I worked in a bookstore for a number of years and during that time I wondered what people bought books for. The conclusion I have drawn over all this time is that people read books for three reasons. The first is that they don’t want to miss out on what’s popular (a condition my wife lovingly calls a FOMO…fear of missing out. This is an oversimplification of the category, but I think you understand the meaning.), this is how such shlocky writing such as 50 Shades of Gray came into popularity. It wasn’t that it was original, nor was it good (or even OK writing, frankly the chapter I read was just plain, bad. Poor character construction, poor grammar, poor sentence construction, etc, etc.), but it was brought up on a morning talk show and it blew up in popularity.
The second reason people pick up books is the travel read. Though i call this the travel read, it’s real range is much farther. This is the book that people pick up to read on the airplane yes, but it’s also the book that people pick up as mindless entertainment (as much as reading can be mindless). This is the category for such authors as James Patterson. People pick him up because it’s easy to read, with super short chapters and simple language. This is the largest reading group, because it’s about simple entertainment. This is the reality TV category of reading. When you want to read, but you don’t want to think and just want the story to be laid out for you in a simple and entertaining fashion. Most times these books are flat but accessible. The characters are one note tropes (the detective that just has one last case before retiring, the ambitious journalist who just needs to get that story, etc.), and the dialog is trite and simple, but they hit all the right notes that the readers want. These are the definition of cookie cutter.
The last group is the serious reader. This is cut up into two categories. The first is the “Librarian reader” and the second is the “Academia reader”.
The Librarian reader is the reader who just loves to read. This is the person who prefers reading to watching TV. This is a person who is an indiscriminate reader. This person will read anything from the Twilight Series to “Huckleberry Finn”. From “The Girl on the Train” to “Little Women”. This is the category I fall under. It’s the category of person who just loves to read and partially studies the reading. It doesn’t really matter what the Genre is, this person will read anything. Personally I go so far as to finish everything. Even if I hate it. I look for anything redeeming about the book. I look for plot sub-devices, I look for character development and depth, I look for subsumed nuances in theme, I look for grammatical and paragraph structure acumen. This may seem strange to some people, but it’s because I love the medium so much. I love everything about reading and writing, and most times when I get to sit down and read or write, it’s the highlight of my day. I understand that I’m a strange subset of this Librarian reader because I straddle the line of the Academia reader.
To that end, the Academia reader is the person who studies the text. This is a person who reads only Philosophy (if you’re reading this you know someone like this); the person who looks down on James Patterson and abhors E.L. James. The person who studies the text and looks for extra nuance. The person who has read “Notes from the Underground” and “Atlas Shrugged” 42 times. This is a person who can quote text from Schopenhauer, Shakespeare and Cicero. They look less for the structure of the book and more for the meaning. They look at Grammar as subtext instead of an interesting way to structure. This person is a philosopher at heart and will stay with a book for a year at a time. They may not read a lot of books, but they know more about what they know than anyone.
So which is it? Which category do you fall under? What type of reader have you always wanted to be? What type of reader do you aspire to? And for all those writers and people who want to be writers, which is the category you think is the most important to be a writer?