Saturday, July 25, 2009

Readers Anonymous

Okay, I admit it. I'm a reader. And not just blogs or newspapers or magazines. I love to read books. I don't even have to count to know that the wife and I own a thousand or more between us. Most especially I like novels. The thicker the better, unless they are lame, in which case I usually want to kill the author of the fat ones by the time I am finished*. And I will almost always finish. I don't really gravitate to either classics or real trash, though I am capable of enjoying both. I like sci-fi and adventure and quirky stories that are hard to explain.

I doubt very much that you will ever see me in an airplane with my laptop open or playing with my berry. I am always carrying a book, as often as not purchased in the airport, and I will read it from the time I sit down at the gate until I get off the plane at my destination, stopping only to get on the plane, claim the little bag of pretzels (I miss peanuts) and change flights.

I come from a long line of readers. My grandfather was a school teacher in one of those country-ass schoolhouses like in Little House on the Prairie. My father read everything Louis L'Amour and Tom Clancy ever wrote, usually on Sunday afternoons. My mother preferred to read in bed, and probably still does. She always seemed to have the latest thing from the bestseller list. But whether romance or western or suspense, everyone in my house usually had a book.

Being a reader was easy when I was young. Everything was fresh to me, there were new ideas everywhere, and all of my friends and family were always turning me on to a different author or point of view or style of writing. As I got older, it got more difficult. I got more selective, I read up most of the old stuff I knew I was interested in reading, and I learned that most people don't read for pleasure, so it was usually a crap shoot when I went to select a book. I hit the occasional jackpot when a new Tom Robbins novel would appear, or when I discovered and subsequently devoured the Hitchhiker's Trilogy and both Dirk Gently books, or when a friend at work told me about this Harry Potter book that his daughter had been bugging him to read**. But usually I was mildly disappointed.

So as much as I hate to ever encourage data mining or consumer profiling or any of the other creepy big brothery things that people like me figure out how to do to people like us, I have to give props to the Amazon recommender engine thingy. In the last few years it has turned me onto some of the best books I have read in a long time. While I can't remember if Terry Pratchett was Amazon or a lucky grab at the airport, they definitely turned me on to Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde. Both write books that are intelligent, original, offbeat and funny. Which is right in my wheelhouse.

The Amazon thing does tend to focus a little much on what I have been doing lately, and I suspect that their own sales goals sneak into the equation somewhere, but it has definitely helped me find the good stuff. And it may even have helped a young author or two find their audience. Who knows?

It seems like my AARP card came with a growing interest in non-fiction, but I've always liked history and biography when it was interesting. I could never read enough about WWII or the great voyages of exploration of the last half millenium. And I enjoy poetry and plays and well-written treatments of technology or science. But when it's going to be a day in the air, or on the couch, give me a big fat novel every time.

* Yes, Herman Melville, I'm talking about you. Be glad you're already dead.
** That's right. I read them all. Multiple times. I will probably read them again. Shut up.


  1. while completing a year long professional development course in 2008, i was forced to spend all of my free time reading course materials... and lost the habit of reading for pleasure. this post reminds me that i used to read constantly. need to get back to it...

  2. Oh man, I love Christopher Moore. "Lamb" was the only thing that got me through a hellacious, in-law filled "vacation" a couple of years back.

  3. daisyfae: I almost lost the habit after grad school. A period of heavy travel -- and my wife's two book a week habit -- brought me back.

    ginny: if you like Christopher Moore I think you would like Jasper Fforde. Terry Pratchett is still my fave, though.

  4. Ain't nothing wrong with HP. Nothing at all.

    I don't know what I read, really. Everything? Right now it's a hefty ass Harry Truman biography by McCullough, who I adore (McCullough, not Truman, but kind of Truman now...whatever, we'll see) but before that I was all up in the Sookie Stackhouse books. So...there you go.