50 Shades of Readers

VanGogh woman reading“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 Hate Reader: People who love to gripe about the books they read, especially popular novels like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey.

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:

  • Plot
  • Character
  • Setting
  • Point of View
  • Style, Tone and Language
  • Theme

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?

AAR Maggie


Books mentioned in this piece:

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19 Responses to 50 Shades of Readers

  1. LeeB. says:

    I have some characteristics of the above types so thankfully can’t be easily categorized. :)

    • maggie b. says:

      I enjoyed being categorized. It’s nice to know there are enough others out there like me that we deserve a category. :-)

  2. Maria D. says:

    I have never really thought about what kind of reader I am – like you I’m heavily invested in plot, character development and setting. I do read at night sometimes but have to admit that lately I haven’t really stayed up late reading a book – unfortunately right now I’m kinda in a reading slump…not sure why…but I do know I will have to get out of it because I’m definitely also a chronological bookophile (though a lot of my books are on kindle lately)

    • maggie b. says:

      My TBR is what kept me from being a Book Swagger (ther person who picks up free books). I can barely stand to purchase books even for Kindle anymore. I just have so much stuff to read!

  3. Leigh says:

    Several of them fit pieces of me at times– I can be a Hate Reader but most of the time I don’t finish the book. At times I am the chronological reader, but then again most of the times not. Every once in a while I am the cross-under but again not often and so it goes. . .

    • maggie b. says:

      I think we all have a bit of hate reader in us but the difference is that most of us pick up the book with good intentions. I always have some reason for wanting to read the book. The problem is when it destroys my reading time by really being sucky!

  4. Bona says:

    I think I can be several types of reader.
    On the one hand, I could be a ‘Delayed Onset Reader #1’, because I love to buy books but it takes me ‘some time’ to get around to actually reading them all –my TBR pile goes to the ceiling.
    On the other hand, I’m a ‘Cross-Under’, I’m an adult that can read YA but at the same time I read everything else –novels and non-fiction, for any age.
    Of course, I’m ‘The Sleepy Bedtime Reader’ as I do always read before I go to sleep.
    So in the end I think the closer description is ‘The All-the-Timer/Compulsive/Voracious/Anything Goes Reader’ – I do carry a book or e-reader everywhere because well, I could be considered a book addict. I read (nearly) everything. From novels to essays, from romances to sci-fi, from literary fiction to poetry or dramas. Anything, really.

    • maggie b. says:

      You sound just like me! I too have a TBR that is too high for safety, carry a book everywhere, have the Kindle app on my phone “just in case” etc.
      Good to know I am not alone.

      • Bona says:

        Perhaps there’s another kind of reader the Obsesive-Compulsive Reader?

        • maggie b. says:

          Yes! Or perhaps add a category called . . .

          The Addict: You want to stop buying books. You would like to read a little less. But you can’t. You enter a bookstore and you’re like a shark in a feeding frenzy. When you come out of your daze you have two grocery bags full of books and no recollection of how you got them. You secretly fear your family will be turning you in to one of those shows about hoarders because of your TBR.

          • Pam says:

            My one rule on buying purses is that it has to be big enough to hold a standard paperback book! I ALWAYS have a book with me, albeit lately I fill that requirement with the Kindle app on my iPhone.

  5. Marianne McA says:

    Voracious, chronological, book buster who likes to cross-under. (I’m a re-reader too, but not of that variety.)
    I choose story over style – nice to have it all, but it’s the plot and the characters that draw me in.

    • maggie b. says:

      I agree that it is nice to have it all but like you I am not one to let editing issues stand in the way of enjoying a good story.

  6. RosieH says:

    Displayed on my coffee table is the latest literary prize winner but what I am actually reading is the latest Julia Quinn. What does that make me? A Reading Hypocrite?

  7. Sandlynn says:

    This is me:

    Delayed Onset Reader #1: You love to buy books but it takes you forever to get around to actually reading them.

    It’s why I take part in the reading challenges, which force me to pick up books I keep pushing aside and read them more quickly to finish each challenge.

    As for the components of a book that are important to me — of course plot and characterization are important. Otherwise, you don’t have a story. But I also put a high priority on style, tone and language because they distinguish the quality of the writing and the author’s particular talent. You could have the greatest idea for a story, but if the execution is poor, then it’s just going nowhere.

    The other elements: setting, point of view, and theme give the story its flavor, but as far as I’m concerned, I am not wedded to any particular setting, point of view or theme. I might prefer some over others, but I won’t necessarily not read something based on these elements.

    • maggie b. says:

      As for the components of a book that are important to me — of course plot and characterization are important. Otherwise, you don’t have a story. But I also put a high priority on style, tone and language because they distinguish the quality of the writing and the author’s particular talent. You could have the greatest idea for a story, but if the execution is poor, then it’s just going nowhere.

      I agree about style, tone and language. What I don’t get hung up on are typos. Those I tend to read right over.

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  9. Pam says:

    I am definitely a mishmash of several types of reader. I would say that I am a Swag Master Bookophile, Anti-Social Reader with Delayed Onset Type 1. I am a Voracious Reader/Re-reader of many genres.

    My hubby is the Hopelessly Devoted type.

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