The Art of Reading

Yes, you read that right. Good job continuing to master the art! Keep going, though. There’s more mastery to be attained.

You probably learned to read somewhere around the age of five or six. Words and sentences became part of your daily existence. Through practice and progress over time, you eventually became a polished reader. You graduated from See Spot Run, to Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Then you met Holden Caufield in Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye before being thrust into the wonderful world of William Shakespeare. You wrote your book reports and learned about conflict, character, and plot. Then, ready or not, you were thrust into college or the workforce and, before you knew it, you became a fully functioning adult.

Now we’re adults and we still read every day – advertisements, spreadsheets, news articles, stock tickers, comic strips, and, of course, bills. But what kind of reader have you become since the high school book reports? Chances are good you may not even know.

One important element I’ve come to appreciate about readers is that, no matter their preference or brow (highbrow or lowbrow), they typically enjoy a good list. It’s definitive, structured, finite, and bulleted – perfect for the average human in today’s ADD-laden world.

I’d love to tell you that the list below represents years of hardened research and case studies, but it doesn’t. It’s based on my observations, questions I’ve asked and noted over the years, and my personal experience. While no list is ever perfect, mine is pretty damn close. Readers typically ascribe to one primary and one secondary category. I’m an Information Gatherer/Writer Reader. What type of reader are you?

 

Reader Categories

  1. The Information Gatherer

These inquisitive souls can typically be found perusing Internet or magazine articles, websites, newspapers, brochures, cereal boxes, labels of varied assortment, cookbooks, racing forms, coupons, and any other piece of writing that will offer answers to asked (and more often) unasked questions.

I’m (primarily) an Information Gatherer. Most of my reading time is spent on articles that will, in some way, answer a question I didn’t even know I had. What are the five keys to relationship success? I never would have thought to ask but now I must know. What were those Japanese Olympians so upset about? There will surely be an article that can answer my question. I read at least fifteen or more articles every day. Sports scores and stats, headlines, industry news, humor columns, and select blogs are at the top of my list.

Information Gatherers are not adverse to the occasional novel, but are primarily fulfilled by many tidbits, factoids, and articles that serve a specific purpose. The writing contains facts, is long enough to add value, but not so long that it has to be put down and picked back up at a later time.

In the immortal words of Lt. John Kendrik (Kieffer Sutherland in A Few Good Men,):

“Lieutenant, I have two books by my bed, the US Marine Corps handbook and the King James Bible.”

Lt. Kendrik – A classic Information Gatherer.      

 

  1. The Casual Reader

These folks are exactly what the name implies. They may be your significant others who have books on the nightstand they’ve been reading for three months and are about halfway through. They read the occasional article and would likely be hard pressed to name their favorite author. If they do, it’s usually a recognizable name that will pass muster in social circles like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. They’ll read a couple books per year at best and often have to be prodded to do so. Reading for these folks isn’t a big deal. They get their information from television or radio and are A-OK doing so. For the Casual Reader, life often presents activities outside the printed page that they would much rather enjoy.

 

  1. The Voracious Reader

These readers are the exact opposite of the Casual Reader. These are the hardcore people who are always reading something and usually in record time compared to the rest of us. My stepdad and grandma are Voracious Readers. If I pop in unannounced on either of them, there’s a 90% chance I’ll catch them engrossed in their latest literary treat.

Typically, Voracious Readers are fans of a specific genre. Grandma likes romance novels and my stepdad likes crime mysteries. Once hooked on a genre, the Voracious Reader plows through one book after another by the same author and then, like a hungry termite, moves on to the next.

These are the readers who have read enough to know about the structure of a novel, pace, character development, etc. They know good writing from bad and will leave reviews. God help the new author who unknowingly wrongs a Voracious Reader. The Casual Reader will put the book down and move on. The Voracious Reader finishes a bad book if for no other reason than to let the author know about it. These readers are what every author hopes to find and woo but never upset.

