Quirks, I have them

Written by Donna

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December 18, 2012

I surely cannot be the only person out there who has odd reading habits.

Can I?

One of 88 Christies I own

One of 88 Christies I own

F’rinstance.  Like most heavy readers, I have a TBR pile.  I cannot read the last book in it.  I must have an unread book available because if I don’t, there won’t be any unread books.  I know that probably makes no sense, but I hate the idea of not having a book I haven’t read available.  So I never read the book on the bottom of that pile (for years, that book was Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, until one day I realized I had two unread books and that one had been sitting around for three years and I was never going to read it—it was donated to my local library).  The current book holding the “only unread book” spot is Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died a Lot.

Also, I develop obsessions about writers and have to own everything they’ve ever written.  This would explain why I own 88 Agatha Christie books, for example.  This also extends to books written about them, which explains why I own at least 6 scholarly works about her and another 10 or so about Dorothy L. Sayers.  Because it also extends to things like histories of the time period, other writers of that time period, things like that.  Which explains how I got interested in Sayers, own everything Ngaio Marsh wrote, and own numerous historical works about people and events from England in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Because when I do something, I am thorough.

The first of my 33 Sayers books

The first of my 33 Sayers books

I get so attached to books I can’t get rid of them, even if I know I’m never ever going to reread them.  I still own all of the Nancy Drew books I had when I was a kid.  Like, 60+ of them.  I cannot bring myself to get rid of them.  I was very fond of Nancy Drew when I was younger.  I have biographies that I’m never likely to reread, but I just can’t give them away.  Every once in a while we simply have to prune, and it is painful and nearly impossible for me to do it.  And I feel sad for days after.  Like I’ve given away friends.

My books are shelved as befits someone as obsessed with order as I am.  All mysteries are in one bookcase (except my Sayers collection, which did not fit and is housed in its own small bookcase with my Nancy Drew books—because that juxtaposition amuses me), all fantasy and science fiction on another.  Classics and non-fiction on another.  Children’s books have their own place.  Furthermore, those books are shelved in publication order by author.  And I get cross if other people here borrow them and don’t put them back in the right place.  And it bugs me when I run out of room on a shelf and they have to run over onto the next shelf.  The horror, I tell you.  I then sit down, take everything off the case, and rearrange it so all of an author’s books are together.  Because they have to be.  If necessary and possible, I’ll double stack them before I’ll let them run over to the next shelf.

The first Bujold I read

The first Bujold I read

I don’t have an issue with reading a new series out of order, but when I finish, I’ll go back and reread it in order just because I have to get the timeline straight in my head.  Just as an example, when I first started reading Bujold, I started with A Civil Campaign because it was simply the only one of her books at that time I could find (it was still fairly new back then—just out in paperback).  I read the whole Miles saga completely out of order as a result as I tracked copies down over the following six months.  Then once I had finally assembled them all, I sat down and reread them in order.  Now it may have made more sense to get all the books first (I should be clear here that my library didn’t have them.  Small town…) and then read them in order, and it surprises me, given my need for order in my life, that I don’t do that.  I can only put it down to my desire to Read All The Things trumping my desire to Organize All The Things.

And I cannot stop reading in the middle of a chapter, either.  I can’t just say, “Let me finish this page.”  It has to be “Let me finish my chapter.”

Do you have quirks like this?  Share them in the comments if you’re willing.  It’ll help me feel like I’m not alone.

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11 Comments

  1. Brie

    Count me in as someone who can’t get rid of books I’m attached to. Some of them I own several copies of, and if I see an international cover or translation, I’ll buy it. And when I see a book I’ve read and liked, I feel the urge to buy it. I’ve had that problem since I was a kid. I owned 8 (I kid you not) copies of the same Richard Scarry book, because if I saw it at the book store (and we went there all the time) I threw the biggest temper tantrum until I could take the book with me. It’s a weird compulsion.

    I can’t read series out of order, and if I read and enjoy a new-to-me author, I’ll buy all their backlist, and feel sad if they don’t have one.

    • Natalie

      Sometimes I’ll get a recommendation and see that there are five or six books in the author’s backlist before that that title and I have to read the ENTIRE backlist before I can read the recommended title. Especially if it’s a series.

