A few days ago, Toronto learned that someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 had taken several trips on the TTC, our public transportation system, after they began coughing and showing other symptoms of that disease.
Our local media has been publishing many stories on the Coronavirus outbreak these winter alongside their regular winter features on cold and flu season. While I have some mixed feelings about how they’ve reported on this new outbreak in particular, it’s difficult to ignore all of the new information pouring in about COVID-19 and how regularly new cases have been diagnosed in Ontario lately.
Like the rest of the world, Toronto is nervous about this topic. There have been so many folks stocking up on toilet paper and other supplies that some stores here have actually put limits on how much of those items you can buy at a time.
I happen to be part of an age bracket that is at very low risk of developing complications from Coronavirus, much less dying from it. I also don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions that would make it harder for my body to fight this illness. If I were to develop it, chances are excellent that it would be no worse than a bad cold or the flu for me if I even developed symptoms at all.
Still, I’ve found myself staying home more often these days. I’d hate to accidentally spread this illness around to people at high risk of complications if I’m one of those young, healthy people who have it while showing few to no symptoms of it.
When I do go out, I’m noticing that our libraries, stores, and malls feel a bit quieter than usual. My guess is that other folks are cutting back on spending time in large crowds when possible as well.
Since most of my favourite places to visit are outdoors and I’m trying to reduce my time spent in crowds, reading seems like the perfect solution.
March is a chilly, sloppy time of year in Ontario anyways. Might as well read until the weather improves and the spread of this disease is hopefully slowed down while scientists work on a vaccine for it.
This means that you may be seeing more book reviews on my site over the coming weeks. I love writing them, but they take up so much time and energy that I generally can only get through a certain number of them in the average month.
There are only so many TV shows I can watch and hours of Minecraft I can play before needing to do something else with my free time, though, so reading it is.
I already have my first review of this semi-quarantine season ready to go for next week! Thank goodness I still have a big pile of library e-books to plow through as well.
How have your daily routines changed this cold, flu, and coronavirus season? How are your countries and communities reacting to COVID-19? Are you all staying home and getting more reading time in than usual these days, too?
My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time.
Most of these genres are still things I like to read at least occasionally. With that being said, I do not read the older ones as often as I once did.
Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales
The first genres I ever fell in love with were nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
My uncle had a book of fairy tales that he left behind when he went off to college. I read that collection every time I visited my grandmother’s house, and it made me yearn for more stories about dragons, royalty, and people who were rewarded for the good things they did when they thought no one was paying attention.
The tales in my uncle’s collection were the sorts of things you’d see in a Disney movie. They were missing the dark endings that they’d often originally had.
A few years later, I began stumbling across fairy tales that didn’t always end happily ever after. For example, the original version of “The Little Mermaid” ended with the main character’s death instead of her wedding.
I did go back to preferring the more cheerful spins on these stories after a while, but I appreciated having those glimpses into what had happened to them before they were cleaned up for modern audiences.
30 Books in a Month
As I’ve mentioned here before, I was homeschooled for the first several years of my education. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to read after my lessons were finished. There were times when Wyoming was far too snowy and cold of a place for a child to be wandering around outside in, so I read the entire afternoon and evening away on some of those wintry days.
All of this reading time had an interesting effect on me once I started public school and people who weren’t my parents or siblings began noticing my habits.
My fourth grade teacher once gave us an assignment to read three books a month. We were supposed to turn in little slips of paper with the title and author of what we read to her so she could keep track of them for us.
Reader, I didn’t finish three books that month. I read thirty of them.
Those three slips of paper we’d been given were almost immediately replaced by notes from my mother listing everything else I’d read after I fulfilled the original requirements.
When our teacher announced the number of books each student had read that month a few weeks later, most of my classmates were in the single digits. It was pretty funny to see how they gasped when they realized I’d quietly blown everyone out of the water.
A Passion for Poetry
I no longer remember which genres I read during that thirty-book month, but I do remember the genre I became obsessed with shortly after that: poetry.
My fifth grade teacher did a unit on the many different types of poems out there, and I took to this topic immediately. A lot of the stuff she had us read reminded me of the nursery rhymes I’d loved a few years earlier.
Shel Silverstein was the first poet I loved, but I quickly moved on to poets who wrote for adult audiences like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.
