100 Things About Me as a Reader

I stole this idea from Franki Sibberson, who blogged about it here. Like Franki, I’m not going to reach “100” until later, or maybe later in this case means never. But it’s been an entertaining, thoughtful exercise to ruminate about these things, my reading life. I found that I had difficulty separating the “me as a reader” from “me as a writer,” to the point where I pretty much gave up. One thing leaks into the other and everything shines.

Anyway, you might enjoy giving this a try. Add a comment below, and create list of your own and share the link. I think it’s cool that some teachers use this idea in the classroom, with good results.

* I tend to read one book at a time — not one of those marvels who can juggle several stories at once.

* As a kid, I learned how to read (and write, I think) by reading the sports pages in the New York Daily News. So, yeah, I owe a big debt to Dick Young.

* I have no memory of either of my parents reading to me. Ever.

* Two books I remember best: Splish, Splash, and Splush and Go Up for Glory: Bill Russell. No idea why.

* Sometimes I pretend that I’ve read books when, in truth, I really haven’t. But don’t tell anyone.

* I tend to like “guy” books more than “girl” books, and male authors more than female authors.

* Autographs mean nothing to me; I much prefer a handshake. But now I see it as not so much a way of getting something — an autographed book! — but as a way to honor an author, to say thank you. So I’ve stood in line to do that a few times; Jean Craighead George was the latest.

* I have a little light that I clip onto my book when I read in bed, it’s like a torch in the darkness and I love it.

* Long books tend to scare me: the commitment!

* I’ve read many comic books over the years, but I can’t say I’ve ever connected with them in a “eureeka!” moment.

* These days I need glasses . . . rats.

* Reading to my children has had a huge impact on me as a writer, and I’m so grateful for the books they’ve brought into my life. I missed Beatrice Potter until Gavin came along.

* Books are furniture.

* When I was little, we had a fat book on our shelves called something like, “Tales of the Arabian Nights.” I’m making that title up, since I don’t remember; but I do remember amazing, wild illustrations of a horrible genie, arms crossed, and a disgusting cyclops. Drawings of men with swords, fighting impossible foes. I stared at those pictures countless times. It was my go-to book as a child.

* I often go on thematic reading binges. For example: To Kill a Mockingbird into Mockingbird into In Cold Blood. That kind of thing.

* I’ve read the first two books in “Hunger Games” series and though I don’t really want to read the last one, I might have to read the last one — if you know what I mean.

* I think that it’s perfectly fine to abandon a book before the end. In fact, I recommend it.

* When I feel like my reading habit is in decline, I’ll pick up a police procedural — something fast-paced and action-packed — and tear through it in a day or two. It gets me back in the flow.

* I love Raymond Chandler: those sentences! Pauline Kael, too!

* I read with a pen in my hand, almost always (and for that reason, dislike library books). I star, underline, write in margins, complain, etc. I have a physical reader response to a good book. Reading drives me to writing.

* Magazines get in the way of my book reading. I think the two formats are at war for my attention and there’s never a satisfactory balance.

* I don’t have a Kindle, but I don’t have a problem with it. Feels inevitable. Things change.

* For years I read extensively about baseball — all sorts of books, totally absorbed, deep deep deep into it. Then I wrote Six Innings, and haven’t read nearly as much about baseball since. It’s like I got it out of my system.

* A lot of children’s books disappoint me, and I sometimes wonder if there’s a prevailing idea that, “Hey, that’s good enough — it’s only a kid’s book.” And that really, really bothers me.

* I don’t like time travel. The logic breaks down and I’m not the type of guy who can accept those lapses.

* I’ve read the back of a lot of sugary cereal boxes.

* I hate it when seemingly intelligent characters are forced to make extremely poor decisions in order to move the plot along.

* I really love Richard Ford, and almost nothing ever happens in his books.

* I think some people might possibly read too much, too fast, like seeing three movies in one day or visiting twelve countries during a two-week trip to Europe. It’s not a race to tick off the most titles on a checklist. Quality over quantity, every time.

* I go first to the sports section when I visit used book stores. I am looking for baseball books to add to my collection.

* I used to read a lot of poetry, for a good ten-fifteen years. These days, almost never. But I think it was probably the most important reading of my life, that full attention to every word.

* I think if you’ve read a book more than 20 years ago, it almost doesn’t count.

* I don’t like the kissing parts in books.

* The newspaper is still where my reading day begins, and it usually involves scores of games.

* I worry about the blogging and the clicking and the surfing and the texting and if it has negatively effected my attention span. And yours.

* I love listening to audiobooks on long drives.

* I don’t have any nostalgic feelings about my hometown library. Back then, I didn’t hear the magic.

* Books were not important to me as a kid. But later, yes, very much. I still don’t know exactly what changed, or why. How did I become . . . a reader?

* I’ve spent hours and hours pouring over the lyrics in favorite albums — blasting the music, lying on the floor, puzzling over the words. Sometimes the albums didn’t come with lyrics, and I’d have to listen over and over again, lifting the needle, placing it back down, writing out the words phrase by phrase. Things seem to mean more when you have to work for it. Nowadays I go on Google and it’s all there, every word; I don’t have to study the song, and something essential’s probably been lost.

* I’m a slow reader.

* Neither of my parents read novels, almost ever. but most of my brothers and sisters were readers, and I’m sure that was a powerful model in my life. Jean and her Richard Brautigan, Bill and his Ray Bradbury, Al and his Kurt Vonnegut, Neal and his James Joyce . . .

* I still need to understand that reading is a vital part of my job. Sometimes it feels like goofing off, but I know, intellectually, that’s it’s everything.


  1. sylvie says:

    thanks James. love this entry. might play with doing one too.

  2. David Klein says:

    I make sure my kids catch me in the act of reading books. Often I sit in the same room, same chair (okay I have a small house). Something about modeling the behavior I want them to learn. They’ve learned. They often join me, pick up their own book and sit nearby. We ask each other “What book are you reading?” And that can lead to all kinds of great conversations.

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