Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

The Way We Read

Jackie K. Cooper


I am sure there are people out there who can gauge our personalities by how we read and what we read. I don’t have the knowledge to do that kind of thing, but I do know we humans vary in the way we do these things and what we choose. Over the years I have observed the variety of ways our reading habits form.

For example, I am a first word, first sentence, first chapter type of person. I start at the beginning and head on with no looking back. If the book is really good, I like to read it in one sitting, if possible. If it only mildly entertains me, I put it aside, pick it up and read a little, and slowly but surely make my way through it. I rarely stop reading a book once I start. I won’t say that has never happened, but it is rare.

My brother has a different way of reading. He reads two or three books at a time. He will read a chapter in one and then move on to the others. He never cheats and reads more than one chapter at a time no matter how exciting or compelling the book is. He has done this since grammar school, so I guess it is totally engrained in him now.

He also has a stack of books that he is considering reading. He never moves a new book to the head of his stack or list. Each must wait its turn. There is no cheating allowed. Even when I wrote my first book it went into the stack and had to wait its turn before he read it.

Then there is my favorite quirky reader. I have a friend who always reads the last chapter of any book she is considering. If the last chapter interests her then she reads the entire book from the front. I have asked her if finding out “who done it” ruins it for her, and she always says no.

This is better than another friend of mine who skims the entire book before he reads it. After he skims it, he reads it for the details. Why not just read it cover to cover I ask, and his answer is he has always done it this way. If it works for him...

My friends also have a variety of book types they like. One never reads anything but always just listens to them on tape. I have to admit I have not come under the spell of the books-on-tape craze. I can’t think of any person whose reading would so entrance me that I would want to hear a whole book on tape. I prefer to read the words and let my imagination provide the looks and sounds of the characters.

Another friend only reads nonfiction. She says she wouldn’t waste her time reading a made up story. She is balanced by another friend of mine who only reads fiction. She says she has no desire to read nonfiction stories. I just couldn’t be that rigid. I take my reading pleasure where I find it.

A publicist for one of the major book publishers e-mailed me the other day. She said she would put me on her list for review copies of books. She then asked me what type of books I preferred. I pondered over that and then replied, “Good books!” I just don’t have a special category. I am willing to try anything from science fiction to historical nonfiction. I guess I prefer fiction, but I am open.

Like individual snowflakes, we all have our reading peculiarities and none of us are exactly alike. I for one am very pleased it is that way.

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Jackie K. Cooper was born in South Carolina and now lives in Georgia. His short stories have been used as commentary on Georgia Public Radio. He also keeps active appearing as an after dinner speaker for various events. Cooper has four books: Journey of a Gentle Southern Man, Chances and Choices, Halfway Home, and The Bookbinder.

Visit his website, or email Jackie.

© Jackie K. Cooper

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2008