The thought of compressing what could be an entire story into a few short lines impressed me. I was always excited to find poets who could create strong imagery of what they were describing to the audience while using as few words as possible.
There was about a decade there when poetry was regularly part of what I read for fun. For a long period of time after that, I still returned to it regularly when I needed a break from other genres.
I’m slowly losing interest in this genre, and that makes me a little sad. I wish I could find the same thrill in it I did twenty years ago.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
My interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres has always been intertwined with the other things I’ve read. Long before I entered high school they became genres I returned to over and over again.
While I do take breaks from science fiction and fantasy to recharge sometimes, those feelings have remained constant to this day. No other genre has managed to keep me coming back for more for as long or as consistently as these two have.
There is something so interesting about taking a modern trend and extrapolating it to some distant future where robots really do run the world or when climate change has altered our planet so much that future generations can no longer imagine what life was like in a cooler, more stable climate.
I’ve come to prefer hopeful speculative fiction over the darker, apocalyptic stuff, but I think I’ll continue reading some sort of sci-fi or fantasy for many years to come.
Leaning Towards Nonfiction
Over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more interested in nonfiction than I ever was before. My favourite high school English teacher used to talk about how much she enjoyed reading about things that really happened.
I didn’t understand why she’d say that at the time, but now I relish the opportunity to read books about history, astronomy, archeology, ecology, medicine, the biographies or autobiographies of people who have accomplished all sorts of things, and many other topics.
We live in a world that is filled with more information than any one person can digest in a lifetime. I accept the fact that I can’t learn everything, but I also want to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in this lifetime.
How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.
I haven’t been reading many books lately. It started last month when I went on vacation to someplace warm and sunny. Ontario is such a dark and cold place during the winter that I wanted to spend as much time as I could in the sun during that week without getting burned or tanned.
As is usual for my vacation habits, most of the reading I did consisted of visiting social media and checking out blog posts and short articles on my RSS feed.
Now that I’ve been back home for a couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that I still don’t have the desire to jump back into my normal reading habits. That’s okay. This happens occasionally.
You see, I spend a great deal of my reading time in the science fiction and fantasy genres. The interesting thing about staying so closely connected to a couple of genres like that is how easy it is to spot and predict patterns in them after a while. There have been multiple times when I’ve been able to correctly guess what the entire course of a story will be after finishing the first scene in it.
Part of this is due to the fact that readers expect certain things from their favourite genres. If a character mentions the existence of a long-lost magical amulet on page one, any writer worth his or her salt is going to make sure that amulet shows up again later on in the storyline.
I’ve spent so much time in these genres that I’ve become well-versed in the numerous tropes that exist in both of them. I also know how their various types of storylines generally flow and can pick up on authors who decide to buck those trends pretty early on.
These are all things I’m saying with love for the science fiction and fantasy genres. This happens in every other genre out there, too, and it’s not a bad thing. There’s something reassuring about knowing that, unless you’ve stumbled across one of those rare authors who has put a lot of work into purposefully disrupting these conventions, the chosen one is going to prevail in the end no matter how dire his or her predicament may seem right before the climax.
The nice thing about reading breaks is that they give you a chance to step away from these patterns if you also tend to stick to the same genre(s) with every new title you pick up. Sometimes my breaks are short and punctuated by a stack of non-fiction books about history, food, medicine, or other topics I find appealing. Other breaks find me not reading any full-length books at all or visiting portions of the library that I typically skip over altogether.
Some of the book-lovers I know have never talked about their need to take breaks from reading. I don’t know if this is because they’re always interested in starting something new or because they simply don’t mention it when they wait a while between finishing one book and starting the next one.
It would be interesting to somehow gather statistics on this, don’t you think? Oh, the things I could do with that data in Numbers. There would be more pie charts and graphs floating around in there than you could shake a stick at.
Fellow readers, do you ever take reading breaks? If so, how often do they happen? What do you do when you’re not immersed in your favourite genre(s)?
My idea of the perfect reading spot has evolved over the years. I thought it would be fun to tell brief stories about where I used to love to read, why I chose those spots, why my preferences changed, and where I read today. Feel free to leave a comment with stories about your own favourite reading spots!
