Rioters Reveal Their Reading Superpowers

Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

It was recently pointed out to me that I walk the length of a long dock every day with my nose in a book, never look up, and have yet to fall in the water. Being that my goat-dog passes me like she’s in a horse race this will inevitably end with me flying into the water like a bowling pin, but until that happens I’m counting this as a reading skill. Or should I say reading superpower?—any excuse to wear a cape.

It got me thinking about how passionate readers can be hardcore and can develop some interesting reading skills–At this point I’ve probably rigged half the things in my kitchen into holding up a book/ereader so I can continue reading while cooking—which made me ask my fellow Rioters what their reading superpowers are:

My reading skills include reading text upside down and backwards. I think the skill to read upside down has to do with a combination of being lazy and not being able to stop being curious. I think the skill to read backwards comes from looking into the rearview mirror and seeing a truck behind me with text on the hood. Also, when I did research for my dissertation, I spent a lot of time reading seventeenth-century paleography which is a challenge to say the least.–E.H. Kern

I read upside down too – a skill I learned when I used to teach languages and share textbooks with my students over café tables. I was never organised enough to photocopy pages, so we’d share, but there often wouldn’t be space to sit side by side. Admittedly, it helped that a few years in I started to know a lot of the content, well, backwards.–Claire Handscombe

If I try to speak or write French (the language I studied for 8 years dans mon école en Vermont), I stumble and flail miserably. But I’ve never lost the ability to read Français at a roughly average, middle-schoolish level. So, out of the 50-70 books I read a year, at least 1 or 2 of them are written in a language in which I can barely stammer out a meal order.–Sean-Patrick Burke

Not only can I follow the plots of the four books I usually have on the go at once, I can also happily read while watching television and enjoy both at once. It’s something that’s driven the men in my life crazy since my dad would quiz me while I read school books and watched Animaniacs all at once. People have quizzed me on the details of the  book and whatever I’m watching to try and catch me out. All those people have failed.–Rachel Weber

After years of needing to bribe myself into necessary physical exercise, I have developed the ability to read anything while operating a treadmill, ARC trainer, or elliptical machine. I can hold even the largest hardcover with one hand while keeping the other free to balance. Sometimes I become so absorbed that I go an extra ten to twenty minutes past my target, something that would be impossible if I was just listening to music or watching TV. At other times I get so excited about a plot development that I gasp out loud. I once, memorably, became so overwhelmed with a surprising last line that I dropped (er- threw) the book entirely. I get some sweaty looks from time to time, but I wouldn’t trade this skill for anything, awkward moments and all.–Ashlie Swicker

The closest I’ve got to a proper reading skill is that I really never lose track of my place in a book’s plot, even if I’ve put it down for years. I’ll sometimes just stop reading a book (life gets in the way, I lose interest in that particular type of book for a bit, other books make me excited) and it’ll go live on my shelves with a bookmark jutting out from it. Tons of my books have these, like little aerial antennas. And when I return to them, I’ll sometimes start over, but I’ll sometimes just pick it up and carry on reading. Case in point, I’m just now thinking of finishing a book I started in 2005. I still have it, and I know where I was and what was happening in it.

It’s also useful for reading multiple books at once, which I often do. (I’ve got three right now).–Peter Damien

Okay, I’ll admit I asked partly out of curiosity and partly hoping I could absorb some of their powers. Now it’s your turn to tell us your reading skills/superpowers? Or is there one you wish you had?