“All sentences are not created equal,” Jenny Davidson tells us in Reading Style: A Life in Sentences. Her tale is not so much about “which books must be read than about how to read.” Her main conversational point is the “sentence, sometimes the paragraph, its structure and sensibility, its fugitive feel on the tongue.” In other words, Ms. Davidson is talking about the value of a book derived not from the book’s life lessons or even overall cohesive tale but its structure – the beauty and efficacy of its prose.
Davidson looks at writers Gary Lutz, Lydia Davis and Jonathan Lethem, Peter Temple, Neil Gaiman and Jane Austen (among others) to show us the value of different sentence styles in the enjoyment of literature. Of Austen she says “Austen’s prose is remarkable in being at the same time supremely stylized, crafted, controlled and also exceptionally productive of identification and empathy.” I will admit that her look at the beginning paragraphs of Emma had me admiring the literary genius of Ms. Austen even more than I typically do. I hadn’t closely examined her prose before. I tend to read for the story – my love of certain plot lines has led me to find acceptable certain authors whom I know have less than stellar writing styles. (I am thinking of Suzanne Brockmann here whose prose does not bear up under the kind of scrutiny that Ms. Davidson applies to books but whose stories I have found incredibly fun.)
Reading Style’s discussion of the love of prose had me thinking about what I love in a good book and how that differs from what others love in a book. Poking around the web revealed that I was hardly the first to look at how readers differ. The Wire had a great deal of fun discussing various reader types – they came out with the following diagnostic initially:
The Chronological Reader: You methodically read your way through what you buy.
The Book Buster: You have a home strewn with books, many with bent spines and food stains on the pages. You love books but you abuse them.
Delayed Onset Reader #1: You love to buy books but it takes you forever to get around to actually reading them.
Delayed Onset Reader #2: You buy beautiful books to display but you never read them. You don’t even like reading.
The Bookophile: You love books, the feel of them, the smell of them. You just love them all.
The Cross-Under: You’re an adult who reads YA or a kid who reads adult novels. You choose your own books and don’t let labels get in your way.
The Multi-Tasker: Also known as the promiscuous reader. You have lots of books going at once and rarely finish any of them.
The Sleepy Bedtime Reader: You fall asleep with a book on your face.
Realizing that the above didn’t cover nearly enough types they did an addendum:
The Book Snob: Award nominees only, please.
The Hopelessly Devoted: You stick to the authors you like, and you read them, pretty much exclusively.
The Audiobook Listener: Obviously, you like to listen.
The Conscientious Reader: Non-fiction only.
The Critic: You are critical of what you read, scathing to what you hate, effusive to those you love. “You allude to metaphors and figurative language and concepts and conceits and plot points in daily conversations.”
The Book Swagger: “You’re the one wandering around book conventions with that acquisitive gleam in your eye and a pile of ARCs in your tote bag. If it’s free, you’ll take it, and even if it’s not, you’ll try to get it for free.”
The Easily Influenced Reader: You’ll take a recommendation from anyone.
The All-the-Timer/Compulsive/Voracious/Anything Goes Reader: You carry a book or e-reader everywhere because you’re an addict.
The Sharer: You read something you like and you have to tell everyone.
The Re-Reader: You know what you like and you stick with it.
Looking at what Ms. Davidson talked about in Reading Style and what The Wire was speaking of in their articles had me thinking that there are several different components to what actually make up our reading style. There is how we treat the books, how often and how much we read and what we look for in a read. In terms of what we look for it is probably easiest to examine the elements of fiction which are:
- Point of View
- Style, Tone and Language
It was easy for me to prioritize the above. While certain writing styles might grate on my nerves the fact is the most important elements to me are plot, characters and setting. For someone who is obsessed with writing errors it would be clear that style, tone and language are far more important to them than they would be to me. Many readers get stuck on theme – they glom Westerns, Historical Romance, or Inspirationals almost exclusively. I read a fairly wide variety. So, reviewing all of the above here is how I come out:
I am a Voracious reader who concentrates on plot, character and setting. I like different points of view, different themes and differing styles. I am a Chronological, Book Busting Bookophile who likes to Cross-Under and Share. I do read at bedtime but since this results in lost sleep rather than falling asleep while reading I don’t really meet that profile. And while I do re-read it is far, far less than the amount of new reading I do so I didn’t count that either.
Looking at other lists I learned that I am also a Swag Master (Fast Reader) and the “Can’t Eat Alone in Public Without a Book” reader.
Do you have a reading type? If so, what kind of reader are you?
Books mentioned in this piece: