What your reading material says about you. Or, why you may not want to sit beside me on the bus.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  Nothing earth-shattering, I know.  And as I said the other day, it’s not exactly a hobby, it’s just something I do.  For a very long time, I didn’t read much at all.  This might come as a shock to those who know what I do for a living, because there is some fantasy about people who work in libraries that they read all day.  And while some librarians may do a lot of reading of books as part of their job (I am thinking mostly of librarians who do a lot of readers’ advisory, maybe childrens’ librarians too, although perhaps not at all and maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about and therefore perpetuating the myth, I don’t know…) I’ve never held a library job where that was a requirement.  Policies and procedures?  I read a lot of those.  Articles on different aspects of my job or jobs I wanted to do?  Yup.  Research into alternate ways to offer reference services, etc.?  Tons.  But not a lot of books.  And certainly not thte types of books that likely come to mind when one thinks of a librarian reading books at their desk.  (because you should know that when you tell people you work in a library, they sometimes get that misty, faraway look in their eyes imagining how great it would be to, you know, sit at a desk and read the Twilight series all day every day, because that is what a lot of people think librarians do.)

Anyway, when I was young, I read all the time.  When The Genealogist and I tell our kids how much we read as children and how we would spend entire rainy days just reading, they don’t believe us.  Or, they might actually believe us, but they find it extremely sad that the only thing we could possibly do on a rainy day was to read.  No 24-hour kids’ television, we remind them.  No video and computer games, no instant messaging, no internet whatsoever.  No phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury…. *ahem*

Anyway, The Artist and The Musician, they are readers, they like books, they always have.  They probably wouldn’t spend an entire day reading, not when there are so many other distractions in their world, but they do enjoy it.  And they have very different tastes.  The Artist.  For the most part, he is way into comic books, kids’ magazines like Owl and Chickadee and fantasy stories with knights and dragons, robots and aliens, things like that.  He likes stuff about nature, but it’s the fantasy stuff that he really seems to love.  The Musician, well he’s more of a realist.  It’s the books with real people telling their stories that excite him.  He enjoys the Dear Canada series, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, (both fictitious, of course, but with a certain amount of  “hey, someone wrote this”) and books about his favourite musicians and rockstars.  His favourites when he was little and just learning to read were books about trucks, planes and ships.  It’s amazing to watch the two of them in a library or bookstore, and see where they go.  It’s not unusual, of course, they are very different people, but if reading tastes are indicative of personality, then those two are spot on.  The Artist is the dreamer, imagining the possibilities.  The Musician is the guy who wants the facts and the proof.

It will be interesting to see if their tastes shift or merge or change completely as they get older.  I know mine certainly did.  I was a total fiction lover from a very early age, I didn’t have much use for anything that wasn’t a mystery or an adventure or a thriller.  Non-fiction stuff was for school, and maybe it just seemed like too much work.  Of course, as school went on, more and more non-fiction stuff was added to my repertoire, and by the time I hit university, I was reading so much school stuff that I didn’t have time for anything else, really.  And then after uni, it was difficult to pick up a book and not analyze the shit out of it, so for the most part, I chose not to.  Instead, I devoted myself to ridiculous amounts of TV, because that was something I just didn’t seem to have time for previously and it kind of rocked not to have to write essays and do presentations and just, you know, research everything.

Eventually though?  I needed to read again.  I needed the analysis, and the process, and I needed to think and so I started reading.  But what to read?  A lot of fiction left me bored and uninterested.  But did I want to get back into reading history?  I tried on a lot of different genres and wore a lot of different reader hats initially, and when people asked me “Read any good books lately?” I could honestly say that I had, but most of the time when I told them what I was reading, they had no clue what I was talking about.

See, the thing is,  I read weird books.  I do.  I don’t really subscribe to any “type” of reading material.  If it sounds interesting, I’ll read it.  I don’t pay attention to Oprah and her book club ideas.  I don’t belong to a book club.  I don’t watch the talk shows to  see the latest author tours  or go out and devour everything on the Canada Reads list (Especially not this year.  Seriously, what was up with that list?).  I get a lot of my reading ideas from blogs like Largehearted Boy and Bookslut (linkage to the right, yo) and I sometimes get ideas from radio programs like The Sunday Edition (hosted by my supersmart imaginary boyfriend Michael Enright) or Eleanor Wachtel’s excellent Writers & Company.  In short, I rarely read books that other people I know are reading, which leaves me out of many a girls’ weekend conversation.  “No, I haven’t read Eat, pray, love. I’m sorry, I can’t comment.  But!  Have you read Breathers: a Zombie’s Lament? No?  Oh.  What about Metropole or The End of Mr. Y?  Oh.  Okay.  Hey, your glass is empty, let me get you some more wine…”  See?  Fantastic books, all of them.  But no one knows about them.

And I’m not trying to be all snobby-snobbity about my reading choices.  People read lots of different things, and there is no one type of book or genre that is better than another, it’s what captures your interest that is important.  And I know there are loads of people out there who have read these books I just mentioned (Goodreads tells me so), it’s just that among the people I interact with daily – friends and work colleagues, etc. I am a bit of a literary outcast. 

Which brings me to the book I am currently reading, the excellent Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius by Colin Dickey.  I am loving this book, and have read close to 200 pages in 2 days, that’s how fascinating it is.  I mostly read it waiting for, and riding on the bus to and from work every day.  Which probably explains why I usually have a seat to myself, and most people at the bus stop give me a pretty wide berth.  But anyway.  Again, it’s a book I heard about on the radio – specifically The Current.  The host was interviewing the author, and it sounded intriguing to me, so I reserved the book at the library.  Had I missed the radio program, I doubt I’d have ever heard about this book.  And I think that’s what’s exciting about these sorts of serendipitous findings.  I mean, sometimes I hear about a book that I think I’d like and it turns out I don’t.  But a lot of what I’ve been reading just comes from a passing mention on a blog, or a snippet of an interview with an author, and I think that is really an amazing way to get book recommendations.  There is so much out there, and if you just limit yourself to one type of book, one genre or select your reading material based on one booklist or one person’s ideas of what’s good to read, you just miss out.

And so, what’s next on my “to-read” list?  Well, I have two in the queue: The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum and Wicked Plants: a Book of Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

These ones?  Just might get me banned from public transit entirely.

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