Voracious Readers have made reading a habitual part of their lives and have better brains for it. The late Stephen Covey said that, “reading is for the mind what running is for the body.” Voracious Readers certainly have fit minds.

 

  1. The Academic

The world of academia is a universe unto itself. Like a parasite that feeds off a host, so do Academics feed off each other. Unless you’re part of this universe, you wouldn’t likely know of its existence. Educators spend their lives in the pursuit of educating themselves and others. They go from high school to college to a Master’s program to a Doctorate degree. They pontificate, write theses, dissertate, and receive meritorious accolades within their universe.

Professors compete for grants to conduct research and attain greater knowledge in their field.  The never-ending quest to become published in a scholarly periodical becomes their ambition. They compete with each other and become so filled with knowledge that many of them should probably take out hefty insurance policies and walk around with helmets at all times to protect their big brains.

Their reading is comprised almost entirely of subject matter papers and the occasional highbrow literary work. Academics are usually gifted in the art of snobbery and know (and use) more four syllable words than many of us knew even existed.

 

  1. The Literary Snob

A novel like mine would never appeal to this reader. Literary work is different than genre work in that genre novels use the same basic plot elements and rely on characters and fresh stories to exist. A perfect example would be a romantic comedy. Boy meets girl (a “meet-cute”), boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy makes grand gesture at the end of the story to win girl’s heart and complete his inner journey and character arc. Insert funny best friend for both boy and girl who seem way too involved in our main characters’ lives, and you have a ready-made romantic comedy.

Literary work, on the other hand, is to fiction what gourmet food is to the discerning palette.

Literary work is often focused around a character’s inner journey and literary authors use their stories to explore life themes and inner struggles that far exceed that of the dime store detective. Classic tales like Melville’s Moby Dick or Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea are classic examples of great American Literature.

Literary Snobs (I’m using the term affectionately) will swoon over a well-written sentence and bathe in metaphor-riddled prose the way most of us bathe in sweat on a ninety-degree day. Literary Snobs tend to be extremely critical of non-literary work and, while they may appear to those in the industry as sort of elitists, they aren’t. They just like what they like and have a much more refined literary pallette.

There’s nothing wrong with this group, as they are typically students of the written word. They are English majors, Creative Writing majors, and logophiles. Writers wishing to appeal to this seemingly snobby ilk would be well served to make sweet literary love to their work before sending it of for review by a Literary Snob. Well-scribed, the literary novel will undoubtedly elicit a word climax from even the most frigid creative writing grad.

 

  1. The Groupie

Groupies are nothing more than Casual Readers with low self-esteem. These poor souls know how to read but don’t know what to read. They rely on their friends and popular culture to unearth for them their next book choice.

How many young girls who read Twilight did so of their own volition?  Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Fifty Shades of Grey were all ushered into the forefront of popularity via the Voracious Reader. The Voracious Reader, as we know, is a reading machine and banner-carrier for those books they have discovered, enjoyed, or connected with in such a profound way they feel compelled to sing the book’s praises from the hilltops and insist that all of their friends read and heed their recommendation. This is why, as I stated earlier, every author hopes to satisfy the literary craving of the Voracious Reader.

The Groupie reads primarily because they can’t be left out of the collective conversation. All their friends are talking about evenings of self-gratification spent mentally copulating with Edward the vampire. The Groupie simply has to see what all the fuss is about. Only when the Groupie has offered a tale of intense orgasm to thoughts of Jacob the werewolf will she (or he) be accepted into the readers’ circle.

Groupies are easily identifiable. Should you ask someone to list the last three books they’ve read and hear three very popular titles, you’ll have met (and identified) your first Groupie.

Please note that by listing popular titles, I’m in no way saying they’re poor works. I loved Harry Potter.

 

  1. The Voyeur

This class of reader is by and far my least favorite and most annoying. Voyeurs are the people who keep tabloids in business.

