- Fizzy Thoughts: How we read

How we read

Monday, August 10, 2009

My friend Rochelle and I both love to read.  But we are totally different readers.  I’m not talking about the types of books we read, because we read many of the same books.  Kafka on the Shore and Run are favorites for both of us.  But after I read Owen Meany I had a mini-epiphany.  Owen is Rochelle’s type of book.  She reads for deeper meaning.  Me, I read for story.

Okay, and so Rochelle has yet to actually read Owen, but since she now has my copy and I’m posting about her, I’m predicting it won’t be long.  And I’d be willing to bet she loves it.  Because while I was standing in her cubicle ranting about all of the symbolism she was practically bouncing in her chair with excitement.  (And yes, we work together…I don’t randomly show up at her work to talk about books.)

See, Rochelle likes to think about symbolism and what the author was getting at and all sorts of other things that drive me a little batty when I’m reading.  I want to be entertained.  I want to read a story that is so engrossing it transports me into the scene.  I want to imagine I’m there with the characters, seeing what they’re seeing, feeling what they’re feeling.  But I don’t necessarily want to analyze those feelings.

I also tend to sit down and plow through a book.  This year I’ve been reading about 12 books each month.  Rochelle reads about 2.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  :-D  Far from it…Rochelle tends to remember scenes and details that I forget after a few days.  And she ponders the book.  I just want to dive into whatever book grabs my attention next.

Do I have a point?  Not really.  This was just something I’ve been thinking about all weekend, after we talked about it on Friday.  Because Rochelle is pretty much the only person I know that I can talk books with that I see on a regular basis.  Yes, I know a few other readers, but she’s the one I connect with over books.  Despite our different reading styles, we still love to hear each other’s thoughts about the books we’re reading.  Does that make us complimentary readers?

So what kind of a reader are you?  Are you like Rochelle, or are you like me?  Or are you a completely different type of reader?

PS:  Rochelle has a blog, but she very rarely posts.  Don’t you think she needs to work on that?

23 comment(s):

Care said...

I enjoy discussing the deeper-meaning books so I guess I have to read them to discuss them! I need both. I like the deep books but not all the time. My mom was just saying (after she spent only one day reading and finishing The Art of Racing in the Rain) that she never remembers what she reads...

Heather J. said...

I'm somewhere in between you two I think. I DO like the deeper meaning, but I also want to be entertained. And I LOVE it when I learn something new from a book (which is why I enjoy historical fiction so much). I don't read just for the story, I read to learn ... I guess you need another category of reader to fit me into. :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I used to be a Rochelle. But then when I figured out I couldn't remember anything anyway, I turned into a Jill. Hence, the name...

farmlanebooks said...

I'm very like you. I need a good plot. Sometimes I like to get to the deeper meaning, but a book first has to attract my attention with a great plot.

I haven't read Run - who is it by?
I loved Kafka on the Shore too!

Julie P. said...

I don't know who I'm more like. I tend to read a lot of books, but I don't have to have a great plot to appreciate a book. I think you two probably complement each other and point out things you would otherwise miss!

Charley said...

I think I'm more like you, reading for story. I don't know if this is a good example, since it's nonfiction, but my brother and I both read The Omnivore's Dilemma earlier this year, and when we discussed it, we each focused on different things. He was interested in the facts and statistics, whereas I was more interested in the overall picture - Is it healthy? Is it ethical? I remembered details of the stories Pollan told, but I was hazy on the numbers, and vice versa for my bro. We both came to similar conclusions, but we approached the book differently, and it made for a great discussion.

heidenkind said...

I would say that I read for story--I definitely admire anyone who can tell a good story--but the fact is, if a book is just plain entertaining but I can't take anything else away from it, I wind up finding the book wanting.

Not that I read "deep" books or anything. I just really love finding symbolism and deeper meaning in things like romance novels. :D

Melanie said...

I read very quickly which means I don't remember lots of details. But there are books I like to think about after I've read them. Then I usually make my f2f group read them so we can discuss it. I'm a librarian so I feel like I need to read alot to be able to discuss things with patrons - usually not details but what kind of book it was and does it compare to anything else they've read.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

When I was in college, oh so long ago (ha ha), I read for deeper meaning because that's what class was about. I didn't do a lot of reading for pleasure, but even when I did that I was looking for symbols and stuff.

I don't do that as much any more, in part because the best part of reading for deeper meaning is getting to talk about it with other people to see how they interpreted something. I feel like those sorts of conversations are more interesting, but they're hard to have online and I don't have many people in Madison to talk in person with.