Behind the Couch
My grandparents were lucky enough to become grandparents at a fairly young age. They still had a house full of children when I was born, so they never bothered getting rid of a lot of the stuff that parents accumulate while raising kids. Many of the toys and books my mom and her siblings enjoyed were saved for us grandkids and, later on, the great-grandkids! My grandmother’s living room has a few large couches in it. They had, and still have, a cupboard filled with children’s books behind one of those couches.
Some of my earliest memories that have to do with reading involve climbing behind that couch and finding the same editions of classic fairy tales tucked back there that my mom read when she was a child. I read them over and over again while the adults chatted in the next room.
Underneath the Piano
As soon as I outgrew the small space between the couch and the cabinet full of books, I moved onto a spot beneath my grandparents’ piano. (Have you noticed the pattern of my early reading years yet?)
It didn’t look exactly like the piano in this photo, but it did have plenty of room to sprawl out underneath it if you were six or seven and unconvinced that social mores should always be followed.
The adults thought it was funny that I kept finding hiding spots to read.
I liked the fact that I was simultaneously close enough to listen in on their conversations while also in a place that was enough out of the way that no one would try to take my spot.
Reading underneath the piano also meant that I was a little closer to the kitchen. This came in handy when I read about some delicious treat that could only be found in a science fiction or fantasy book and needed to find a snack that actually existed here on Earth instead.
In a Beanbag Chair
My parents moved far away from our extended family when I was seven. We spent four years living in Laramie, Wyoming, and I’m convinced that I spent at least one of those years reading in a bean bag chair.
Where did that bean bag chair come from? I have no idea. It was probably a gift from someone, although I don’t remember what the occasion was or who might have given it to me.
It was the most comfortable reading spot I’d discovered at that point in my life, though. I sat in it over and over again until it finally wore out completely. My siblings and I were still homeschooled back then, so there were many hours of reading time to be had once our lessons were finished. This was even more true during the very long and snowy winter season in Laramie. There’s not much else to do other than read in the middle of a blizzard or when there are a few feet of snow on the ground.
I remember seeing the little white beads on the floor, so I think my beanbag chair either leaked or popped after a while. At any rate, this was roughly the same point in my life that my family switched from homeschooling to public schooling.
At the Library
By far my favourite part of attending public school was getting to visit the school library. They had hundreds of books there, and you could check them out as often as you wanted to.
I have a few memories of being in that library without my teacher. Maybe she gave a few of us permission to go there after we finished certain lessons early since our classroom was right down the hall from the library? At any rate, I read as much as I possible could there before the school year ended. If I could have visited during the summer, I would have.
Luckily, Laramie also had a well-stocked public library that my family visited regularly. My strongest memories of it are as follows:
Sitting in little wooden chairs and reading quietly while my siblings finished picking out what they wanted to borrow.
Looking at a sculpture of a large apple that had a big bite taken out of it. There may have been a worm crawling out of it, too. This piece of art was in the children’s section, and it utterly fascinated me.
Sneaking into the adult section of the library once to look around and being surprised when none of the adults noticed or cared. For some reason, I was convinced that the librarians would have disapproved of a child looking at books meant for grown-ups.
In a Hammock
My family moved back east where many of our extended family members lived when I was eleven.
The house we lived in had a large backyard full of trees that overlooked a lake. I bought a hammock with my savings, and my parents hung it between two trees.
I spent the next few years of my life reading out there whenever the weather was decent. It was such a peaceful place to read, especially when I occasionally glanced up and saw a neighbour swimming or boating past our yard. We’d never lived right next to a lake before, so it surprised me a little bit every single time that happened.
At the Park
The best reading years of my childhood began when I was fifteen and we moved away from the countryside and into a small town.
Our house was a ten to fifteen minute walk from the public library, so I could finally go to the library as many times each week as I wanted to without having to ask anyone to drive me there.
This meant that I sometimes went every day in the summertime! There was a small park right next to the library, and a bigger park about halfway between our home and the library.
I spent a lot of time hanging out in them when the weather was nice. Our community was far too small to have festivals, parades, or other large events more than a few times a year, so it was nice to have all of that free entertainment at my fingertips.
On My Smartphone
These days I’m all about ebooks and reading online in general.
