Guest Post: Megan Reid on Being a Bad Reader

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much for awhile. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.

Meg Reid is another one of my pen pals.1 We started corresponding to each other when Meg was sixteen and my father, who is friends with her parents and was staying with them in the US, gave her a copy of Magic or Madness and ordered her to write me about it. Dads! Could they be more embarrassing? On this occasion though he did good and we’ve been writing to each other ever since. Oh, and now Meg’s in graduate school.2

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Megan Reid has blogged for Boston magazine, CosmoGirl, and Ypulse, and really likes writing about her little sister’s clothes. She recently bought her first ball gown. Find her on Twitter here.

Megan says:

Lately, I’ve been a little paranoid about being a bad reader. It’s kind of embarrassing, because it’s something I’ve always thought I was good at—I learned how when I was three, because I told my mom I wanted to, and allegedly I was a very strong willed child.3

Honestly, my main rationale for coming to graduate school in English, rather than Art History or Theatre like I’d spent most of my undergrad career planning to do, was that I realized that I was way better at reading than I was at acting or directing, and I didn’t really want to be a curator. Plus, it was something I liked. “How awesome would it be,” I thought, “to have my whole life for two years be going to school and learning about books, and then coming home and reading books, and then hanging out with clever grad-school people who like to talk about books, TOO?!?” It sounded ideal.4

And then I got introduced to theory. And postmodernism. And 500 pages of required reading a night. None of which was bad, exactly, but my dream scenario involved more time for napping and doing my laundry more often.5 And romance novels. Definitely more romance novels. I am very good at those.

That isn’t the reason I’m paranoid, though. Imagine my surprise when I found out a couple weeks ago that all this time, I might have been doing it ALL WRONG for eighteen years.

I read like most people do, I think, except for some little quirks, which I will now share publicly, even though they’re kind of embarrassing:

  1. When I get really into books I tend to forget to breathe, and then make embarrassing dying goldfish-ish gasping noises every few minutes.
  2. In my head, every protagonist has brown or red hair. I don’t know why, but they do. And it’s probably problematic, but that is a story for another post.
  3. I don’t read last pages first.

Which is why, after finding out inadvertently halfway through House of Mirth what happened to poor Lily, and poor Selden, and poor Gerty (oh, GOD…), I went home and wept. I literally couldn’t get out of bed for an hour. I had been reading it for class, and the next day, was soundly mocked by my friends. Evidently, they thought I should have gotten over the tragedy a little bit sooner and spent more time researching the distinctions between realism and naturalism. (Fair enough).

Obviously, I’m pretty firm on that last reading quirk. Not to suck up, but I’ll quote Justine to bolster my argument, because she said it very well, and loves House of Mirth, too:

There’s something very vulnerable about reading. When I am immersed in a good book I feel so utterly consumed by it that an unhappy ending, the *****6 of a favourite character can totally wreck me. My defenses are down. I cannot cope with the enormity of loss and grief and sorrow.


The trauma7 got me thinking, though—maybe I could have avoided my hour-long crying jag if I’d broken my commitment to reading quirk #3. I’ve never thought there was a right or wrong way to read. Some might be more effective for certain purposes (like skimming that aforementioned 500 pages of reading a night), but are some ways of reading objectively better than others? And if I’m a bad reader, how do I change it?

I know, deep down, that I’m not really a horrible reader, but I’m curious about it now. One of my clever grad-school friends (those, unlike laundry and naps are not myths) attempted to explain literacy studies to me, but even that branch of theory doesn’t quite answer my questions.

I’ve gotten seriously fascinated by how people read. I’ve started asking people questions about their reading quirks.8 It’s totally weird, and awesome, and funny. One of my friends reads lying down, so her arms don’t get tired. My mom only reads with socks on. Some people hear characters’ voices in their heads, some have specific narrators (with accents!). A guy I know told me he gets nervous when he doesn’t know how books end beforehand. A girl I studied abroad with sees colors in poetry. One of my neighbors has been known to pair books with wines—Emma goes very well with pinot gris, for example.

Clearly, there’s an upside to having my ending ruined,9 and to all this musing about right and wrong reading paranoia. And, since Justine was lovely enough to ask me to blog, I get to extend my new favorite question to all of you (since it’s finals week, I‘ll pretend it’s Very Serious Research): what are your reading quirks?

