I wasn’t thinking of paper books versus e-books! I mean, what do you choose to read and where do you get it?
As a bibliophile, I read everything in sight – I notice anything in print near me, and compulsively read flyers and signs and food packaging and receipts and whatever else is in view. Reading is like breathing to me!
My reading tastes have changed dramatically over the years. I grew up committed to fiction and spent years reading one novel after another, but also had a growing magazine habit. In university, I studied Theatre, English, Philosophy and Russian Literature (now there’s a marketable degree!) and so read a lot of weightier titles at that time. After studying library science and becoming a children’s librarian, I read children’s and teen novels for years, and still do. After having a child, I started reading a lot more popular adult nonfiction, starting with parenting books, and continuing on through cooking, home decor, health and the environment. Of course my magazine addiction was going full tilt because they were so easily interruptible. As my kid grew up, I was always bringing home interesting stuff to read aloud or to recommend to Link. Later, I got really into social issues and read a lot of nonfiction on the economy, LGBT issues, and popular science. I’ve come full circle now, spending most of my reading time on novels again. I think it’s because, with an “empty nest,” I have so much more time to delve into a good story.
I’ve spent my whole working life in libraries, so the public library has always been my prime source for books. Because it’s required in my job, I know when famous authors have new titles, what the latest entry in every series is, whose first novel is getting raves, what classic has recently been turned into a graphic novel, which book the new movie is based on, and the name of that book with the blue cover that was on the last shelf of the mysteries section (we get that kind of question all the time!) Needless to say, I can use all of this to my personal advantage – although I don’t cheat: I can put my name on the waiting list as soon as I hear about a book, but I would never jump the queue.
I used to take home a lot of books that the library discarded, thinking I would read them someday, but I moved so many times that I couldn’t defend lugging unread books to their 9th or 10th home. So I just stopped.
For a few years, I bought a lot of books, mostly literary fiction, mostly on clearance. Like Nick Hornby in his book The Polysyllabic Spree, I tended to buy books that fit my ideal image of myself as a high-brow reader: and then they would sit on a shelf and I’d read Marion Keyes instead. I once spent about six months reading only books I’d already bought – no new ones and none from the library. I enjoyed the books, but it cured me of buying too much serious fiction. Now I go for library copies all the way.
I also preened over my book shelves and what they said about me, until I accepted that I wasn’t going to re-read my books (not enough time in one life if I want to keep reading new ones) and no one else in my life had similar tastes and would want to borrow them. Because I was getting more frugal, I just stopped buying single use items – even books.
Well, except for the exceptions. Lately I have been buying a few coffee table books. On deep discount, of course. Because I do like to pore over them often: like 20th century design, or living in lofts. Meanwhile Rom is buying coffee table books on Fenders and Gibsons! We both borrow those kinds of books from the library, too, but it is sooo hard to return them – it’s like giving up a piece of art.
Now my mom and my sister share books among friends, and pick them up at yard sales, or discover a real “find” at Wal-Mart or Zellers. And that is the norm, I think, among folks who read a lot but don’t use libraries.
Just for fun, here is a Polysyllabic Spree type list of all the books I have on hand right now. I wonder which ones will be returned to the library unread? (I’ll report back at the end of the month!)
- Gemma Bovery – by Posy Simmonds (graphic novel, currently reading)
- Make the Bread, Buy the Butter – by Jennifer Reese (cooking, currently reading)
- A Greyhound of a Girl – by Roddy Doyle (children’s novel, currently reading)
- One Hundred Years of Solitude – by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Serious Fiction)
- The Correspondence Artist – by Barbara Browning (author’s first novel)
- Then We Came to the End – by Joshua Ferris (modern/humorous fiction)
- Peanut Butter Planet – by Robin Robertson (cookbook)
- The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak (bestseller, “significant” fiction)
- A Forest for Calum – Frank Macdonald (Canadian best seller, 2005)
What are you reading?