You can immediately spot a Voyeur when seemingly ordinary topics of conversation become quickly thwarted into tales of the latest celebrity gossip. They can’t get enough. They would rather read about a Hollywood split than a major news story. I’ve also found that Voyeurs are typically very needy in the attention department, which is likely why they gravitate toward the drama of Hollywood. I’ve found women are more prone to this category but I know plenty of men as well. Most of the men of this class I know are political junkies. Washington DC is the Hollywood of the east- dramatic and entertaining. While the Voyeur can and will read the occasional novel, it’s usually a non-fiction biography.

 

  1. The Businessman/woman

These savvy folks have attended a business seminar or two in their time and have been convinced that most, if not all, reading must revolve around the never-ending pursuit toward the attainment of the almighty dollar. Growing, squeezing, pinching, tightening, and managing the pennies are what this group of readers is all about.

It’s a billion dollar a year business – the business book business, that is. I made a sale last week in an untraditional fashion. Read my book and learn how to gain the competitive advantage today.

I jest and exaggerate. I have nothing against this group of readers. I’ve read many a business book in my day and, as an Information Gatherer, I find many to be somewhat helpful. If I have a single annoyance with this group of readers, it’s that the business folk rarely seem to entertain the idea of relaxing with a good work of fiction. They see it as leisure time and a waste. Ironically, it was some wicked smart author who wrote that concept in a business book somewhere. It makes me think of the old “don’t watch TV in the dark” adage. Who said it was bad to watch TV in the dark?

Yep, the light bulb people.

 

  1. The Social Media Reader

Until a few years ago, this category didn’t even exist. Now, we have a society of people who have learned to communicate (and read) 140 characters at a time. It’s so bad that I see people every day read nothing but Twitter and Facebook posts.

Sure, it’s still reading, but it’s not quality. It’s clever, anecdotal, sometimes crass, and chalk-full of acronyms that I puzzle daily to understand. I was just tweeted the phrase YOLO the other day and, like an idiot, had to look it up. It means you only live once. It is now #1 on my most hated list of twitter acronyms. Following closely behind are ROFLMAO, and LOL.

Once consumed by the social media monster, these readers are not only less willing to read actual prose, but are becoming dumber for their effort. Slang, acronyms, and anecdotal wit are all they read, so they, in essence, train their brains to think in this manner. While social media connects us all in a way that’s never been done before, the quality of writing and what we’re consuming in the way of daily writing is the weakest it’s ever been in our society.

 

  1. The Writer Reader

This is a very small group of readers in the world of which I’m unfortunately a member. As a writer and author, I’m no longer able to read for pleasure. While I can certainly try, I’m constantly looking at craft element/style techniques other authors employ as a way to further their stories and plots. As a student of the craft, my brain is now trained to study rather than read and it’s often maddening. Without this habit, however, I would never grow and learn. Therefore, I read a ton of books, often in my genre, for several chapters before moving on to the next. I have to force myself to read a book all the way through and not tear it apart or look for this or that. To the other Writer Readers of the world, I extend to you my deepest sympathies.

 

So there you have it, ten of the most common reader types according to Jim Moorman. Where do you fall on the list? Will you ever aspire or challenge yourself to become a Voracious Reader? I can only hope you do. And should you ever choose to write, know that Mr. Covey says that, “If reading is for the mind what running is for the body, then writing is for the mind what running a marathon is for the body.”

When I was young, my father told my sister, brother, and me to read every day, even if it’s just the sports page. He knew the importance of reading and its benefit to keeping our minds sharp. I read to my daughter all the time and work to help her broaden her vocabulary by sharing several words that convey the same idea.

Reading is at the heart of what makes us intelligent beings.  So, whether you’re a Voyeur, a Casual Reader, an Information Gatherer, or any other type of reader I didn’t categorize or define, read something every day, even if it’s just the sports page.

 

Grandpa and grandson reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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jmoorman

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