      I’m also completely uptight about keeping my books in good condition–to the point where I have a real problem with anyone who is not me reading my books. My books aren’t in any particular order on the shelves (we do have a separate non-fiction bookcase, though) and while they may appear to be completely chaotic to an outsider, I actually know where pretty much every single book is and can usually find what I’m looking for with a minimum of difficulty. I keep thinking that I should organize them but with the number of books in our place that’s a daunting prospect.

    • donna

      I can only explain my willingness to read a series out of order (I should be clear that I’d obviously prefer to read it in order, though) with the knowledge that if I really like a series, I know I’ll reread it often. I have a bad habit of choosing books either because I like the cover or because I like the title. I’ve made some happy discoveries that way, but it gets me into trouble with the order of books more often than not.

      I’m pretty sure the reason I dislike parting with books is because there were so few of them around my house when I was a kid. I’m also positive that’s where my rereading habits started. If I read through my library books too fast, I’d have to reread them or reread something I owned. And I really am a compulsive reader.

  2. Nicole Wolverton

    Like you, I find it impossible to get rid of books even though I’m unlikely to reread them. When my husband and I were looking for a house to buy, the choice came down to whether each house we looked at could house a library to accommodate my stash. I, too, go on author kicks. Right now I’m plowing through all of Kathe Koja’s books because of a short story of hers I read a few weeks ago.

    I separate the books in my library into broad-ish categories: fiction (divided by author, and I have a shelf for books I don’t particularly care for); textbooks, non-fiction (divided by subject), craft (divided by type), cooking. I also have a special shelf for signed copies of anything.

    Over the last year I made a pact with myself to get more books from the library instead of buying them to prevent my library from getting more out of control; however, if I read a book I love, I have to buy a copy. The same is true of books I read via ebook–if I love it, I have to have a hard copy in my library. I also have multiple copies of some books–things I tend to lend out and books I love but need to mark up for school (I like having a pristine copy).

    • donna

      When we were house-hunting for a new house 12 years ago, our priorities were pretty simple. We wanted a second bathroom, a garage, and a spare room big enough to hold our bookcases and function as an office/library. So I totally get that. By a lot of people’s standards, we don’t own a ridiculous amount of books–I haven’t counted recently, but my last “head count” on them came in somewhere in the 450 range–but that’s only because I truly have no more space for more bookcases.

      I don’t have an e-reader (yet) but I also will buy a copy of something I borrowed and adored. One of my favorite series of books are the Fairacre and Thrush Green novels by Miss Read. I originally found them at the library, but loved them so much I started to seek out copies. They can be hard to find in this country–eventually I managed to get them all (but one, which I’m still missing and which is like a sore tooth!) but only because my husband had to take a business trip to England. He asked if I wanted him to bring me anything back, and I gave him a list of the Miss Read books I was missing. He didn’t even blink. Of course, we’re the same people who go on vacation and end up in used bookstores…

  3. Casey Wojtek

    I definitely have to read a series in order the first time, even if that means putting off reading a book somebody recommended. I’m with you that I can’t put down a work of fiction if I haven’t finished the chapter, but strangely I have no problem doing so with nonfiction.

    For the longest time, if I picked up a book to read it, I read the whole damn thing, regardless of how much I liked or did not like it. This changed some time in high school when I read a book I so thoroughly disliked that I actually threw it across the room. The next time I started a book that looked like it wouldn’t pan out (although the story was great, the writing was just awful and I was too distracted by it), I simply stopped and gave it to the next person I saw who might have wanted to read it. I try to give a book until roughly the halfway mark these days, but make no promises if it’s painful.

    I also used to make a bookmark every time I started a new book. It would just be a scrap of paper with the page count, 1/4 through, 1/2 through, and 3/4 through the book. I stopped that practice in college, probably when I took my one literature class and had to read a book a week. I also used to read the last sentence of the book first. For the longest time this had no effect on the reading of the story, and then one day I read one that basically spoiled the whole book. The funny part is, a part of me seems to think everybody does that, so when I write a short story the last sentence is always weird, and hopefully won’t spoil things.