  1. Pen pal, still making me giggle. []
  2. Is a postgraduate. []
  3. Seriously. I found a book on “How to Raise the Strong-Willed Child” on my parent’s bookshelves when we moved a couple years ago. I had NO IDEA what it was doing there. []
  4. As you might be able to tell, I didn’t really take English classes in undergrad. []
  5. I won’t say how often I do it now, because my mom will probably read this, and I don’t want to shock her. []
  6. I don’t want to wreck the ending for anyone else. Seriously. Read it. []
  7. Exaggerating, obviously. Since I have now been exposed to the field of trauma studies and am fully aware this does not apply . . . []
  8. Maybe if I creatively edit them, a la Eve Ensler, I can turn them in instead of a final next quarter? []
  9. But only just barely. []


  1. Mike on #

    I like to finish books the same day I start them.

  2. kate on #

    My major reading quirk is probably a pretty common one – I can’t stop reading unless it’s at a designated number. It’s usually a multiple of five or ten. I have NO idea why this is, but I feel VERY uncomfortable finishing on, say, page 43, even if it is at the end of a chapter. Also, I often read the last line first. Just the last line, not the last page, and try and guess at its meaning as I’m reading. Other than that, I am normal! I promise!

  3. Cy on #

    Hmm… reading quirks, huh? I like to read lying down too, but that’s probably only b/c my daily quota for back-crimping chair-sitting is taken up in my sad, little cubicle at work. But quirks… real quirks… Sadly, I don’t have anything as cool as you and your dying goldfish noises. =\ I also never peek ahead to the last page, but I thought that was more par for the course (are we really in the minority with that? Most people likes to be spoiled? @_@)

    Ah, here’s a good quirk—there’s a point in every book (somewhere around the three-quarter mark) where I absolutely CANNOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN UNTIL I REACH THE END. My sister also suffers from this tendency, and we’ve come to dub this point of no return the “final stretch.” So once we get into the final stretch of a book, neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail (nor any number of vital, life-sustaining activities like eating, sleeping, bathing, etc) could peel us away from finishing that book. My family has become very understanding about this quirk, and even the half-adopted stray cat that comes to mooch food from us every day seems to know that it’s no use yowling demandingly outside the window for its snack when we’re in one of those moods. LoL~

  4. Ashley on #

    I like to read a book in a public place, though I usually hide the cover so as not to embarrass myself when I’m not reading something that makes me look smart. I like to read in noisy places as a test. If I’m into the book enough that I can focus on the words and not the coversations of others, or the music coming out of the ceiling, then I assume I’m going to like it. No matter what though, I ALWAYS finish a book I start. Something about not knowing eats away at me.

  5. Liz on #

    I don’t consider this a quirk (*ahem*) but I tend to get completely transfixed when I am reading a good book. So if, say, the house were to go up in fire, I would have no idea. I also read the book aloud in my head (i.e. I speak each word I am reading). I vividly remember my English teacher in 6th grade telling me this was the slowest way to read and I was horrified. I still think about it, but I never changed my reading style.

  6. Natalie on #

    I need to start a book in complete silence, curled up on the couch or in bed, away from people. Once I’m into a book, it doesn’t matter anymore because everything else fades away.
    Like Mike, I prefer to finish a book the same day I start it. It’s an obsessive thing – I’m the same way with tv series.

  7. Christina on #

    I talk outloud to the characters, and sometimes to the author. When a book is really engrossing, I will often scream and cackle with laughter and yell all sorts of obscenities that apparently isn’t right.

    I didn’t even think this is a quirk; I thought everyone who was really absorbed by their reading did it! Until… I was staying at my friend’s and just COULDN’T RESIST getting back to my book. She caught me on her way back from the bathroom screaming at the book “NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GET BACK GET BACK GET BACK!” Apparently screaming at books is not a normal thing. I then did a poll amongst my friends and they all giggle at funny parts, maybe gasp here and there… but certainly don’t yell and scream, and certainly don’t throw their books down when they’re mad or too scared to read on. Huh.

  8. Meredith on #

    I, too, don’t read the last page first. I do flip to the end of the book to see how many pages there are so that I can mentally keep track of how much I have left to read (quirk #2), but I do it in a way to not read anything on that page.

    I also can’t quit reading a book when I reach near the end (usually a 100 or so pages), and that has resulted in many nights up staying up until 3 am in order to finish. And if I don’t finish the book within a few days (at most), I start getting annoyed and make myself find the time to finish it.

