Our Reading Lives

On Bookish Habits

Tell me how you read, and I’ll tell you who you are.

It sounds simplistic but it’s true, in the way that so many simplistic things turn out to be. We humans are creatures of habit. So much of what we do—eat, sleep, work, socialize, to name a few—is governed by repetition. Even the most free-spirited among us have some measure of a routine. This is unsurprising: sameness brings comfort.

As do books. Which means that bookish habits are twice as comforting.

And because I am very lucky to have so many friends who are avid readers, I asked them to share a few of their bookish habits. Here are some of my favorites:

“If I’m going through a bad break-up, I make it a point to only read over-the-top romance novels. There is something about the voice of an overly dramatic heroine that makes me feel better about my continuous failed attempts at love at first swipe.”

—Magdalena C.

“I keep lists of each and every word I want to look up and then I never look them up…”
—Susan S.

“My habit is more of a rule: I exclusively read feminist books on my commute. I’ve noticed that people often check out what others are reading on the subway, so this way it’s like I’m stealthily recommending a socially relevant book to the entire city.”

—Caroline G.

“I read every page twice, to make sure I understand everything.”
—Nate H.

“I must read 4 books at the same time: a historical one, a silly one, one in Portuguese, and a biography. I’ll read one chapter of one and then make myself stop and go to the other, and so on. I follow this pattern at all times—even when I’m engrossed in a book that I don’t actually want to put down. According to my husband, I’m a fickle reader.”
—Bettina B.

“I only buy audiobooks told from a child’s POV. It’s something that I started doing when I became a grandmother. Usually, listening to a child’s voice makes me feel closer to my own grandkids—though sometimes it scares me a little. Some of the narrators are quite precocious!”
—Helen K.

“I check out paper books from the library, but I only spend money on e-books. It’s better for the environment, and that way my friends can’t borrow my copies. Don’t judge: they never return them.”
—Audrey B.

“During the bleak winter months I only pick up beach reads, preferably ones with glossy, bright covers. If I don’t have to work the next day, I make myself a piña colada—or three. Once I even put on a straw hat! My friends think it’s a ridiculous habit but if the novel is good enough I forget that it’s cold outside. Meanwhile, they’re still stuck with the snow.”
—Camilla N.

“When I travel I only read books by local authors. Sometimes it’s a challenge—like when I go to a small town I have to do quite a bit of research to find an author whose work has been translated into English. But it’s always worth it.”
—Fernanda F.

“I annotate. And by that I don’t mean that I occasionally underline a sentence or two. I’m serious about my notes: I use different colored highlighters, fine-point pens, and sticky notes. By the time I’m done with a book its fore edge looks like an exotic bird!”
—Cristina C.

“I only read fantasy before going to sleep because that gives me a better chance at dreaming about the novel’s magical land. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s amazing! I once dreamt I was playing quidditch with my grandfather!”
—Lisa J.  

“I love trying new restaurants, but I used to feel super self-conscious about eating out by myself. A friend suggested I bring a book with me and it changed my life! Sometimes I even forget I’m alone. This one time I almost asked the hostess for a table for two.”
—Shoshanna H.