Reading as a social pheonomenon

Some of you are already friends with me on Goodreads. You might have noticed that while I read voraciously, and am happy to rate, I don’t do a lot of reviewing. Today, I think I figured out why.

I started reading early. I remember being utterly stunned at starting first grade and there were kids there who couldn’t read. Their parents didn’t teach them, instead saying, “you’ll learn it in school.”  I doubt very much that happens these days, but in 1972, it wasn’t that far out of the ordinary.

In several years of elementary school I was either sent to the next highest grade for their reading classes, or given a more advanced book of my own. This meant I didn’t have anyone to talk to about what I was reading.

There was a brief period when I was in junior high that everyone was reading either Danielle Steele, John Saul  or VC Andrews. That was a fun time, being able to swoon,shiver or say “eww” as appropriate, but it didn’t last long. I outgrew the traditional romance novels, as a lot the other fiction I read had its share of romance, but also adventure.

In high school, I had a great crowd of friends. As a college friend put it, they were “the right people masquerading as the wrong people.” We read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy, we could (and probably still can) quote entire passages of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, some of us played Dungeons and Dragons. These are some of the best-natured people I’ve known in my life, but to the rest of the school population, we were considered weirdos. So for a while I could talk about books with this select group. It was like coming home.

When I got to college (at a midsized university in Long Island made famous by a Bill Cosby routine), so few people seemed to have time to read for pleasure. I was the one who would have a stack of required reading and one or two mass-market paperbacks atop (I couldn’t fit everything in my backpack). More than once I was asked, “How can you read for pleasure when you have so much other reading to do?” My answer was, “How can I not?”

I’m also an only child, which lends itself to generally being happy in my own company. What it comes down to is I’ve always felt that reading is a solitary activity, but that is changing.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time working in retail bookstores (may Borders and Waldenbooks rest in peace). While the extra money never hurt, and neither did the discounts, there were two other perks to working there that I’ve never had anywhere else: I could borrow books, and I could talk about them. My favorite part of working would be (and you’ll see Zofia, James or Feliz do this)  helping a customer who has come up to me and said, “I like X Author and X author, who is similar?”

I’ve tried a few book clubs, but I’ve never totally relaxed into one. First, there’s the feeling of “forced” reading. I know way too many people who hate reading because of all the “literature” they were forced to endure in school (and these weren’t even the liberal arts majors). Movies and TV, I’m happy to tear apart with a group, but I guess the formality of it is a little off-putting, no matter how cool some of the people are.

It still delights me that I can chat books easily with some of my current friends (check out Opal the Akamai Reader, who’s been putting out some great reviews!). LizziBabe, who you’ve seen commenting here, got me started on my fascination obsession with mysteries taking place in Asia, specifically Thailand. She introduced me to John Burdett, I introduced her to Colin Cotteril This is thrilling for me.

I have a Kindle, which I love, but I still pretty much use it as a unitasker. I don’t feel the need to quote parts of what I’m reading and share them on Facebook. I don’t listen to music while I read. I don’t even lean on  my darling boyfriend when I’m curled up on the couch or in bed reading, bless his heart for trying to understand. Reading is still solitary to me.

I’m thinking writing and reviewing here might open up some of that solitude. Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll stay tuned.

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1 Comment

Filed under about me, reading

One response to “Reading as a social pheonomenon

  1. I’d love to hear more reviews from you and I think you have a lot to offer the world as far as your opinion goes. 🙂

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