  9. Courtney on #

    I always read the page numbers while I’m reading. Usually when I first change the page. It’s a really weird habit, I know. (nervous laugh) It often slows down my reading. ^^; Also, (and this one is probably a bit more normal) I have to read at least a little bit before bed each night, otherwise it just feels wrong! (laughs)

  10. Courtney on #

    Oh, an I second what Meredith said. I flip back and calculate how many pages I have left, too. xD

  11. Holly M on #

    When I read, I hate being disturbed. I absolutely HATE IT. I also read rather fast for my age, even compulsively, and will consume books in under a day, at the most. I get accused of skim-reading all the time, which isn’t fair, and told to slow down, which I cannot do.
    I cannot savour a book. I absolutely need to finish it in one ‘gulp’.
    I’m also one of those people who can read anywhere, be it in a turbulent bus, a car, on an escalator, or even walking up stairs.It doesn’t faze me (probably due to the obscene amount of travelling I did as a kid to visit my dad, who lived 100 miles away).

    Actually, the travelling has also contributed to my other idiosyncracies- being able to entertain myself alone as a kid/teen and also using art to stave off boredom, excessively- so probably this was affected too.
    I’ll shut up now.

  12. Grace on #

    When I read, I sort of act out little emotional expressions as I go. If somebody gasps or clears their throat, or their eyes get wide or a particular facial expression is described, I mimic it without thinking. I don’t mind – it’s kind of cool to connect with the book at that level, to live the surface of it to better understand some of the emotions – but the people around me think I’m crazy. 😉

  13. Akilah on #


    I don’t feel compelled to finish books anymore, so that whole must finish books I start thing died for me several years ago.

    I guess my biggest reading quirk is having designated bathroom books that I can then gauge how good they are by how long I stay in the bathroom reading them or if I feel compelled to take them out of the bathroom.

    Also, I always read in the bathroom, even if I’m just peeing.

  14. Aiden on #

    I have a few of the quirks mentioned above – the reading lying down; the looking at the page number each time I turn a page; and checking how many pages are in the book so I know how much I have to go.

    I also get hopelessly absorbed and attached to a good book and would never, ever, look at the ending to alleviate any grief. I kind of think the point of reading is to go on that emotional journey. I recently bawled my way through the last 20 pages of Nevil Shute’s On The Beach and couldn’t read anything else for a week until I recovered. Though when I re-read sad books, part of me always hopes things will somehow turn out differently this time.

    Also, I get insatiable cravings for whatever food is mentioned in the book. Strangely my mum gets this too, and we’ve often made late-night trips to the shop to get ingredients for curry or scones.

  15. wandering-dreamer on #

    I think I have two reading “quirks” (really, they’re perfectly normal to me!). One is that I read really fast, I think I read as fast as most people speed read/skim and, as far as I can tell, I’ve just read that fast since at least the 5th grade, maybe even 4th.
    The second thing is, and I overheard some girls talking about this when I was in the 8th grade so I learned this wasn’t true for everyone, is that I see the story all play out in my mind (sometimes I’m not even conscious of turning the pages). It’s like watching a movie except that I get people descriptions wrong all the time (I’ve had dark skinned people be pale, pale people be dark, tons of variance in the hair color, and I’m not sure if they even have different voices in my mind). Naturally this means that I love books with tons of detail in them, otherwise I start having very strange interpretations of events.

  16. rockinlibrarian on #

    Yeah, as an undergrad I started as an english major just on the assumption that that’s where someone like me belonged, and I was so wrong. I don’t want to pull books apart, I want to experience them! And because my preference was really for children’s literature anyway, I safely changed my major to elementary ed and then did library science in grad school, putting myself exactly in the position I wanted to be in in the first place.

    But anyway. My strangest reading quirk, which my husband always tries and fails to trip me up on, is that I CANNOT tell you the title or even the author of a book WHILE I am reading it. Meaning, have it in my hands reading it right now, not just in the middle of it but it’s in the next room. Unless of course I’m reading the book ALOUD, that’s something different. But no, if you see me reading and come up and say “What are you reading?” the first thing I will do is say “This,” and hold it up so you can see the cover. If you continue to press, I may tell you all about it– the plot, the characters, the Buzz it has gotten in The Business– but I will NOT tell you what it is called, even if you ask directly. I have no idea why.

