Writing Memoir

What kind of reader are you?

There are writers who write within a genre and those who write outside of them, too. But what about the readers? How do you read? What do you read? Why do you read?

Now, don’t laugh, but I started to become aware that I like to read everything like cereal boxes and shampoo bottles when I was a teen. Perhaps this is part of the growing up experience, showing interest in the world or perhaps I was just beginning to flex my reading muscles. The odd thing is I don’t remember learning to read – at all.

And even though I’m from a working class family and was never read bedtime stories, books found their way into my imagination’s heart. When I was around five or six, I remember looking through my dead father’s books carefully, trying to connect to who he was and taking the books I found interesting back to my room.

He read to learn. All of his books were textbooks or non-fiction. From dream dictionaries to engineering tomes, he had a fascinating collection that spoke volumes to me for many years.

My mother, on the other hand, read Thai soap opera and movie star magazines. She religiously poured over newspapers from back home, always sitting on the floor (Thai style) and usually with one leg out in front of her. Later, and after much denial, she finally reads with her reading glasses and has started to branch out like many Thais these days, reading novels that have been translated from English.

My mom’s boyfriend, or step-dad as I call him out of convenience, was the one who read fiction. At this time, I was reading Nancy Drew mysteries and series like Cheerleaders, Sweet Valley High and my favorite, Sunfire. He was the one who suggested adult fiction like Charlie Mike, a book about the Vietnam War and The Blooding, a crime thriller centered on a murdering rapist. Then we’d talk about the issues raised or just about the author’s perspective in general.

As a result, I read for knowledge and escapism. When I was younger, escapism seemed to be what I wanted. I read a lot of historical fiction, fantasy and Sidney Sheldon. But somewhere in my 30s, I started to really turn more towards non-fiction in the form of true stories, the craft of writing, education and spirituality. My blog reader also reflects my diverse tastes and varied reading preferences.

This is because I am a firm believer in the interconnectedness between disciplines and I greatly enjoy learning about how seemingly different subjects collide to make matter.

Recently, I finished WEEKEND BOOK: How to Write a Book Over a Weekend by John Allen, Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson and Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes, Please! I read a lot of blogs and articles, too. Sometimes I have so many tabs open, I open another browser to help me organize and still search.

Although the author that spans time and place, and who I always inevitably return to, is Agatha Christie. One day I’ll have to sit down and really analyze why I adore her so much.

I’m also a slow reader. I used to read fast and returned to my favorites over and again. But when I slowed down I realized how much I was missing, the way a writer put a sentence together, the words chosen and so I began to savor words.

What this means is you can never ask me to be a part of those crazy “read a book in a week or in a month” challenges! Unless all the books are fiction and are sooo good that I refuse to go to sleep until I have finished it!

When I read, I like to take notes. Sometimes I get inspired and jot down quotes, words or ideas that I gain from a passage. I used to underline and write little notes in the book, but I’ve gotten out of this habit because expats recycle books heavily. So now everything gets written down in my journal. But notes are essential because inspiration sometimes needs a reminder to come out and play.

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20 thoughts on “What kind of reader are you?

  1. I did realize while taking a creative writing course that reading as a writer is quite different than reading just to read. You pay much more attention to how a novel is put together—why and how they chose to build tension, etc. But I only like doing so when I’m in a writer mindset… otherwise it takes up way too much time/enjoyment of just getting lost in the story. Love Aggie as well… yeah that’s right, nickname basis.

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    1. Good points. I definitely have those moments where I feel like I’m doing more note taking than reading and it’s exciting, but I’m not getting much reading done! Aggie! I’m so jealous, you two are so close 😛

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    1. I read The Hobbit in high school, but the Lord of the Rings took multiple times to crack. But once I did, I read the whole series straight through 🙂

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  2. I do the same thing – take notes while I’m reading. Even to jot down a quote that I like, or if it inspires me to write something else or a blog post. 🙂 That’s cool that we both do that! I’m a very fast reader, so I tend to read as much as I can get my hands on. If I could figure out how to read and sleep at the same time, I totally would! 😉

    Hmm, yes, I’d be interested to hear why you like Agatha Christie. I’m always wanting to discover new (to me) authors to read.

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    1. Yes, blog posts, too, can be very inspiring. I forgot to mention that. There have been many times I’ve written a post in response to something I’ve just read.

