How I Read Q&A

I saw several of these posts from people I follow earlier this past week and I had fun reading all the answers. I didn’t plan to write a post myself because I was traveling on business and I didn’t have the time or energy to put into it, but then a few other people I’m following just posted theirs this weekend.  So I decided maybe it wasn’t too late for me to jump in.  I hope more people I follow will continue to post these!


How do you find out about new books to read?

I already have a lot of books on my to-be-read list, so I don’t actively seek out information about new books to read. Also, I really don't read a lot of the newest books.  More often than not, new books are part of a new or ongoing series and I prefer to read a series after it appears to be finished.


Despite that, certain books do end up on my radar after I’ve seen several favorable reviews or discussions about them on BookLikes or Goodreads and these books will occasionally end up on my TBR list. So even though I don’t add that many books to my TBR list, these sites are where I get most of my new book news. I also sometimes find information my own, usually on an author’s web site, by occasionally Googling a favorite author to find out what they’re up to.


How did you get into reading?

My mother read to me a lot as a young child. I don’t remember this myself, but my mother likes to tell the story about how, at the age of three, I grew exasperated with her inability to read to me all day long and demanded that she teach me how to read so I could do it for myself. So she taught me how to read when I was three years old and I haven’t stopped reading since. Reading has always been a part of my life and even during my busiest times I still find some time for reading just like I find time to take showers and eat meals – there are some things that are just so deeply ingrained and affect your sense of well-being so that you can’t imagine not doing them.


How have your tastes in books changed as you got older?

The books I read today are very different from the types of books I read when I was younger, but I think that has more to do with opportunity and exposure than anything else. When I was younger and didn’t have my own source of income or my own transportation, I would read whatever I could get my hands on. I would read my mom’s books, my grandma’s books, books at the school library, old children’s books handed down to me from my aunt, and whatever random books people bought for me.


So my reading when I was younger was heavily influenced by what was available to me, and what was available to me depended on what the readers in my family liked to read. My family rarely went to the public library so I didn’t really discover the wonders of the public library until I was an adult living on my own. That was when I discovered genres that I hadn’t really been exposed to as a child. First I discovered science fiction and then I discovered fantasy, and I loved both of them. Those are the two genres I still enjoy reading the most. I still read other things once in a great while, but there’s so much variety just within those genres and so many books I never had the chance to read, so my TBR list is overflowing with SF&F.


How often do you buy books?

When I was in my 20’s, almost never. I used the public library. Now that I’m older (almost 40), with a decent job and more disposable income, it depends a lot on convenience and varies based on what I’m reading. I’ve been working my way through e-books in my backlog that I downloaded for free many years ago during publisher promotions, so that reduces the number of books I buy. If they’re part of a series, and if I like them well enough to continue the series, then I usually buy the sequels once I’m ready to read them.


In-between working on that backlog, I also read other books I’m interested in that I don’t already own. More often than not, I just buy the e-books. I far prefer to read in an e-book format, and I want to read on my own schedule and not wait for a hold to come through at the library or deal with due dates that may force me to rearrange my reading schedule. I rarely read more than a book a week on average, and that isn’t going to make much of a dent in my bank account at this point in my life. I usually don’t buy a book until right when I’m ready to read it, since I always buy e-books and I can download it instantly. Sometimes I’ll buy an e-book that was already on my list but that I wasn’t planning to read yet if I see a really good sale for it but in general I keep my book budget and my TBR list under control by only buying what I intend to read right away.


Sometimes, if a book is a standalone book that’s available as an e-book from my library and/or if the e-book is excessively expensive, then I’ll borrow the e-book from the library. I’ve had a hold out for Station Eleven at my library for about 5 months(!) now. It’s a science fiction book that isn’t part of a series and I want to read it, but I’m not in any major hurry. If there is no e-book version of a book available either to buy or borrow, then I’ll always try to borrow the physical book from the library or else I’ll just move it to the bottom of my list in hopes that an e-book version might be released someday.


