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Nine Types of Reading

Before we become writers, we are readers. Without readers, there would be little point in writing. As a reader over many decades, I’ve noticed I don’t always read the same way. Recent reading experiences made me think of different reading styles, and I came up with these nine.

Excited Reading
The reader can’t wait to see what happens next and how the story ends. This is the “can’t put it down” type of reading experience. The book is devoured in one or two sessions, which may extend far into the night. The reader may be skimming the paragraphs and missing small details, but fast-paced books are intended to be read quickly.

Delighted Reading
The reader is fully engaged with the book, its characters, plot, and language. Every word is relished and savoured. The reader is not in a hurry to get to the end of the book, but always eager to pick it up again after stopping. The reader is sorry when the book ends and will likely read it again at some point.

Puzzled Reading
Re-reading the beginning or other parts of a book for clues as to what the story is about, or even having to abandon and re-start the book several times. The reader may wonder why the book has so many rave reviews.

Bored Reading
Skipping and skimming paragraphs while looking for something interesting. May precede a decision to DNF.

Dutiful Reading
Reading for a class assignment, book club, beta-read, or obligatory review. DNF is not an option.

Analytical Reading
Reading attentively while looking for symbols, hidden meanings, and connections to the author’s life, with the intention of writing a critique or academic paper.

Judgmental Reading
Looking for reasons to stop reading and decide the story does not meet the reader’s criteria.

Malicious Reading
Reading to find errors and problems for the purpose of writing a negative review.

Comfort Reading
Re-reading an old favourite one more time.

Writers, of course, want to create books that will elicit Excited or Delighted reading, rather than the Bored or Puzzled varieties. If one’s book is being read Analytically, success (possibly posthumous) is implied. Most writers end up doing some form of Dutiful reading, but hopefully do not descend to the Malicious type. Judgmental reading is done by acquisitions editors and agents. Finally, everyone has books that can be relied upon to produce Comfort and the delight of the familiar.

Fellow writers (and readers), have you experienced any of these types of reading? Can you think of others?

Images from Pixabay

59 comments

  1. Even though I think I’ve always been a storyteller, I got more serious when I started slipping into the ‘bored’ reader state, and wanted more from the books I read (spent money on).
    I could write better, I said, so I put on the writer hat.
    Not sure I’m producing anything good enough for my younger reader self yet, but still happy to work on it … we’ll see what happens with time and experience and honest feedback.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My faves are delighted and analytical reading. Hm, I can’t think of any other types. Well, there is the kind of writing that you read from a child or a best friend. You’re not necessarily excited to see what happens next, and it probably isn’t delightful prose, but you’re happy to see that your child or bestie has written a story. “Familial pleasure” I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great recap of reading styles! “Delighted” is my favourite. The only downside is it takes me a while to settle into and appreciate a new book after I’ve finished one that I enjoyed so much that I was sorry when I finished it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve reminded me of reading Jane Eyre as an excited reader late into the night. I believe there is such a thing as medicinal reading, the same way an animal might find a herb to chew on if it feels ill. Often when I have felt troubled about something, I’ve gone to stand beside one of my bookcases to pick out a book to re-read as a distraction. My hand has picked out one for no obvious reason. Then somewhere in the book, I’ve found a passage that precisely addresses the issue I’ve been puzzling over that has helped me understand what I’m feeling or given me a different perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I always turn to “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” for medicinal purposes. The fact that a human being could create such an exquisitely despairing poem makes me feel better, even as the Eternal Footman holds my coat and snickers.

      Liked by 4 people

              1. Well, I can see why you call “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” medicinal. It certainly has an astringent quality. Such an odd mixture of domestic details (teacups, spoons, marmalade) and existential despair. It is cleverly constructed, I can’t deny that!
                Thanks for motivating me to read this, Liz. I dug out my copy of The Norton Anthology of English Literature from college days, because I was pretty sure the poem would be there. It’s a massive tome, nearly 3,000 pages on onionskin paper. Fortunately, I just acquired a new pair of reading glasses, which were helpful. I ought to read more from this volume.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. You’re welcome, Audrey! I’m glad you can see why I’m so drawn to “Prufrock.” I know the Norton Anthology whereof you speak! There are still many of those 3,000 pages I haven’t read but should.