The beautiful thing about having a smartphone is that I always have something to read if I’m stuck in a waiting room or on a delayed subway car. Carrying around a book isn’t always practical, especially since you can’t always predict when you might suddenly have twenty minutes to spare and nothing to do during that time.
It’s also nice to have dozens of books at my fingertips. Whether I want something serious or lighthearted, it’s easy to find online if I don’t already have it in my virtual library.
Where do you like to read? How have those preferences changed over the years?
I spend a lot of my time online talking to other people who love to read. Over and over again, I keep running into conversations about stories that someone doesn’t like for any number of reasons but forces themselves to keep reading anyway.
It’s one thing to continue reading something that’s been assigned for a class or book club, but making yourself to read something you don’t like for no reason at all doesn’t make any sense.
No, you don’t have to finish that book. It truly is okay to stop reading one sentence, paragraph, chapter, or act into the plot.
If you need more convincing, keep reading.
There Are Hundreds of Millions of Other Book in the World
As of 2010, there were 129,864,880 books in the world. (I tried to find a more up-to-date statistic than that, but I didn’t have any luck. If any of my readers know what the current number is, I’d love to hear it).
No matter what genre you’re into or how particular you are your reading material, there are far more stories floating around out there than you will ever have the time to check out before you die even if you spent every single waking moment doing nothing but reading for the next 50 years.
Why waste your time on something that doesn’t appeal to you when you could be back at the bookstore or library finding a different title that is right up your alley?
There is nothing like the feeling you get when you find a story that’s perfect for your tastes. This should happen as much as possible for everyone who loves to read. The less time you spend on “meh” book, the more time you’ll have for the ones that you really love.
Pleasure Reading Is Supposed to be Pleasurable
Yes, I know this is an obvious statement, but sometimes I think people forget that you’re supposed to enjoy the tales you pick out when you’re looking for something to fill your spare time.
It’s one thing to slog through the fine details of a contract, user manual, textbook*, user agreement, or some other form of reading that is meant to give the reader important knowledge instead of entertaining them. These reasons for reading are an unavoidable part of life, and they do serve incredibly important purposes for anyone who needs more information about when their phone contract runs out or what to do when their fridge makes that really bizarre sound.
Reading for the sheer pleasure of it is different. The only purpose of this type of reading is to give you joy. If you’re not enjoying it, you might as well go find something else that does make you happy.
*Although I will admit to reading textbooks for fun in the past, too!
You Might Like It More Later
Just because a book doesn’t appeal to you right now doesn’t mean you won’t have a different opinion of it in the future.
Not liking a specific story the first time you tried it could happen for any number of reasons. For example, you could have picked it up before you were ready for that particular tale or at a time in your life when other types of writing were more appealing to you.
The first time I read C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, I honestly didn’t know what to think of it. The scene where Orual, the main character, sees Pearl, her sister, again after assuming that Pearl had died was beautiful and poignant, but the plot flew over my head because I wasn’t familiar with the myth of Cupid and Psyche and I was a little too young for the subject matter in general.
It was only when I reread it a few years later that I started understanding the themes Mr. Lewis was exploring in it about love, selfishness, doubt, suffering, and gods whose actions don’t make any sense at all to us humans.
With that being said….
Nothing Appeals to Everyone
I may have to write a follow-up post to this post sometime, but not every author or story is going to appeal to every single reader no matter how many times you try to change your opinion of it.
It simply isn’t impossible to write something that appeals to everyone in the entire world.
I know several people who only read nonfiction. Some readers love mysteries but wouldn’t touch a horror novel with a ten foot pole. Others wants cutting-edge science in their fiction but will run screaming from the slightest hint of romance in the plot.
This only scratches the surface of all of the different types of writing and storytelling that are out there.
There are certain authors and fictional universes that I’ve never been able to get into no matter how many times I give them another shot or how hard I try to enjoy them. This doesn’t mean that those books are bad or not worth checking out in any way. They’re simply not my cup of tea for all sorts of different reasons.
There are many other people out there who deeply love them. Some of them are wildly popular, and I’m glad that they’ve found their audience even though I’m not part of that audience.
If you struggle with putting books away without finishing them, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. It truly isn’t necessary to keep reading something that you can’t bring yourself to like.
Do any of my readers have this problem? How often do you give up on reading a book before you finish it?