    I, too, experience a book threshold sort of thing when I get close to the end. But I never read the last page either. Always figured that was normal, too.

  17. Vanbadham on #

    Apparently, I smile when I read – and it’s not like any other kind of smile that blesses my face. I was told this by an exboyfriend (when he was still a boyfriend); I caught him staring at me when I was reading one day. “Creepystalkerweirdo!” I shouted. “What? WHAT? WHATISIT?!” and he gurgled and said “I never see you smile like that except when you’re reading.”

    I was probably reading about a character getting their tongue ripped out by swamp-demons or their face vivisected by witches. Verdict: I’m crazy, and the relationship was doomed.

    Other habits include having to read things start-to-finish, or they lie abandoned and unread forever. When I read Catch-22 for the first time I started it in the school library and got so engrossed that I decided just to bunk off school for the rest of the day and go home and finish it. I still remember waiting for a train at Miranda station reading the crabapple scene, laughing to the empty platform.

  18. Mariah ( A Reader's Adventure) on #

    I hate knowing what happens at the end! I read a retelling of Romeo and Juliet the other day, and the whole time while I was watching their romance bloom, I was thinking about how sad it was that they died!

    I also feel like a bad reader sometimes, usually in my English classes, cause I am supposed to be the “reader” and then I didn’t see any of what my teacher was talking about, I was just enjoying the book.

  19. Amanda on #

    I totally agree with Grace and Christina! I talk to my books and the characters all the time! I scream at them and try and change what will happen even when I know I can’t. I also react the way the characters do as well as saying many of the lines out loud.

  20. Pam Adams on #

    I am one of those super-speedy readers. In addition, I have a good visual memory of pages, scenes, etc. Strangely, I don’t visualize the characters or scenery. I also re-read obsessively- if I love a book, I can read it again and again and again.

  21. Ali on #

    Whilst reading, I:
    a) make a weird squeaking bird noise with my teeth, completely without meaning to, making everybody in the vicinity very very annoyed,
    b) have been known to mouth the words along with the book, including facial expressions and occasionally gestures (I really shouldn’t read in public),
    c) never, ever read the ending first. I don’t understand why anyone would do that!

    And I agree about the whatever the reading equivalent of trauma is. Actually, for me it’s kind of essential to be entirely into a book (at least once you get to seriously emotional bits) without having anything to distract/detach you from it. Whenever I reread the Amber Spyglass, for example, I literally shut myself in my room when I’m getting towards the end so I can be completely absorbed in the (kind of devastating) ending. I never thought of it as vulnerability but that actually makes a lot of sense.

  22. Sarah on #

    1) I never look for the number of pages immediately but once I reach a plot-changing part of a book, I stop and flip to the back to see how many pages are left so I can figure out how much this could change the story by the time the book ends. I never actually read the end though.

    2)I never, ever use bookmarks. I either remember my page number or flip open the book to about how many pages had been open when I closed it. I’m never off by more than 3-5 pages.

    3)I can never read with talking people in the room, including those on television.

    4)I also do the visualizing the book in my head like a movie thing.

  23. phoquess on #

    Let’s see. I sometimes have a tendency to jump ahead, but hate getting spoiled, so if I can tell something major is coming up on the page, I will take my hand and cover it up so I only get to that point in order. Also, I mouth the characters’ dialogue if I find it particularly awesome, and make facial expressions to match, which I’ve been told is weird.

  24. Jessryn on #

    I had no idea that a lot of people read the end first. With things like romance novels (where you almost always know the basics of what is going to happen) I often flip ahead when I’m about 1/3 of the way through the book. I’ll read from near the end for a little while and then go back. I really, really try not to do it when I’m reading something that reading ahead will spoil. I find it difficult sometimes, because once you get into the habit it’s much more difficult to resist. But whenever I give in it always makes the book just a little less enjoyable, so I try to be strong.

    The funny thing is that I’m embarrassed by reading ahead. If someone comes in while I’m reading ahead (holding my actual page with my finger) I quickly flip back. So I think you are reading the right way.

    Other quriks: Like some of the people commenting above I talk to my books. Sometimes I’m talking to the characters, sometimes to the author.

    Also sometimes if I sense something bad is going to happen in a book, ranging from something extremely awkward or embarrassing happening to a character to something truly terrible happening, I will hide from the book for a little while. The length of time depends on what I think is coming, but it’s as if I think by not reading for a little while I can make the bad thing not happen.

