Friday, January 17, 2014

Speedreading and the Hunger for Stories

Many comments I hear from you, dear readers, fit one of two templates:
  •  You must go through books like, wicked fast!(or)
  • I can't believe how many genres you read, don't you have a favorite? 
I do read quickly. Very quickly. I finished the 350-page Ship of Fools in less than a day (although that was a rereading.) I can't quite take in a page in a glance, but I'm close. Unless the text is very information-dense, I read by paragraphs rather than by words or even sentences.

I burn through books at the speed of light. Then I find myself at a loss. That's where reading in many different genres come into play. Once I've plowed through all the books I can think of that I would like to read, I still need to have a book cracked open. I read over breakfast, on break at work, or in the terrible stretch between 2:00 and 4:00 AM when I wonder if the universe really exists. Like an addict, I continually need a story in my mind. Otherwise I get a little shaky.

This is the point at which I begin to scavenge. If I have a roommate, their books become fodder for the story-furnace inside of me--regardless of subject or genre. (People who have traded out their physical books for Kindles make terrible roommates, IMHO. What, have you no consideration for other people and their book-borrowing habits?)

With one pair of roommates, I read a lot of hard sci-fi. From their predecessors, I borrowed contemporary fiction, anthropological texts, and Orson Scott Card. There came a time in college when all I had left unread on the shelves were the cowboy Christian romances... and given time, I read those, too. (Then I made a lot of snide remarks about six-foot-two men with very white teeth, and fiery-yet-inwardly-broken women who smell like either violets or fresh bread, depending on the author.)

There are still certain genres I'm slow to take off the desperation shelves. As has been made clear by these reviews, I'm hungry for rich characters and emotionally engaging tales. I don't find much "story" in mysteries or crime dramas. (Also, bland dude protagonists lurk there.) I don't have the intestinal fortitude to consume bosom-heaving romances. I'm extremely iffy about nonfiction unless it has a narrative; memoirs and books about orchid thieves are great, but texts about What's Wrong With America's Economy are going to stay where they are until every other book in the world has rotted into wood pulp.

Overall, though, my preference for any particular genre is mostly trumped by my desire to avoid boredom. I'm grateful for all the recommendations you send to me, dear readers, even the ones for which I don't write proper reviews. I'm always glad to have new stories to read.

All of this is to say that I've begun tracking my reading history, which I'll be updating over in the sidebar. In 2011, I hit one hundred books by the end of April. We'll see how long it takes me this time!

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