With August gone, September upon us, kids and teachers back in school, stores overflow with notebooks, pens/pencils and other weapons of mass organization. Bookcases, milk crates that can become bookcases (or serve in other book storage capacities) are dangled temptingly before us, along with lamps to allow us to read longer now that the days grow shorter, and even armrest pillows to prop us up in bed. Is there any other season so perfectly designed for reading? (Okay, all of them. All seasons are perfectly designed for reading.) Library trips may become more frequent (for the kids, seriously, but parents/guardians are not without ulterior motives) and then there’s the bonus reading moments of waiting for kids/cars/buses/unicorn wagon trains (depending upon where one lives, of course) not to mention those longer evenings. All of this reading opportunity means quite a few different things, actually, but what we’re looking at this week would make our teachers proud. We’re talking about noticing patterns in our reading habits.
The more times we do a thing, the easier it is to notice patterns in the way we do the thing. For those of us who keep track of our reads, either electronically or on paper, said records give us a leg up on the pattern-spotting task. This week alone, one reader challenged themselves to make better use of a website that sounds like “Foodbeads.” One of the features on Foodbeads allows readers to not only list what they’ve read, are reading, and plan to read, but see how far they are along in their current reads. The reader in question had never made use of this facet before, (and, really, this is not surprising, as they still cannot figure out how they ended up with two Foodbeadsaccounts in the same name, or how to consolidate them; this reader is easily confounded by matters electronic, so keep that in mind) and even needed a few minutes to figure out how this feature worked for paper and electronic books, as they, like many, are a hybrid reader.
This reader has been a juggler of multiple reads at one time since they can remember, and so usually has a few going at one time (their record, for those who are curious, is ten.) At one point, they were quite studious about one historical romance and one licensed SF/F tie-in novel at the same time, and now are more inclined to juggle historical romance/realistic YA/the occasional women’s fiction and postapocalyptic tie-in graphic novel. This reader was well aware of all of that, but it was only when they started updating their progress on Foodbeads that the lightbulb went on. This reader was also peeved that they would be reminded they had, technically, been reading certain books for elebenty billion days, but, in reality, had not even picked them up in ages. There had come a point when the reader wandered away from books they’d picked up with great interest, and wasn’t sure why.
Then the reader checked their progress on the latest books that were hanging steady without any progress. Both of them were stalled around the 40-45% mark, right before the midpoint. Interesting, that. This information caused the reader to check on other books, not recorded, that they had put aside, with bookmarks in place. One guess as to where those bookmarks were located. Mmhm. Call it the reading equivalent of pedaling a bicycle uphill, but the pattern became evident. This caused the reader to remember how, when reading paper books, they would frequently check to see how close to the middle of the book they were, when reading the first half, and keep an eye on their progress bar when reading on an e-reader that sounds like Spindle. In both instances, the reader felt a sense of relief when they passed the halfway point, and, from there, reading would go much faster. The reader is still not sure what they are actually going to do with this information, but they like knowing the pattern is there. Maybe, the next time a read starts to feel sloggy, it may merely be that point in the book, and pressing on a wee bit further can make all the difference. Alternatively, it may be time to hop to one of the other current reads and see if that kicks things into gear.
This, of course, is only one such pattern. Some readers prefer certain types of books at certain times of the year, whether that means format (hardcover versus paperback versus e-book) or find that summer means books with a beachy setting, while winter means big city time, and spring or fall are perfect for small town love. Maybe some readers find that they appreciate different subgenera when they space things out; a sweet book may be followed by a hot one, then suspense, then YA, then inspirational, then category, indie, series, standalone, old school, new school, what-have-you. The great thing about finding a pattern in reading habits is that the power is entirely in the hands of the reader. Find that books with component X always read faster or slower than those without it? For those who plan their reading in advance, now they know when to read books with component X, or save it for a time when they can have the reading experience they prefer. Note a gap in reading books with component Y? Go thee forth and find thee some Y. Spread things out and notice it’s been a while since there’s been any Z in the reading diet, and hey, wasn’t Z great? Go get some of that. Books with A always seem to drag? No law saying one has to read A when one isn’t in the mood for it. Patterns can be fascinating in and of themselves, but the real individuality comes forth when we can get in there and customize.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you notice any patterns in your own reading experience? Are these patterns intentional, or have they developed over time? Have you ever tried to change any of these patterns, or influence them in any way? What sorts of tools do you use to keep track of your reading? If you don’t keep track, or think patterns are pure balderdash, we want to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.