  25. Megan on #

    I don’t do this with every book I read, but sometimes it just works out that a particular actor’s voice just “works” for a character and I start reading their lines in that voice in my head. Most recently I’ve done this with the Thursday Next series, with the lovely Olivia Williams as the eponymous Thursday. (The only problem with this habit is that inevitably I start picturing the actor as the character and then if the book gets made into a film I’m forced to rearrange my mental picture of the character so I won’t sit through the entire film thinking “but that’s not X Character! X Character is supposed to be X Actor!”

    Also, whenever I set books down, they MUST be face-up. I guess maybe that’s less of a “reading” quirk and more of a perfectionist quirk, but still.

  26. Shveta Thakrar on #

    Hmm, I suppose I have two. One I share with you: I never want to be spoiled, so I don’t read the ending first. The other: I have a hard time switching between books. If I’ve started one, I would rather finish it before picking the next.

    Great post! (And totally turn in your list. Your professor should be impressed! :P)

  27. Shveta Thakrar on #

    Actually, no. It turns out I do have a third. (Thanks, Jessryn!) I haven’t done this for awhile, but I definitely used to and probably still would.

    Jessryn said: Also sometimes if I sense something bad is going to happen in a book, ranging from something extremely awkward or embarrassing happening to a character to something truly terrible happening, I will hide from the book for a little while. The length of time depends on what I think is coming, but it’s as if I think by not reading for a little while I can make the bad thing not happen.

    Totally did this. It’s like humiliation by proxy!

  28. Piet on #

    I would never look at the ending of a book before I get there. But I have a good friend who does this, so I have to admit that the habit is out there. I’ve grilled her mercilessly about this habit, but a proper explanation is still lacking.

    However, I do compulsively look at the page number of the last page. I think this is so I know how to space out my reading.

    Here’s a quirky one: when a book gets really suspenseful or engrossing, I don’t start tearing through the pages at double speed. Instead, I slow down, re-read bits, and sometimes, if I sense something really good is coming, I cover part of the page and read on line by line. Quite often, I stop completely, to savour what I’ve read, and to speculate about the possibilities ahead.

    Also, if I interrupt my reading, I like to restart at the top of a left hand page. If there isn’t a good point to start very near the top of the page, I’ll press on for another two pages.

    I don’t talk to my books, and I never write in them. But I like to imagine marginal comments, as if I’m in conversation with the author.

  29. Ron on #

    This is a fascinating thread. (And I’ll state for the record that while I’ve popped by this blog a few times before—usually via a link from somewhere else, as in this case—this is the first time I’ve posted here. So hello, everyone.)

    I share a few of the quirks already noted: never, under any circumstances, looking ahead to the end; always checking the number of pages in the book (and constantly calculating my progress—e.g. “There are 444 pages in the book, so when I reach page 111, I’ll be one-quarter of the way through,” etc.).

    But there’s one quirk I possess that I have yet to see noted here: I handle my books with a compulsively extreme degree of care. This starts right at the point of purchase. I am constitutionally incapable of picking up the first book in a stack from the bookshelf. I search through all available copies to find the one in the most pristine condition–and, if none meets my standards, I have been known to go to another store in search of one that does. Then, when I actually get around to reading the darn thing, I take great care not to mar it in any way. If it’s a paperback, I’ll make certain not to crease the cover, ding the corners or even, if I can avoid it, crack the spine. If it’s a hardcover, I’ll remove the dustjacket before reading it (yes, I know it’s allegedly there to protect the book; I’m not claiming this is rational) in order to preserve its virgin state. And if I take a book with me on a trip, I’ll always select a (jacketless) hardcover, because it’s far less likely to sustain any damage in my carry-on. I suspect that dog-earing a page would make me physically ill, but I’ve never tested the proposition. Oddly, I am not this way in any other area of my life (as the current state of my apartment attests). I’m sure a therapist could get at the root of this behavior, but frankly, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really see it as a problem! BTW, I have on occasion observed others doing the same thing, so I know there are kindred spirits out there!

  30. Courtney Rebecca on #

    I’m horrified at the very idea of reading the end of a book before the rest of it. I think self-spoilers are weird, not the other way around! Particularly when it’s a popular book (like when the Harry Potter books were still coming out), I will completely avoid the Internet in order to be surprised. I stayed away from all talk of LIAR when it came out. I hate being spoiled!

