For most obsessive readers, reading is a passion. There are those who love sports, socializing, friends, drinking, eating — I’m sure the list can go on. This is no less true for readers. In today’s world, when you tell someone that your favorite pastime (or any form of this question), is reading, you will frequently get that strange look that says “that isn’t a pastime. Pastimes are things that are fun.” In concert with that look you will frequently get the platitudinous comment of “I wish I had more time to read,” or some variation. On the rare occasion you will encounter a fellow reader that gets that excited look in their eye and the immediate question of “what are you reading,” “what are your favorite books,” (this one is ALWAYS plural), or “do you have any good recommendations?”
Most readers have to learn to proudly carry the moniker of “reader,” as if it is some distasteful disease (or badge of honor :P). Even within the family there are the tolerant amusement responses all the way up to the patronizing jokes. But most readers rarely concern themselves with what other people think. They understand that most people think we are some variation of nuts because our idea of a good time is to get home with a favorite drink, in the favorite chair, in the preferred reading nook, curled up with a comfortable blanket — all in preparation for their escape to another time, world, place and well loved friends.
For readers, protracted time away from a good book is almost never heard of. You will usually find that they never go anywhere without a book. (It may be hidden in their back pack, purse, computer case, etc. Or it may be carried proudly — announcing to the world they are a reader — and to other readers inviting a conversation about the latest love of their life! But make no mistake — they do have it. Just ask.) In today’s world, it is actually possible and even probable, that readers will carry more than one book, or even their whole library. The format is changing — but the passion remains: audio, electronic, mobile and yes the traditional hard and soft back renditions. (Truth to tell, most avid readers will always retain their preference for a traditional book. That smell of paper and binding; the weight or heft of a good, solid book; the distinct sound of pages when they are rifled — it just doesn’t get any better than that!)
Whatever the traits and characteristics, the type or preferences — readers, like other enthusiasts of any pastime, maintain their own unique language, customs and idiosyncrasies. They are easy to recognize for those who belong to the world. So, for those that don’t — here is a crash course in how to relate to the reader in your life.
1. ”What do you like to read?” This question is not a reference to the format of reading material, but a genre. Readers come in many shapes and sizes. The way to identify a reader is their preferred genre of choice. These come in some basic categories: fantasy, history, historical fiction, classics and the like. This is a very important question and will usually be used as a form of introduction. It tells other readers, (and the rest of the world, but they rarely know what to do with this information), how to orient themselves to this unique personality. Understanding these responses gives you a great way of knowing how best to talk to an individual. (And for those looking to impress a man or woman — and you know nothing about reading — it will help to learn about these types of classifications. It is the fastest way in.)
- Fantasy? This is the escapist dreamer. They love to get away from the insanity of this world into another one where the rules of living and the demands of a demanding world don’t apply. They need down time, away from the madness of other people’s insanity and a place to retreat into the unpredictable and unknown.
- Historical Fiction? This is the reader that really enjoys history — but still loves the romantic in life. These are the type that look for the romantic in everything. They love a great love story — but they need it set against a good solid backstory. The story needs some teeth — but not a lot of mental demand. This type of reader can engage their world on many levels and it will be challenging to know how to understand them and any given time. They will shift from intense study and contact with the world and others to a romantic escape into a more idealize time.
- Romance? These are the readers that are looking for a more idealized type of life. The perfect boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other does exist for these individuals. The perfect world is reached and it is possible to find the idealized life. They are hopelessly optimistic and will always see the world as a glass half full kind of outlook. They many not have that life — but they are ever hopeful that eventually they will find it.
- Non-Fiction? These are the readers wanting reassurance that they are not alone in the world. They are looking for others who can provide inspiration and encouragement. There is a huge world out there and it isn’t possible to experience it all first hand. But they can know and understand it through a connection with others. Simply put — there is always someone else out there that understands what it is like to live __________ type of life.
Every type of genre says a great deal about a person. Understanding those types are more than important — they are essential.
2. Stacking: This is a unique personality type. You remember when you were in high school and everyone belonged to a clique? Well — readers never really got out of that method of identification. Stacking is the unique sub-group that readers identify themselves with. Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative? Well — you get the idea. Stacking says a great deal about a reader. As an example that I know well: I prefer to read historical fiction and World War II history. I am not a real lover of series and get particularly frustrated with the romanticized vampire. I can take or leave fantasy, as the mood strikes me and enjoy the classics when the need arises. What does the interpretation of this sub-group mean? Well just as the jocks love physical exertion with a well-developed competitive nature; they generally associated more in the sports world and less in the intellectual and they engage others under a strict set of socially acceptable rules. My type of reader has a strong need to understand the entire world and can’t gain enough information — but at times find it easier to gain that understanding through a less brutal form that generally provides a happy ending. There is a strong need for mental stimulation and much prefer the traditional in life. Like high school, these cliques are important, but the boundaries are much more fluid. We may not cross from group to group — but we are a lot more open to the groups of others.
3. A Time and Place for Everything: For the reader there is no such thing. It is important to remember that for an avid reader — life intrudes on reading time. Reading time is not an occasional time, but the primary time. Life is the temporary aspect that is always the intruder in their world.
4. Gifting: There are never too many books. When it comes to giving gifts, most of us are always looking for that uniquely special, personally significant gift that is different from the traditional social disengaged gifts. We hope that the gift will set us apart from others in the eyes of the receiver. The gift should say a lot about how you feel about the person, its and art to find just right. Frequently, when it comes to readers, most people will look for gifts that don’t deal with reading because they want to find a way to connect with the individual, without feeling they are getting in a rut that will offend a reader. Worse yet — they believe that everyone gives them books and they want to stand out from the crowd. Or most often — we don’t want to keep contributing to what we see as their idiosyncratic delinquency. The feeling is ”I always give books – isn’t there something that will mean more.” Well — here is a secret. If you want to impress or demonstrate how much a reader means in your life – a book is always the best way to go. First off — it is the most appropriate gift you can give. The choices are infinite and can be tailored to any relationship level. Second off — there is no such thing as too many books! (Just ask my poor family that has had to move my library on numerous occasions. They have started refusing to help out with my moves.) Oh — and did I say there is no such thing as too many books? If you really want to impress — go to the nearest book store. They will love you for life.
5. Libraries Say a Great Deal About the Person: In the real world how a person dresses, what they eat, what they like to drink, what their favorite social outlets are — these are all means of identifying how best to engage someone. The clothes fiend — always start a conversation with how nice something they are wearing looks. Or for a woman — always comment on the shoes. (And the answer, for any men that missed it, is they ALWAYS look good — no matter what they have on.) For the football aficionado – you always start out with inquiring how their favorite team is doing. Well — for the reader, look at the books in their library, or that they are carrying. In this modern, electronic age — if you can come up with some pretense to check out their nook, kindle, i-pad – open it up and quickly scan the books hidden there. This is the social cue necessary for opening a conversation. “Have you read the latest . . .?” “Do you like (insert author here) books?” Understanding how to engage a reader’s preferences are imperative for entering into a reader’s world.
These are just a few tips on entering into the world of the reader. You want to impress your loved one who belongs to the reading world? Engage them through their passion and in their realm. Like sports lovers, social drinkers, partiers and others — they love those that accept them for who they are and are willing to take the time to get to know their world — rather than demanding they get out of their world to accommodate others. If you make the effort — they will love you for life.