Tag Archives: Reading

Why Taking Reading Breaks Can Be a Good Idea

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)?

What Is the Perfect Reading Spot?

Today’s topic is a lighthearted one.

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?

No, You Don’t Have to Finish That Book

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?