    Not sure if it’s really a quirk, but I’ve recently been told that this is not normal. I can only read one book at a time. No matter what. I either have to suck it up and finish a book before I start a new one, or I have to make that difficult decision to give up on it. This made library school very difficult as I had to read assigned readings. I ended up reading very little fiction through the whole program.

    I can also visualize exactly where a certain word or phrase was on a page. I can’t tell you what chapter it was in, but I can tell you it was in the bottom third of a page on the right hand side. This helped a lot when citing things for papers in grad school. 😉

    Oh one more! It is SO hard for me to read a book that I bought for myself. I’m always picking up more and more books at the library and then I have to read them first. There’s a due date on these, you know! Unless the book isn’t available at the library, I tend to put off reading it until I have a lull in my library check-outs.

  31. Joe Iriarte on #

    I was going to post in sympathy with your grad school experience of feeling like your reading habits were hurting you when it came to keeping up with the load. I didn’t figure I had any noteworthy reading quirks to speak of. Then I read through the comments and realized that I actually have quite a few.

    When I was a kid I used to read the last page or last paragraph of a book. I’m not sure why I did it. I think I needed the security of seeing Dirk Pitt kiss the girl or whatever and know that things were going to be okay despite how bad they looked wherever I happened to be in the story. I think I got cured of this habit when I had the experience of spoiling something I’d really preferred not to have known.

    I used to make a mental note of what fraction of the way through the book I was, both by pages and by chapters. I would note the quarter point, the third point, the halfway point, the two-thirds point, and so forth. I think I did it as a way of pacing myself. I only stopped doing that in the last few years. I think I just switched to keeping track of time on the clock instead of by number of pages. I still, however, check the page number of the last page with some frequency and calculate how long it will take me to finish.

    I pretty much can’t stop reading something once I begin. Not just the book, but the whole damn series. I rue the day I ever decided to read some books of epic fantasy. I seem to make exceptions for books in a milieu written by other authors. I also seem to be able to make an exception if I convince myself that I fully intend to read the newest book in the series, just not yet.

    I don’t dog ear pages, I try not to crack the spine, I remove the dust cover from hardbacks. I don’t use real bookmarks, but I’ll use things like used baseball game tickets or concert tickets or Disney tickets. (I will dog-ear my digest-sized short fiction magazines, though.)

    I will, however, write in a book–if I see a typo or something like that, I can’t not correct it.

    I will also cover the rest of a page with my hand if it seems like I’m coming to a momentous but.

    I also reach a threshold, maybe three three quarters of the way through, where I cannot put a book down to save my life. I can tell it’s a certain percentage of the way through and not a certain number of pages in or from the end, mostly because it kills me when I’m reading a really long book, and that point of no return ends up coming two or three hundred pages from the end.

    The longer a work is, the less capable I am of dealing with an unhappy ending.

    I can’t stand to read novels with point of view characters I wouldn’t want to be friends with.

  32. Nicole on #

    uhh reading quirks.. usually i can read any book in under a day, i read under the desk in all my classes (especially math *hopes my mom isnt reading this over my shoulder*) i scream at the characters and have been known to throw books at the wall, i read everything EVERYTHING including even that page with the copyright and stuff on it, i CANNOT WILL NOT read the last page/sentence, and i always keep track of how long the book is.

  33. Meg Reid on #

    I think it’s official- Justine has the coolest commenters ever. These are fantastic!

    And I realized that my own reading might be quirkier than I thought- I speed read, hide pages, squeal and slam books shut when things get too emotional, make odd facial expressions…but, from the number of you who do the same things, the quirks might be in the majority, there…

  34. alaska on #

    i used to read the first and last sentences of a book before i bought it/brought it home/etc. (i really like circularity.) but that’s not compulsive anymore.

    i can read anywhere, anytime. i also ALWAYS carry a book with me. (okay. when i’m going out at night and i have a very small bag, i don’t bring a book. but i do bring my blackberry that i can read books on, just because.) i also pack more books than clothes when i travel – and make sure i have one for every possible mood i might be in.

    i re-read compulsively, i take notes sometimes, i NEVER EVER dog-ear pages of my books, and most of my books look like they’ve never been read when i fact they’ve done multiples – i just kind of am obsessed about taking care of them. and don’t get me started on how i organize my booksheves.

