Let's start this post off with a confession:
I almost never cry when reading a book.
When I say almost never, I really mean it. There are only four or five books that come to mind when I try to think about what I've read that has accomplished this impossible task. The scenes in books that have brought me to tears are often the quiet ones, the understated moments that somehow remind me of my own life or my own experiences. It's not often that an actual "tearjerker" book will make me cry… It's not that I don't have a heart or even that I don't get invested in the books that I read.
But, for the most part, my brain never forget that's I'm reading.
I can get invested in what I'm reading, but my emotions are rarely so caught up in the story that I completely lose myself in it. There is a part of me that is always somewhat distanced from what's happening - keeping me removed from huge emotional highs or lows when I'm reading. So, technically, it's not just that I rarely cry. Truthfully, the more honest statement would be for me to admit:
I'm not the most emotional reader.
There are a whole range of emotions - not just limited to sadness - that I love when others admit to but are not common for my reading experience. Many of these have happened to me at some point, but it's not something I would say it the norm for the way that I read:
- Wanting to throw a book across the room in anger
- Hugging a book to my chest in happiness
- Being so distraught over what's happening that I set the book aside
- Feeling sick to my stomach or positively giddy because of what I've read
- Disappointment in an ending that changes how I feel about a book overall
It's something that I talked about with Kelly recently while we were reading The Bronze Horseman trilogy together. They're such emotional books, and I definitely had some of the moments described above. But overall, Kelly and I read them very differently. She was fully invested in the books and was experiencing this huge range of emotion the entire time we read. Even after we closed the book, she was still feeling it all. And I loved it! It was one of my favorite things about reading the books with her. I didn't have the same level of emotional investment. I think I felt the books in a way I wouldn't have if I'd read them on my own, but I still didn't react to everything the way that she did.
Our discussions sparked a conversation about how everyone reads so differently. And I mentioned the idea of a sliding scale that readers could identify themselves on:
I struggled to think of words that reflected what I meant, so let me try to explain:
Emotional Readers are the ones who lose themselves in the story. They can still think critically about what they're reading, but they're ultimately fully invested in what they're reading. They become emotionally attached and incredibly invested in everything that's happening in the book. When they talk about books, their first instinct is to talk about how they felt while reading or after they'd finished.
Analytical Readers are the ones whose brains (and hearts) never forget that they're reading. As invested as they are in a book, their emotions aren't fully engaged because they know what's happening isn't real. They may be more distanced from what they're reading - a reserve keeping them from having a reading experience that's highly emotional. When they talk about books, their first instinct is to talk about what they thought while reading or after they'd finished.
I tend to fall more on the analytical end of the spectrum,
but I feel like many bloggers identify more with the emotional side.
Obviously, that's a generalization. Readers who blog can find themselves anywhere on the scale - and can shift up or down at any time. But I have started to wonder where bloggers see themselves on the spectrum! It doesn't ultimately matter, but it does help give me insight and perspective into the way someone else will read and react to a book.
Everyone knows that each reader will bring their own background, experience, expectations, and knowledge with them into a book For example, I can sometimes be more critical of books set in the South because I've lived here all my life. But in addition to all those other things you bring with you into a book - you also take the way you respond to what you read. A more emotional reader can read and react totally differently from someone who is more of an analytical reader. Neither one is the right or wrong way to read - they're just different. I find it fascinating that people can react so differently to a book!
I actually enjoy reading critical reviews of books that I loved.
For the most part, it doesn't pain me to hear that someone disliked a book that I loved. It makes me think harder about what I read, gives me insight into how someone else read it, and leaves me wanting to have long discussions about the book. Not arguing, mind you, and not convincing someone to see it my way. I just love the experience of hearing a new perspective, and I think that's closely related to the fact that I'm not that emotional of a reader.
Now, I don't want to read something that is rude and mean, but there is a lot that can be said for a well-written, thoughtful critical review. And I think that I love reading those types of reviews because I'm almost never so emotionally attached to a book that I can't bear to hear it criticized. Y'all, I love Pride and Prejudice (and Jane Austen) like you don't even know (or maybe you do), but I will be totally fine and won't secretly judge you if you absolutely hated it. I'd actually be curious about why someone didn't.
I was talking to a co-worker who loves to read about this post, and she felt she was more of an emotional reader. In the conversation, she brought up an excellent point. She mentioned that she disliked assigned reading in school because she hated having to analyze and interpret it. All she wanted to do was experience it! And I'm the opposite. I may not have loved every book we read in school, but I loved analyzing and doing exercises to deconstruct what we'd read.
So, why am I writing this post? I think it's because I see so many discussion posts about bloggers' emotional reactions to what they've read... and I can't always relate. It's not really the norm for me. For a long time, I wasn't sure why I felt like I was different. It took talking with Kelly - and thinking about reading reactions on a scale from emotion to analysis - for me to really identify one way I think I'm different from many others who blog about books.
Do you think you're more of an emotional or an analytical reader?
And have you ever thought about the difference before?