Gest Post: Bookish Habits

Ever bookworm out there has little reading habits, be it a favorite reading spot, preferred book bindings, and other little things that we do when we’re absorbed in books. I know I have many, and I’ve asked my good friend Hazel West to share with us some of her reading habits as well.
Before I was a writer, I was a reader, and I still am now, and perhaps even more so after I became a writer. I think that when one becomes a writer, you hold a whole new respect for books and how they came into being. But this doesn’t only go as far as the crafting of the story, the characters, or the writing style; it also goes into the physical aspects of the book as well.

I love pretty books. I enjoy an old friendly paperback that I have read over and over again; one that can be a companion when I travel, and can easily end up in my bag without me worrying about it getting hurt. But I also love a really beautiful well-bound hardback, especially ones that are not only pretty with the dust jacket on, but with it off as well. Some of my favorite books as far as physical aspects go right now (though they are pretty awesome stories too) are The Secret Journeys of Jack London series by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon with lovely illustrations by Greg Ruth. I love the covers themselves, but the actual books are made to look like ones from the 1800s. I’ve noticed several pretty books lately actually like The Dark Unwinding, which has a lovely un-jacketed cover too, and I’ve always loved the Mistmantle series by M. I. McAllister. Those were ones I had to buy in hardback just to have the lovely un-jacketed books. Nothing beats getting a really lovely re-bound classic that’s actually bound in the strong, old-fashioned way. And if you’re even half a bibliophile it’s probably not even safe to look on The Folio Society website. You’ll be drooling over those books.

I would love to be a person who could just read anywhere, and I usually can, but I prefer a quiet place, which usually ends up either being in bed, or on really nice days that are strange in Florida, I much prefer to sit out on the screen porch to read in the fresh air. Certain books, I find easier to read when there are distractions going on, but I’m very particular in the fact, that I will always finish a book in peace, and I will never read a mystery with distractions lest I miss anything!

I’m notorious for losing bookmarks, so I rarely end up using nice ones. (I really love the books with bound in ribbon bookmarks!) I usually end up using library receipts in library books and braided ones I make myself whenever I lose my stash of bookmarks. I prefer using scraps of paper actually though, because then I always have something to write on at hand, and I’m always getting writing epiphanies when I read and it also comes in handy when I am reading a really bad book so I can jot down all the things I want to make sure I remember to write in my review. One of my reading pet peeves too, is that I hate fat bookmarks that, if you leave them in your books too long, they leave a lump between the pages.

On the subject of pet peeves, I’ll address others I have, usually directed at other people and the reason I VERY rarely loan books out unless they are to other immaculate readers like myself. I’ll start off with dust jackets. I love the dust jackets, and I will never read a book with a jacket on because I want to keep them in the best condition possible. I really hate it when people use the flap of the dust jacket as a bookmark; it makes it all creased and wobbly. And I always make sure my dust jackets are in a safe place when they are not on my books so that they don’t get crushed by themselves—that’s another thing I hate. I don’t like seeing dog-ears, especially in brand new books. If it’s an old worn paperback, I don’t mind so much. People who drop books constantly don’t deserve to read them (though I have dropped a couple on accident, but I was utterly mortified.) That’s the only code that has kept me from throwing certain books across the room. Barely. Some just don’t deserve to bide by the code.

My favorite times to read are before bed, or on cold or rainy days with a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Before bed is the best time though, because I’m the only one still awake and there is no way anyone will want to bother me!

~ ~ ~ ~

As for me, I have difficulty reading paperbacks. My aversion for the paper-bound book versus the hardcover sprung up I don’t really know when. I always preferred hardcover to paperback, but it’s only been in recent years - when I started expanding my collection in earnest - that I actively began shunning them. I won’t ever buy a paperback, unless I can’t get the book in hardcover at all (like Rosemary Sutcliff, the Horatio Hornblower series, Hazel West’s books; these are the exception to the rule). Paperbacks may be cheaper and easier to carry about, but they aren’t as pretty on bookshelves and they get damaged much easier than hardcovers. I want my books to last, and rebinding a paperback that has fallen apart is no fun. When I get a book from the library and it is paperback, it takes me about twice as long to finish it than it would a hardcover. I don’t like the feel of it, or the fact that I can’t really keep it open with just one hand.

