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The 7 Kinds of Reader I Wish I Were

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

The best and worst thing about being a book lover is that there is just a staggering amount of books out there, and more being published all the time. I think readers in general are constantly trying to cope with the reality that you can’t read everything. So how do you prioritize, especially if you live an especially bookish life (reviewers, librarians, booksellers, book bloggers, etc) and are constantly inundated with new titles?

My preferred style, apparently, is a kind of wild flailing. There always seems to be some book that needs to be read right this minute, and those stack up so quickly that I never have time for all those books I meant to read at some point. The problem with this is that I have these grand plans for The Kind of Reader I want to be. I always have some sort of reading project I want to be doing, but never seem to get around to. Here are a few of the kinds of reader I always imagine myself being, but never seem to get around to:

The Academic Reader

Right now I’m finally reading a literary criticism book for the first time since university, but it’s such slow going that it will probably be months before I finish this one, never mind the dozens of others that are on my list. I want to read critically, to think about literature broadly and know the history of the lit that I’m most interested in (specifically, queer women books). But somehow these academic books always seem to stay at the bottom of the TBR.

The Classics Reader

Part of the reason I want to read lesbian literary criticism is so that I can build a timeline of lesbian books and read through it chronologically. (This is ambitious to the point of hilarity, because I can’t seem to finish the first book in this project.) I want to be “well read” in the books that have had a lot of influence on the books I read today, but this year was this first time I got around to reading Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf! It’s embarrassing. As with all of these projects, though, it’s a doomed attempt. You can never read all the classics, and if you’re reading ones you’re not genuinely interested in, you miss out on books that you could have been enjoying.

The Front List Reader

In the book blogging world, it seems like everyone is reading the hot new books, usually before they’re even published. There’s a joy in reading what everyone is talking about, and I always wish I was one of those people who is completely up to date with the best books being published, but those e-arcs always look less appealing to me than my physical TBR, and I know that even if I devoted my whole reading life to new and not-yet-released books, I would probably still feel like I wasn’t keeping up!

The TBR Reader

As my attention bounces between classics and new releases, all the in-between books languish on my shelves. Although I would feel antsy with no TBR at all, I would like to be the kind of reader that stays on top of it and doesn’t let books sit there for years. Despite a recent cull, my shelves and ereader are well stocked with reading material. Regardless, I always seem to find a reason for a library trip.

The Diverse Reader

I do try to read diversely, but sometimes I find myself buried in books (that absolutely need to be read right now, no exceptions) and realize that I’ve been reading almost exclusively white authors. I actually spent all of 2015 reading authors of colour, and I really enjoyed the project, but I found myself spending this year “catching up” with white authors I hadn’t read last year, skewing the stats for 2016. That doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the thing, but I often find that the diversity I do focus on (like queer authors and content) doesn’t correspond well with other kinds of diversity (yes, I’m asking why queer books are so white). I want to prioritize this again, but I’m having trouble reigning my attention in.

The Project Reader

Last year was I think the first time I’ve actually followed through on one of the reading projects I want to do, but I always have a list in mind. (See: the lesbian lit timeline project.) I planned on spending 2016 incorporating more trans authors and books about mental health and disability into my reading life. (I even made lists! List of lists!) I’ve been wanting to read the Lambda Literary Award winners in order for years. But projects require a commitment and clarity of focus I seem to lack in my reading life.

The Comics Reader

I’ve recently gotten much more interested in comics, and I’d love to dive into being a regular comics reader, both in single issues and trades, but I haven’t been to my comic shop in months, and webcomics keep piling up unread in my bookmarks.

So those are some of the readers I daydream about being, while in reality I careen from book to book dizzily, often getting halfway through a book and suddenly realizing I have no idea why I decided to pick it up.

Do you ever imagine yourself as a type of reader that you aren’t? Is this a common book lover complaint?