

Or maybe I just have a short attention span.

Hey, look! What’s that over there?

Comments

I'm the same way. I have half read books all over the house. I have to be careful to keep track of them or else they wander off with one of the teenagers and I never see them again.

I compare it to channel surfing. My husband can change the channel every few minutes and keep track of several shows. I figure book surfing is better because I don't have to put the book down until the end of a chapter.
I have a thing about always finishing books that I start. I think I can count on one hand the ones I've stopped.

As for several books, it's just been recently that I've been reading more than one book at a time. Before it was always just one book.

Right now I have three.

And I don't think writing books counts unless you actually are reading them back to back.
Tirzah said…
I had a hard time finishing any book that I was required to read in high school. Now I do a lot better because I can choose and there is no one requiring me to read them. I also have a hard time reading a lot of books because I just can't like the characters and I don't want to continue to read something I hate. I also usually have several books that I am reading and several more that I intend to finish, but haven't picked up in a while. Thanks for sharing!
Julie Wright said…
I am so like you. I have finished some pretty horrible books in my day. I think a partially-read list might be good for me! You are a kindred spirit Annette.
kelliemcc said…
That is a lot of stories to keep straight! I have guilt too if I don't finish a book. Even if I am not enjoying it I just have to know what happens!
Don said…
Yeah, this sounds about right.

- Bedtime book with kids
- Bedtime book with spouse
- Audiobook in car with kids
- Audiobook in car by myself
- Book I am currently "reading"
- Book I stopped reading but the bookmark is still there, in case I decide to go back.

Clearly I am still a learner. With such examples to follow, however, I will soon reach my full reading potential.
Ines said…
You ARE crazy! I thought I was bad, but you've got me beat!
I have the problem of feeling like I have to finish a book only if I'm a ways into it. I have no problem putting a book down if I'm only a chapter or two into it.
As far as reading multiple books, keeping track of them is no harder than keeping track of what's going on with your parents and your siblings and your in-laws. All different people, all different stories.
Annette Lyon said…
Book surfing! I love that phrase, Stephanie!

Ines, I read about 1/100 the speed you do. Maybe. On a fast day. I could never keep up with you.
Brillig said…
Hey!!! I had Miss Drummond too, and idolized her too! And I have a similar problem with HAVING to finish a book that I start, even if I'm not enjoying it at all. (I'm the same way with TV shows, sadly enough.) As for the multiple book thing, I pretty much stick with just my scriptures and one book, MAYBE two. I'm not clever enough for more than that, I guess!
Jaime Theler said…
I used to keep a list, and even ranked the books with stars. Then I had kids and had to bag that idea. I also read multiple books at a time. I would have to add a "chucked across the room because it was so horrible" list (a really bad habit, I know) and a "put it down but never quite picked it up list" too.
hi annette -- i do this, too. i have partially read books all over my life. kinda rare when a book actually captures my attention, making me want to devour it and read it all the way through quick. that rarely happened.

night night annette.

thanks for continuing to stop by. always a pleasure to hear from you. kathleen
Josi said…
Wow--I thought I was bad, but . . . wow. I'm jealous of your ability to keep the story lines separate--that's truly a gift. I usually have a couple I'm reading a few I'm anxious to get to--as well as a non-fiction that dogs me, but . . . wow.
Jenna Consolo said…
Ditto. But life is more fun that way!

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