      Sleeping and reading…I can see it already in our future 😀

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  3. Oh, Lani, Lani, Lani. Again we have so much in common. It’s like you’re might right-wing woman or something 😉 I am a very slow reader too, always savouring over the way each sentence is phrased, what the characters are feeling and what the author is trying to say. I used to be a very fast reader and could finish a 160-page book in less than two days, but I really feel I don’t connect with the writer/author when I do so.

    Nancy Drew? One of my favourites as a kid. And so was Enid Blyton and Mallory Towers. And Babysitters Club :O Like you, these days I am a big fan of reading non-fiction. But you know what? I reckon most people like reading fiction. And when I tell them I’m a writer, they always ask if I write fiction.

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    1. Yeah. I suppose most folks associate “writer” with “fiction”. I have mad respect for fiction writers. I just wish non-fiction got the same respect. In any case, I do hope to try my hand in some short stories as a way to ease into it and because I find short story more interesting…

      I’ll my eye out for those other authors you mentioned. I feel a bit limited without a library handy, but this should change soon.

      Now, if could just crack into some fiction reading! I feel like I need the balance!

      Thanks Mabel 😀 xxoo

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      1. Me too, Lani. I don’t know how fiction writers tell a story not just using descriptive sentences, but tell by showing scenes. When I write a fictional story and read it back, it has a lot of description 😛

        Hope you pick up a good fiction book soon. Last thing you want is to start reading one and find that the story is boring, made-believe story dull as dishwater and predictable. Happened to me more times than I remember!

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  4. I tend paper bookmark pages that I like..not a great way of preserving books for others to inherit.

    Like you, Lani I was never read to as a child. Culturally it just wasn’t my parents and my mother knows only Chinese. Father was working evenings as a restaurant cook.

    Not a terrible thing since they allowed us to borrow tons of bks. from library. So as child and teen, I read heavily probably for escapism : detective, romance, young adult like bks. and some literary tomes. By the time I was 14 yrs. old, I was in a fun informal book reading contest with a close friend my age who was bright, nerdy…..and starting to be feminist at that young age. I ended up reading over 350 books in 1 yr. English teacher had us list the books my classmates read on their own, written in a collective list book.

    I became a librarian…eventually (I do have my Master’s in Library Info. Science) .. 🙂

    I haven’t read a novel in over the last 15 yrs. I find it easier to read non-fiction: history, biographies, travelogues, current issues.. Maybe I don’t want to invest effort of reading a complex novel.

    And I did my undergrad. in English Lit.!

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    1. Love it. I should have been a librarian. Why did I pursue something so lovely as that?

      I wonder if it’s natural to graviate towards non-fiction the older we get? Probably not, huh? I see plenty of grandmas with big novels and such. I’m sure this info is out there somewhere.

      Thanks for signing in and sharing your story 🙂

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  5. I love to read. I read to escape, but more often I love to learn about peoples’ lives. I love autobiographies and memoirs. I used to love mystery novels, but haven’t read one in a long time.
    Lately, I read as much as I can, but usually it comes down to having to catch up on blog reading. Then I try to read a bit before bed, make it through a page and then fall asleep. So I have slowed immensely from when I was a kid and could read three or four books in a few days. I miss that often, but the toddler years will be over soon and I will get to do that again (or at least I hope so!).
    Great and thought-provoking article! *hugs* your south side friend

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    1. Thanks! I feel the same way lately (sans toddler). I catch up on blogs and try to read in bed before falling alseep. Do you like audiobooks?

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  6. Michelle said that reading as a writer changes how you read and I agree. As does reading as a teacher. Being able to see how a writer has crafted a text and then explain it concisely opens up new meaning.

    I’m lucky because I get to teach higher level IB kids who are reading all sorts of excellent literature. It means that the books I read are eclectic. For example, I’ve just finished the Alastair Reynolds ‘Inhibiter’ series of epic space opera, have been reading Murakami’s ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ for class and have a book on the Plantagenets and ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed (an interesting take on talent and growth mindset) by my bed.

    Promiscuous is how I like to describe my reading habits.

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  7. About my reading style, I tend to read books I enjoy super fast. Or portions of books I enjoy reading super fast. But naturally, I tend to read a bit slower when reading books that I think are more difficult – even if I enjoy the book. Also, if I’m doing a book review, I tend to read slower and take notes while I read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Makes sense. We all probably read faster during the good parts, so that is a great observation on your part 🙂

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