                Liked by 1 person

    2. Medicinal reading–that’s definitely a category. And finding just the right book like that makes it especially valid. That’s another reason to have printed books; I don’t know if you could do that by scanning what’s on your Kindle. Thanks for contributing this category, Susan!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve experienced all of these except Malicious and Judgmental. I would never read a book just because I want to give it an unfavorable review. If I can’t think of anything to like about the book, I stop reading or I simply don’t write a review.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think the judgmental type of reading happens when someone is faced with a large number of pieces of writing and has to select only a few. It’s a kind of survival mode, perhaps.
      Malicious reading is done by people with evil intent. A well-intentioned reader would, as you say, not write such a review at all, but I’ve seen some pretty nasty ones out there that look like they were written maliciously.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nailed it. Comprehensive and well presented.

    We’ve talked about this before, but, the evolution of the reader is also a thing. I used to be able to easily read delighted or excited. I’ve since devolved into judgemental (not even bored, more like cynical).
    In fact, I often resent (foolishly, I’ll admit) the fact that I can’t instantly edit something I’m reading. “No, don’t end the sentence like that. Passive, passive… All these dialog tags! Sheesh, enough with description… No. More. Monologues.”

    If I get through a book these days, it’ll be due to the fact that I’m duty-bound. Your titles excluded, of course (grin).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. After I posted, I thought of another reading mode: Writerly Reading, which is exactly what you’re describing. I find myself mentally improving the prose in whatever I’m reading, or trying to figure out what the writer is doing to produce something wonderful.
      Ha! My early books could certainly use some tightening up. That’s why I’ve avoided going back to the source documents to do a little bit of cleanup. I know I’d end up doing a complete rewrite, and I don’t want to go there.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes! I have done all of these types of reading. Well, hmmm… I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with “malicious intent” (ha ha) but I have read a lot of pseudo-journalism with the intent to do a rebuttal. And the judgmental reading – part of my life as an editor! In that case, I judge in order to fix, and get paid.

    What does DNE mean?

    Also, check out this blog. They take guest essays from writers about the craft of writing. I th ink your work fits there. https://brevity.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading with malicious intent is something that originates from the dark side, and I don’t recommend it. I know what you mean, though, by reading something you disagree with and formulating a rebuttal. And editing something for publication is a different category than Judgmental, because you’re improving the work, rather than finding reasons to reject it.
      DNF is short for Did not finish. I see it in reviews on Goodreads.
      Thanks for the link! I’ll check out.

      Like

  8. I have found that since I’ve started writing, I read books in a completely different way. Formerly, I either read to be entertained or to learn something. Now, I look much more at how the writer is executing parts of the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a delightful list!

    Like the majority of readers, I’ve experienced most of the types you mentioned, save perhaps for the malicious reading.
    I’d add only one more category; we can call it treasure reading – the books that have such a deep impact on you that they stay with you forever. To me, one such book is Eco’s The Name of the Rose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Malicious is best avoided, I think. Yes–treasure reading would be something more profound than comfort reading, perhaps what delighted reading might become when a book comes into one’s life at precisely the right time.

      Like

  10. Excited, delighted and comfort, those are my three. To be honest, I love reading far too much to engage in the others, unless I’m researching something, but then it’s often ‘delighted’ anyway. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What an interesting post. I think I’m mostly a Delighted and Excited reader, Audrey, though I rarely will skim an exciting book. I find myself Puzzled and Bored now and then which both lead to a DNF. And you’re right about Dutiful.
    Judgement or Malicious? No. Life’s too short for that. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Ah, I’ve think I’ve experienced all of these types of reading before. I particularly hate when I turn into the ‘bored’ reader, since I’m essentially sucking the fun out of an otherwise pretty fun activity

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear that much of your reading is delightful. Yes, audiobooks are an entirely different way to experience a book. I don’t use them, so it didn’t occur to me to include that in the list. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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