    often times i will stop and love a sentence so much that i read it again and again and then write down somewhere. i log my reading, i have certain books i reread at the same time every year, and sometimes SOB at books.

    oh! and if the book comes with maps (like, “graceling” and “finnikin of the rock” and “watership down”) – i become obsessed with the map. and every time a place is mentioned, i have to look on the map for it. that can slow a girl down!

    btw, even when it specifies someone is blond, in my head they are usually a brunette. i can get redheads, but blonds are hard for me. i don’t really get it, but i’ll be reading and they will refer to the person by their hair color and i’m supposed to know who it is, and i totally have to stop and think for a second. i can’t explain it either!!

  35. Lizzy on #

    I sometimes flip ahead to the end of a book if I get bored with it or if I am DYING to know what happens. Most of the time I don’t, though. I always tend to imagine the voices of the characters I like or to whom I feel connected in some way. I tend to react very strongly; I facepalm a lot and often yell at a book if its characters are being stupid. If I try to read with friends I don’t like to read aloud to them or share with them but I will always randomly tell them if something interesting happens despite knowing full well that they don’t care a bit. I like to read in the bathroom, specifically the tub, a lot.

  36. Joanna on #

    I talk to my books. I make weird facial expressions when reading. I can (and do) read anywhere, even the loo (but I have young children and sometimes it’s the only place where I can get some peace and quiet). I treat my books badly (turn down corners, bend backwards, leave laying around on the floor) but keep them forever and reread the ones I love many times.

    I bought an iPod Touch for the sole reason of being able to carry multiple books with me at all times. If I’m reading a real book that is part of a series and I’m nearly finished it, I need to take the next book in the series with me when leaving the house in case I am left without something to read.

    I always thought I had some strange quirks when reading but you lot make me feel ‘almost’ normal *grin*.

  37. Alyson Greene on #

    I know a book is good if I find myself either yelling out loud at the characters or covering up the page with my hand while I read.

    While reading a fast-paced, climatic scene in a book, I often cover up the bottom half of the page, or the next page, with my hand so I won’t accidentally see a key word that will ruin the suspense. (I NEVER want to know how a book ends before I’ve finished it)

    I also tend to finish books even if I don’t like them.

    I’ve also heard a lot of people talk about skipping parts of books and this always shocks me. Sure i mastered scanning and speed reading in college, but why oh why would anyone ever skip words of a book they’re reading for fun???

  38. Julia Rios on #

    I always read the acknowledgments and about the author sections first, even for authors whose blurbs are always the same, and whose books I have read several times. I didn’t realize this until just now. This thread is utterly fascinating.

  39. Linden on #

    I like to stage the scenes in my head, but I also skim a lot, so sometimes one character will put his head in another character’s lap, and I will be like, “wait. aren’t both of you standing up right now?” and then I must read backwards until I figure out when they sat down.

    Also, I give a book two chances – I’ll read the first 20-or-so pages, and if it hasn’t got me wanting to know what happens next, I will skip to 1/3 through the book, see if it is more interesting, and if it still hasn’t got me, I will give up on it. Unless the book has come highly recommended from a trusted source, or I am very bored, in which case I will read at least 50 pages before giving up.

    As an English major, I can totally sympathize with your plight! I will read a book for class, and when we discuss it, my professor will start out by saying something like, “I’m sure you all noticed the symbolism of the white flowers” and I will think, “What? Symbolism? I was too busy hoping the hero would get together with his love interest!” and then I feel very un-English-majory. But I say my way of reading is way more fun.

  40. celsie on #

    Before I got married, I would sprawl out before the family fireplace, and read books, turning 360 degrees to ensure my body was always evenly roasting in the heat. Being married and living in lots of apartments, there have been zero fireplaces.

    In my head, Edward Cullen had dyed black hair the first two times I read it. And then I slowed down and noticed all the golden adjectives.

    Um…I have to read more than one book at once. Unless a book is short enough/intense enough, my attention wavers. I read books both on my phone and physical copy.

    This is a new quirk, but I have to keep track of which books I read when. This is my second year keeping a monthly/yearly count of books read, a list which I post on both reading communities and social networking sites. There’s also a horrible self made webpage with 2009 reads on it…

    I can’t put a book down until I know exactly which page I’m on. I memorize things easily, so I can’t put a book down or have it taken from me until I’ve memorized that number.