I've been trying to learn to read a little more for story and be less snobby about whether things have a "deeper meaning" or not, but it's hard to learn to think about books differently sometimes.

Beth F said...

Yes, I'd say you were good complements.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I like a good plot, but I'm happy with just a character study. I love it when I discover some kind of symbolism, but I don't read a book to find that aspect.

I have to write my reviews (or at least the bare bones of the reviews) right away. I can't remember the details of a book 10 days later.

Chele by the Sea said...

I wish I would've commented early this morning, so everyone could see my increased participation! :)
Anyhow, I am honored that I was the catalyst for the topic on today's Jill Blog, and I couldn't have said it all better myself!

I'll keep this short, but I am inspired to be more bloggie, and yes I have started Owen Meany, and I am HOOKED. So, off I go to read more about Owen, and experience a story full of depth and meaning! :)
(By the way, so far it's been an amazing story, and very well written. I did enjoy the first sentence. The author will be glad to know that.)

Veens said...

Well I enjoy discussing a book. A month I read at max 4 books. Well I am a slow reader! :) and I go deep into whichever one hold my interest.

Similarly I ditch a lot of books mid-way too :) But sometimes I stick to them - and in the effort of finishing lose a lot of time!

claire said...

I'm more of a Rochele. I don't necessarily know how to talk about what I read, but I like to ponder. A lot. I love a good plot, but good writing is what really reels me in. If good plot + bad writing, I usually can't finish (unless forced to review). But no plot + good writing, yes. Also, like Rochele, I tend to go by the first pages to know if I'll like the voice/tone/style of the book.

Shelby said...

I much prefer a book.. a story I can get into.. totally engrossed. That is a good book. I'm completely transported to a different realm and all around me is a fog. It's magic.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

I'm much more of a Rochelle, and I think that's evident in my reviews and in how I talk about books. I generally prefer character-driven over plot-driven novels (not that plot isn't also very important), and I like to think about how the author uses language, what he or she is trying to say, and what it all means.

When I want a break, or when I'm traveling and just need something to transport me, I do enjoy a good thriller or fast-paced story, but for me, the joy of reading is in the way it allows us to explore aspects of our selves we haven't considered before and to experience lives and environments far different from our own.

Ti said...

I'm a hybrid.

I read for deeper meaning but I enjoy a simply told story as well. If it's told really well, I don't go looking for hidden meaning, etc.

bermudaonion said...

I think I'm more like you. I think the symbolism escapes me a lot, but I do love a good story.

Belle said...

I am most definitely more like you. I read to be entertained, and I read for the story. If a plot-driven book has great characterization, that's a bonus for me, but I'm not one to read a great character-driven book if there's no plot.

There's just something so magical about being transported into the story, and for that, I need a story to begin with. Oh, and I was always the one in lit class who thought, I bet the author wasn't thinking about theme and symbolism when she was writing this, it all just emerged as she told the story. :)

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I'm another hybrid. I like to be entertained, I like to learn, I like the symbolism and hidden meaning (but I don't want to be clunked over the head with a deep moral)

I don't really have a bookish coffee/drinks group where we live now. I know there are TONS of book bloggers in the general area, though, so maybe I should be more proactive in organizing a meet-up and finding like-minded readers to talk with in person ... ah, so much to do, so little time ...

softdrink said...

Great comments, everyone! Thanks for participating!

And Jackie...Run is by Ann Patchett, the author of Bel Canto.

Jenners said...

I'm pretty much a reader like you ... I want to be entertained or transported first. If there is more going on in a book and I get it right off the bat, I'm happy but I don't seek it out. That is why I like reading other people's thoughts ... they often pick up stuff I didnt' get at all!! (Sometimes I feel too dumb for some books!)

But I'm a pretty slow reader -- more to do with not enough time to read uninteruppted. I guess when my son grows up, I'll get to read more!

ibeeeg said...

Loved this post.

How I read is like how you read.
I have a friend that reminds me of your friend Rochelle. She reads for meaning (I do too but I don't get hung up on the details during the book) and she reads at a slower pace (that is okay and sometimes I am a bit embarrassed at my quick reading pace). I love talking books with her but sometimes (because she retains far more details than I) it is a bit tricky. I just love the banter we create when talking books.

BTW: Just found your blog via a post I was reading by Farm Lane Books. Great blog.

girasoli said...

I read more like you. BUT I am a very ADDish reader so it takes me a while to get into a book - meaning days or weeks. Once I am hooked though, I stay up really late reading because I don't want to put the book down. I also rarely get more than halfway through a book before peeking at the ending.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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