What is a Reader?

Booking Through Thursday: What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?

I think a reader is one who *likes* reading and reads because they like it. So, my seven-year-old nephew, who is always reading something, is a reader. On the other hand, someone who reads a novel for tenth grade English class is not necessarily a reader. They may be going through the motions, but they might not really don’t care for the written word. (That said, just because a person is reading a book for an assignment doesn’t mean they are not a reader in that moment.)

For an analogy, I turn to the world of sewing. A person who sews a dress for herself or her daughter is a seamstress (not me, as I’d never do that). A person who rehems a pair of pants is just hemming a pair of pants (that might be me). I can sew but I’m not passionate about it, and I wouldn’t consider myself a “seamstress”. I think the definition of “reader” is similar.

After reading HTR&W‘s prologue the other day, I asked a similar question: How does one read well? It doesn’t take much to be a reader and enjoy reading. But what makes that reading good reading?

I wrote a very long post discussing and analyzing Harold Bloom’s argument to the question “why read?” Don’t feel you have to read all of that post, but I’d love to hear you weigh in there (or here if you prefer).

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. I’ve been passively mulling this same issue for a couple of weeks, ever since I had a conversation with a very close friend. She is one of the few people who actually reads everything I write on my blog (that’s enough to put her is a Reader Hall of Fame in my opinion), we are in a book group together, and she often asks me for book recommendations. So I thought she read a lot of books.

    But when I asked her about her progress on a book I had given her, she hadn’t gotten past the first few pages. She confessed that she doesn’t really read more than a handful of books in a year. She was very quick to say, though, “I’m a big reader, but I just don’t read many books.” She reads a lot of magazines, many of then substantive, like The Smithsonian, from cover to cover, and she reads several blogs, newspapers, etc.

    I confess that rocked me loose on my pins a little. Deep down, I only considered someone to be a reader if they read books. And were I totally honest, it they made an effort to read at least some “serious” books. But here is someone who equally considers herself to be “a reader” and justifiably so. It made me think.

  2. @Rose City Reader: I like her claim–I think quality of reading is just as important as quantity. Some people are slow readers and only read so much, but they still make time for it, even if it’s less than I do, and they still enjoy it very much. I still think they are readers. Thanks for sharing that example!

  3. I have HTR&W too. I’m very impressed with your personal goal to read all of the books he mentions. As for what makes reading “good,” I have thought about that myself. Sometimes I tend to read things too quickly. Since joining the lit blog world, I’ve tried to read more intently, making notes after a reading session, post-it noting particular pages. I think good reading comes down to intention.

  4. @Jessica: We’ll see how the reading of the list goes! It’s going to take a while. I agree, I like how blogging about my books makes me think about them more. “Intention”, that’s an interesting concept. I’ve noticed there are some books that I don’t read well, and I’m not bothering to read them well. (Almost like I know they aren’t worth a very careful read.) So then, the question is, why am I reading that book? I only have so much time!

  5. Susan at Pages Turned just tipped me off about your project. I just started reading How to Read and Why the other day. I have a love-hate relationship with Bloom, but I like your idea!

  6. @Stefanie: I kind of agree with the Bloom thing. The more I read of HTR&W, the more I realize I don’t really need to. But I like his reading list and it’s a challenge for me. I’m enjoying how it gets me reading these works I may never have picked up before.

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