    I have a lot of rules about how books should be treated, probably because my family got a lot of books from the library (“these do not belong to you, treat them well”), or bought them used (they would fall apart if mistreated–I think I still have a copy of “A Wind In The Door” that’s held together with 20-year-old scotch tape). I do my damnedest not to crack the binding (sometimes you can’t help it), I absolutely will not bend the cover back, and I cannot dog-ear the pages. And I freak the hell out if anybody does so to a book I loan to them. (I once loaned my first grade teacher a book I’d got–new!–that was a series of glow-in-the-dark constellation maps. She had it for MONTHS, and when she finally returned it, it was beat to shit, the pages practically coming out of the binding. She tried to tell me I gave it to her like that. I’m still incredibly sore about it. Really, what grown-ass woman does that?)

    By far, though, my weirdest quirk is that I don’t like to read sitting. I much prefer to read while lying down, and I don’t understand the people who choose to read while sitting up straight in an armchair. I can, I just don’t like it as much. When an armchair, a book, and I meet (usually with a cup of tea), the end result looks a lot more like a cat trying to sleep in a too-small box. Sideways.

    • donna

      I *never* loan my books to anyone. Never. They are ALL MINE. And the reason for that is that the two times I did that in the past, one book was never returned to me and the other came back in such bad shape it was pretty much unreadable. Never again.

      It’s funny that you prefer to read lying down. I know someone else like that–she claims she absorbs things better that way. I really do have to be sitting up, though, preferably with my feet propped up and a cup of coffee or tea to hand.

      I have to confess, too, that it’s really rare that I don’t finish a book–and if I paid for it, I most certainly will finish it, no matter how terrible it is. My inner cheapskate insists on that. But I have twice in the past few months not finished library books–one was actually really good, but it was so depressing I couldn’t read it. The other one I’m sure was good too, but the guy’s writing style drove me batcrap crazy and after two attempts, I decided life is to short to struggle with a book.

  4. Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

    So what I don’t understand is how you could ever be in danger of getting through your entire TBR pile 😉 Mine is a toppling mass that will consume me in an avalanche one of these days that I will probably never completely get through and I have no fears of running low on new books to grab from it. I can definitely understand your fear of not having an unread book around, since I apparently have the same fear, but instead of just having one book as a back-up, I have about ten….

    I, however, must read series in order, since otherwise I’m afraid I won’t enjoy them as much as I would otherwise!

    • donna

      My TBR pile used to be like that as well, but it’s generally holding steady about about 3 books now. I don’t buy as many books as I used to, and anything I borrow from the library is obviously a priority read since it has to be returned within a time window. I’ve really had to reign in my book-buying. One of the reasons I’ve held out on the Kindle (but no more, because Natalie just sold me her old one today ;-)) is because it will make it entirely too easy to buy new books. So I may end up with a virtual TBR pile soon that will totter again!

  5. Rosary

    Hmmm, there are two compulsive readers in our household, but we’re also compulsively disorganized. If you ever come visit you can arrange our books for us. I don’t like to get rid of books either which explains why I have some very tattered old copies of David Eddings and so forth. I’m getting better at donating things to the public library! We are a small library with books everywhere. And lord knows we both have very long TBR lists that contain every genre 🙂

    On series, I prefer them in order, but will read them out of order if I must. For instance, I don’t have access to all of Grime’s Richard Jury books, so I pick them up as I find them, but I try to read them as closely to order as possible. My husband is much more anal and has gotten books to review and has to go back and buy the previous books just to read the latest.

    I also have no problem writing in my books–I plead graduate school as my defense–it’s much easier to make the notes right by the passages you need than it is to write them down somewhere else. The same is true of the books I teach out of, but my personal pleasure reading books are clean as a whistle.

    I have two ereaders–a nook and a Kindle Fire (blame my husband, the fire was his until he bought an Ipad). My nook has all of Agatha Christies novels, and I am and will slowly work my way through them, but unfortunately I have like 5 ebooks going plus at two paper books–that’s my main quirk I guess–I read too much at once 🙂

    • donna

      I obviously would rather read a series in order, but like you, that’s not always possible. So I do the best I can.

      I used to write in my textbooks, obviously, as well as books I taught out of back in the day, but I am horrified when people actually mark up books, bend covers, dog ear pages, etc. I try very hard to keep my books in good shape.

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