So this is a very long answer that mostly amounts to: “it depends”. :) Anywhere from 0 to 5 a month, I guess, depending on how many books I read that month, how many of those books I already own, and how many of the unowned books I choose to buy versus borrowing.


How did you get into reviewing books?

A couple years ago, I signed up for Goodreads kind of on a whim, with no clear intentions about how I would use it. I’d already built an offline access database to keep track of my books, so I didn’t need Goodreads to help with cataloging. Mainly I just liked how I could easily look up information about books, and I especially loved the series pages. I started reading the reviews that were posted there and I enjoyed that, and decided to give it a try.


I ended up reviewing every book I finished after joining Goodreads and I still enjoy doing it. One of the biggest advantages is simply that it helps me remember the books better. Even though I usually avoid talking too much about the plot in my reviews, just re-reading my impressions of a book is enough to trigger memories of various things that happened in the book. Since nobody I know in real life enjoys reading the same types of books I do, it’s also just nice to be able to express my thoughts and imagine that people might be reading them. A rare treat that also makes reviewing worthwhile for me is when my review triggers a conversation with somebody else who’s familiar with the book and I get to discuss it with somebody.  I just wish BookLikes had spoiler tag functionality for comments so that those impromptu conversations aren't stifled by fear of spoiling something for somebody else.


How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

It depends on how invested I was in the story and the characters. If I wasn’t much invested, then a bad ending is just another strike against the book that doesn’t change my over-all opinion of the book. If I was enjoying the book, then a bad ending will leave me annoyed but I’ll get over it pretty fast once I start the next book. But once in a great while a book will be so good that it takes over my life and I will be terribly invested in how everything turns out. If I don’t like the way it turns out, then it will take me a few days to really get over that because the book and its ending will linger in my mind. It’s really not very often that I feel completely satisfied with an ending though, so I’m kind of used to it.


It does often affect my rating of the book to some degree, unless I already didn’t like the book anyway.  Reading a good book with a bad ending is sort of like taking a lovely drive through the mountains in the fall and being awed by the beautiful scenery, then getting home to find that your home has burned down while you were gone. (No, fortunately this has never happened to me! It’s an analogy, just go with it…) You may have enjoyed the journey, but the bad ending overshadowed the enjoyment.  For the rest of your life you’ll never really be able to remember that pleasant journey without also remembering the horrible ending.


How often do you take a sneak peek at the ending to see if there is a happy ending?

Absolutely never. Spoilers are the root of all evil. I enjoy trying to figure out what’s going to happen in a book for myself, and I love it when a book surprises me. Well, as long as it isn't an unpleasant surprise anyway. I don’t even like to read a synopsis for a book if I can help it, because they usually give away so much information that you can predict half (or more) of what happens in the book. Or else the synopsis is so misleading that it appears to have been written for a different book. Either way, they tend to spoil the fun of reading the book for myself.


I do sometimes read a synopsis when trying to decide whether I want to read a book, but then I try to let enough time pass before I actually read the book that I don’t really remember what it was supposed to be about. Like the book I’m reading right now – Perdido Street Station. I “bought” the book for free from Amazon over 6 years ago and I’m just now reading it. I’m certain I’ve read the synopsis at least a couple of times since “buying” it, but I had no idea what the book was about by the time I started it. I’m half way through the book now and the book has taken a very interesting direction that I wouldn’t have predicted at the beginning of the book. I love those moments of surprise when I realize there’s more to a book than I had thought there was.


Do you use bookmarks in your books?

Since I almost always read e-books, this isn’t really that relevant for me. I do use them when I read physical books, and I do always buy school textbooks in a physical format because my needs from a reference book are different than my needs from a book I’m reading for entertainment. I have some old Star Trek bookmarks that I usually use but sometimes I’ll just grab whatever is handy. I also often use those post-it flags in textbooks. I like those because you can write little notes on the flag part that sticks out from the book which makes it really easy to quickly go back to the pages that have information you will need to reference repeatedly.