My favorite place to read changes depending on the season. In the chill of winter, I like to create a huge nest of pillows and blankets on my bed, and curl up in it with a cup of tea or hot cocoa and a pile of books, the heater and classical station on. Fall days can see me outside on the swing set or on my windowseat, depending on the sort of fall day it is; the same is with spring, because in my area, we have a very wet springtime. Summer, though, I either go for the old wooden swing set hidden in the woods, and try to not get motion sick while reading. Or I hide underneath the Indian plum tree, where no one can see me because of the bushes, or I visit the Dragon Stump (which does, in all seriousness, look like a dragon lying down). So long as the area is quiet, I am generally not picky about where I read.

I am, however, extremely finicky about book abuse. I detest dog ears with a passion that borders on being overzealous. Broken spines just make me want to cry, and edge wear makes me want to skin whatever cat did it (especially if it’s mine). I always smooth out dog ears and other folds in library books and books I borrow from friends. If someone loses their place because of it, well, they shouldn’t have been dog-earing the page!! Oddly enough, I am not picky about the condition a book is in when I buy it, so long as there aren’t pages missing or illegible sections, and the price is decent. I enjoy buying worn books and taking them to a home that will care for them (because I never get rid of a book that I buy). I am a Book Rescue, really, and if the damage is something I can fix - page tears, new end-pages - I’ll fix it. I always keep my books in the best condition, but I won’t reject a book simply because its previous owner wasn’t as caring. These books I consider my little orphan children who just need a loving touch - the Oliver Twists of my collection.

And while I’m a big fan of dust jacket designs, and I have commented more than once that yes, I do judge a book by its cover, I cannot stand shelving my books with their dust jackets on. I just can’t do it; they look so ugly on the shelves with their jackets. However, just as much as I dislike shelving books with their jackets still wrapped about them, I can’t stand reading a book without the dust jacket, so I have a large basket under my bed stuffed with dust jackets, all neatly organized alphabetically so I can find them easily.

Another odd quirk of mine is I won’t use just anything as a bookmark. My goal is to eventually have a bookmark for every single one of my books, but it’s a slow process. Bookmarks are far more expensive than I originally thought. I try to buy bookmarks that will “match” the book it is going into, be it by color or style or similar subject. The bookmark for my copy of The Secret Garden has watercolor birds and flowers all over it, and the one for The Near Witch is ice-blue. I won’t use those bookmarks that fit over the page, because they eventually end up creating tears and nicks. I like flat cloth, stiff paper, leather, or ribbon bookmarks with pretty designs and sometimes sayings. If I am forced to use a bit of paper because I forgot a bookmark, I have to doodle on it first and trim its edges. My library books have slips of paper that I throw away once I’m done with the book, because I write the due date on the bit of paper so I don’t forget.

Sometimes when I’m trying to get through a book really fast, or if I’m having a hard time concentrating for whatever reason (and not necessarily because the book is boring), I use an ink-less pen (so I don’t accidentally leave marks on the page) to follow the sentence I’m reading. For some reason, it helps me read faster and stay focused, though when I’m reading out loud, it makes me slow down. I have a bad habit of reading really fast out loud, though still coherently.

I can’t have just one book going at a time, mostly because with the number of books I have to read, it’s just not practical. I will always have one library book going, one book that I own, and then a classic. I will read at least 100 pages in the library book and the “owned” book every day, and then a chapter or two of the classic before I go to bed. Usually. If I have more time, I’ll read a lot more than just 100 pages, and if I am working on my story, the classic I’m reading will receive my full attention. The library book also always gets precedence over the other two, because I have a time limit, unfortunately. But I always have at least three books going - not counting the ones I’m reading out loud to my sister.

Finally, my last major reading quirk is one that I think most bookworms share, and that is: I can’t go to sleep without reading for a little while first. I get restless if I don’t, so I always have to read at least one chapter in a book before I hit the snooze button. Of course, the risk that comes with reading before bedtime is that I’ll end up staying up extremely late because the book becomes extremely interesting, and I keeping telling myself, Just one more chapter. With the wide range of books I read, one can correctly assume that I sometimes have very weird dreams because of what I went to bed reading. But reading before bedtime isn’t enough to send me off to La-La Land. When bookworms are kids, they sometimes like to stash a book under their pillow, because that’s just what kids do (and what better way to hide reading material from parents, though my mom and dad were always good about letting me stay up late with a book). As one grows older, this habit kind of dies off, and books are placed on a nightstand, back on their shelf, and in general somewhere that isn’t under a person’s head. Well, I never grew out of it, and just like a kid’s comfort blankie, if there isn’t a book under my pillow, I can’t get to sleep. And no, it isn’t uncomfortable to sleep with a book under my head, because there are three pillows between me and it. But just knowing that the book is there, and being able to slip my hand under my pillow and touch its cool surface, is instant relaxation.

What are some of your odd reading habits?

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