How to Be a Perfect Reader

Roof Beam Reader

Now, I receive e-mails, Tweets, comments, and other inquiries from people all the time, asking how to be a “good” reader or a “better” reader.  I have kept rather mum on this subject, in general, because I like to keep these secrets to myself so that I can appear better than you all.  With the shadow of Valentine’s Day stretching toward us, though, I thought I would spread the love a bit and spill the beans on my cherished secrets, in the interest of improving the lives and abilities of my dear readers.

Instead of telling you how to be a “better” reader, though, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on how to be a perfect reader.  Being a perfect reader, to put it simply, means reading exactly the same way as I do.  You need to choose the books I choose, sit in the same positions I sit, drink the same liquids, eat the same solids.  Heck, you better even time your bathroom breaks and sleep patterns to coincide with my daily cycle.

Essentially, you have to be little bookish clones of Yours Truly.  Are you prepared for that level of literary liability? If not, then get lost – go carry on with your life as a sub-par reader.  We don’t want your kind here, anyway.  But, if you’re ready, then here we go!

Alright, enough.  If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t yet figured out that I’m being facetious, there are probably one of two things happening: A) You’re totally thinking I’m this egomaniacal jerk or B) You’re so passionately obsessed with me already that my self-lauding pomposity makes you feel all tingly.  Either option is a bit scary, so let’s just say I was channeling the satirical spirit of Jonathan Swift and move on.

In real news, though, the above charade was inspired by the below bookish-survey, which I found over at Curling Up By the Fire.  It’s all about my reading process – hope it’s interesting to some. I’m sure I’d like to hear some of your answers too!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:

I almost always have something to snack on while I’m eating which, as I get older, is turning out to be a not-so-good idea.  I’m not talking pop-tarts or pasta, though.  It’s usually crackers or pretzels – I like the “crunch, crunch” noise in my mouth, as I’m reading.  It’s a bit weird, because I’m the type of reader who needs virtual silence to really sink into and enjoy my reading – I guess internal noise-making does not bother me so much.


What is your favorite drink while reading?

I almost always have a bottle of water nearby (and I’m learning this is surprisingly standard for people who read often).  I guess reading is an exercise, after all, so one must stay hydrated.  I do also drink iced mocha coffee quite a bit while reading, and sometimes change it up with juice.  Usually water, though.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

Are you kidding?  Writing in books is a must!  I am very big on annotations, though I never used to be.  It would have been impossible to survive college and graduate school as an English/American Lit student without annotating, though, and I learned it really does enhance the experience.  I love to loan out copies of my annotated books, too, and get feedback from friends/family members who would read my notes and call me to say things like, “Wow! I didn’t know birds could be symbols!” So much fun.  But, I will qualify this by saying, I do not mark-up important editions of books. If I have a collectible or first-edition, I’ll purposely set that aside and buy a “to read” copy, which I can mark up and bend and earmark any which way I choose.


How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

I do not ever lay a book flat open to keep my page – this is the best and quickest way to irreparably break the book’s spine, which annoys the heck out of me!  I always have a bookmark.  I loan those out too, though, so I’m always in need of new ones.  I must buy one bookmark for every ten or so books that I buy, which seems unnecessary because I only ever read one book a time.  I guess I just like variety. Oh, and I like to match up larger bookmarks with large/fat books (or hardcovers) and smaller/thinner book marks for paperbacks and smaller books.  I’m so much fun.


Fiction, non-fiction, or both?

I think I have a 90/10 fiction to non-fiction ratio. I enjoy fiction much more (particularly literary fiction), but I do read non-fiction from time-to-time, typically when I read something in a book or hear about it somewhere and want to actually learn more about it.  Example: I heard about Lincoln’s inclusion of his bitterest rivals into his own Cabinet on some t.v. show, thought that was amazing and interesting, so picked up the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.


Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

I do not like being interrupted in the middle of a chapter, but sometimes there’s no choice.  If I can, I always read chapter-by-chapter (or chapters at a time), but in books with insanely long chapters (as in The Golden Mean), you have to stop where you have to stop.


Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville, which is now one of my all-time favorite books.  It wasn’t so much that the author irritated me, but that he was so good in doing what he was doing, which was confusing the reader and interweaving plot-lines to distract us from what was or wasn’t really happening. I love it now, but I hated it then, when trying to pin everything down so I could go explain it to a graduate seminar filled with people who probably hadn’t bothered to finish the book.


If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

Only if I can’t figure out its meaning from context – it doesn’t happen too often, but I love having a “smart” phone with dictionary and thesaurus applications on it. Yes, I’m that much of a nerd. I also get a “word of the day” sent to my phone every morning. =/


What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  This is my 5th Dickens, and I plan to read at least one more this year (David Copperfield).

What is the last book you bought?

Well, the last books I bought were purchased at the same time. Want a list? Okay:

Fire from Heaven – by Mary Renault

The Symposium by Plato

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Sappho

Nicholas Daneby Melvin Burgess

Oresteia by Aeschylus

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

So, I was obviously in an Ancient Classics kind of mood during my last book buying binge. I’ll soon post a picture of this stack (plus four others not mentioned) on my Facebook Fan Page.


Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

Now that I’m out of graduate school, I find it much more enjoyable to read one book at a time.  The only time this changes is if I happen to be taking part in a read-along or multiple challenges at the same time.  I don’t do that, though.


Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

I like to read when I’m alone and things are quiet.  This tends to happen only on weekends, because I work late and don’t usually have the apartment to myself when I get home (at least not for long).  I will sometimes read on my lunch break at work, but it depends on how stressed I am for the day.  Sometimes, instead of reading on my breaks, I’ll go to a bookstore and pace around until all the day’s frustrations leak out. Then, I go back to work. Joy!


Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

I am doing a series completion challenge this year because I don’t tend to finish the series’ that I begin. I guess this is a solid indicator that I prefer stand alone books, and that is probably because I prefer literary fiction or classics to any other genre (and most classics don’t have sequels).  I do like some series’, though, and I enjoy them – they’re just not my top priority.


Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

Authors: J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Irving Stone, Mark Twain

Books: Harry Potter series, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Lust for Life, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

How do you organize your books? 

Most of my books are currently in boxes in storage, but the ones I have out are in two bookcases. The first and largest case (5 shelves) is my “fiction” set, which is organized alphabetically by author.  The second, smaller bookcase (3 shelves) is my “non-fiction” set, which is also organized alphabetically by author, within genre (History, Literary Theory, Reference, etc.).  I also have piles of books behind the books on my bookcase, and on top of the bookcase, which are just the most recent purchases that have nowhere else to go yet. Oh, and I keep all of the books I have been sent by authors/agents/publishers or those that I have won in giveaways on top of a cabinet which houses my DVDs.  There are currently 15 books there, waiting to be read.

Okay, wow! I guess that’s the end of the line.  Thanks for stopping by – and feel free to share your thoughts on my answers to these questions, or give me some insight into your own bookish life.


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