    As a child, I read under beds, in closets, and other hidden spaces. This wasn’t just at home. This was at school, churches, friends’ houses. My mother occasionally panicked that I had run away or been kidnapped, I disappeared for 3-9 hours at a time.

    I also have to finish every book I start. Several books last year had me yelling at the page, smacking the book, utterly enraged by the characters or writing, but I had to finish them. Once I finished them, I could donate them or pass them on to someone who wanted to read them.

    I get offended by people who crack the spines on their books, write in the margins, underline sections, or dog ear books. When this happened to books I lent out as a chid, I mysteriously stopped talking to or visiting the offending friends. Eventually I grew up.

    This is going to sound like I made it up, but after I read Uglies, I always read the first line of a book before I buy or download it (I don’t steal ebooks, but I tend to download free promotions). That might be me knowing that your opening and ending lines are so important, as a writer.

  41. Jennmonk on #

    Well, I have many of the above habits. But one I have had since I was a child is that most of time I listen to music while reading. This means that often one or more songs in particular will become associated with the book. Then, if I hear the song later, the whole book comes flooding back to me.

    Oh, I also love to read every volume of a particular manga series in one day, if possible. Just go from one to the next, like eating chips or candy!

  42. rachel on #

    i never knew i did this untill my history teacher told me i must be mad at the book i was reading (Eldest) because my eyebrows were aparently rammed together and i seemed to be mad i wasn’t actually Eragon and Saphira were happily lopping off peoples heads.
    i also tend to throw books across rooms when someone makes an obvious mistake or dies but then i have to go get the book because i have to continue.
    Also, is this a quirk, if i am about halfway through a book and think it isn’t going to be good i have to read the last page probably because i don’t finish books i don’t love(this way if people ask me if i liked a particulary bad book i can say i didn’t read it).

  43. Krystle on #

    I have a lot of quirks when I read, you could just ask all my friends. First off, I never read the last page first, it is my prerogative not to do that. I have to make sure it’s at night, don’t know why something to do with the mood. It doesn’t matter where (though I do like a small couch and pillow.) I always have to have my hot tea and then I start reading.

    No matter what, I have to finish reading the story, if I don’t I get nervous, and want to know how it ends. Just ask my friends, they think I’m nuts when I say, ‘What do you think will happen to **** in the end?’ It doesn’t matter how long it takes to finish it, even if that means I have to read all through the night and into the next morning.

    My worst quirk is how I hold my breath during nerve wrecking, nail biting, and intense scenes. I become so totally immersed in my books that half the time I don’t hear when someones talking to me. That’s really nerve wrecking for my friends. HAHAHA!!!

    Then when in this total immersion mode, I will actually read lines out loud that literally get me laughing out loud. I put accents with them, and sometimes I’ll read them over and over again, (out loud mind you). Just like Megan I cry, man do I cry when the book doesn’t have a good ending. I have a tendency to throw my book when it gets that way. But as always, after pacing the room, breathing hard (angrily) I go over and swipe the book off the floor and continue reading. (Still standing there where I had picked up the book of course.)

    My family thinks I’m nuts and won’t let me read when anyone’s over. Though I promise not to bust out laughing during the read, or scream at the characters. Something else I have a tendency to do. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve scared my parents, friends, and other family members including our cat and dog to death.

    I also have a tendency to read a whole series of books in a day, doesn’t matter how long it is. Like Heartland, Uglies series and others. If I don’t finish it in the same day I go mad. Books are my candy, hate candy, love books.

    The Egg Wolfing, Exhausted Librarian.

  44. Rai X on #

    I can’t imagine reading the last page first…I like surprises and the raw emotion that a proper one can induce (whether good or bad).

    There have been times, when I’ve been immersed in a certain media (like a TV show, for example), I will imagine characters looking an awful lot like characters from that show – even if the book mentions they don’t.
    I often read things with the narrator having a British accent.
    I have a tendancy to grossly mispronounce characters’ names in my head. At one point I was reading Celine to be closer sounding to “sea lion”.
    Once I start reading something I HAVE to finish it, whether I like the book or absolutely hate it
    I have to read series in order (recently developed, since when I was younger I read whatever the libraries had, often Vol. 2 of a series and never the first one).
    And I find if I can’t relate to or at least like the characters in a book, I will be highly unsatisfied with it.

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