How do you read?

I love being at home. I enjoy the morning time, sipping coffee, checking e-mails, stretching out the wrinkles a good night’s sleep has left me. But I’d be lying most grievously if I didn’t admit that being alone without anyone to say so much as a hello to — save the fur-children — doesn’t leave me lonely once in a while. When I’m writing, steadily, I hardly notice the lack of spoken words. For inside things are very noisy indeed; a tug of war between characters, voices raised or lowered, hims and hers demanding I pay them attention. But times like these, quiet times, when I’m caught in the undertow, I notice. I notice everything. Today I noticed, though not for the first time, how I read.

I read slowly. I don’t have to, but I choose to because I don’t read for numerical achievement, but for immersion. I come before a book the same way I once came before the sea and my God, to be baptized in a glory not my own. Books contain oxygen. You can breathe them or spit them out. I am quick to euthanize a book I am not enjoying. There’s been too much good stuff written for me to spend my time reading what wasn’t. For a good book I’ll go the extra hundred miles. I will look up its every foreign word. I will teach myself to pronounce names that don’t read phonetically. I will make certain that I understand what I’m reading before moving on to the next page. If this means I have to put the book down and move to the computer, so be it.

Today I learned about gables. I typed the word G A B L E into and yielded this: “the portion of the front or side of a building enclosed by or masking the end of a pitched roof.” And when that read like Greek I jogged over to Google images and searched until I found a picture. All in all it took me about 6 minutes before I fully understood a gable’s function and where I might find one were I looking for it. Is this strange? Am I the only who does this? Feel free to say “Cara, my friend, there there, we’ll make sure to find you a warm room with a lovely view of the lawn.”

I also noticed I am a savorer. If a line or passage strikes me as true and sharp, a flawless diamond mounted in rubble, I will read and reread until words morph into music, thereby easier to trap, easier to match the rhythm with that of my own heart’s beat. I must, or be driven to madness, consume the words, be absorbed, for only then can I secrete its beauty. I cannot go on to the next page, line, letter. Not until I know. I must know.

For me, reading is a lot like coloring. A book enters my hands bearing the detail of shape and structure, but it’s flat, like a wall or the ground. If I ran my hand over it, there would be no bumps, no hollows or secret passage ways, grooveless. It is my responsibility to give every word a color, every move a sound. I decide if the starry sky is black or purple, if the leaves on the tree are mint-green or kermit-green, or maybe not even green at all, but almost blue because of the time of day and the way the sun is hitting them. It’s not my design, no, but it is mine. And only when I make it mine does it become three dimensional, a living, breathing, effectual thing. The writer is the dream, but I the reader am the sleep.

So, anyway, these are strange musings, but I was curious today. How do you read? What does it look like for you?

12 thoughts on “How do you read?

  1. Oh Cara, I couldn’t imagine you reading any other way than completely submerging yourself in your books and soaking in every detail. While I don’t quite color every word, I do love sacking a good line or getting completely lost in a good book. Growing up an only child, books were very much my best friend! Thanks for the post, dear. Great things to think about.

  2. Hi Cara,
    Every word here resonates with me. Most enjoyable and very true, doubly so if I stray from English and pick up a book in Italian.

    Strange you mention the word ‘gable’ – I had to do the same thing when I decided to start writing a little story (as yet unfinished) of a house on the edge of a moor with many a secret inside.


    • Chris, I envy you your bilingualism. What a treat to be able to hear the words in another tongue, another texture.
      Sometimes, though, wouldn’t you say the research is part of the fun? Not always, but sometimes.

      Hope you’re well, my friend.

      • Cara, how are you? I’ve tried to keep up but my plate is full. I need some free-time.
        Research is fundamental and fun, until it becomes procrastination…yep, everyone loves a distraction.
        I’m well and enjoying life, thank the Lord. I would that he help me concentrate more but…
        I sometimes dream in Italian which is …erm, different.
        I really hope you’re keeping well my dear friend.

      • I am indeed well, thank you. We seem to be living opposite lives, as my plate is completely, not-even-a-crumb-or-morsel-left-on-it empty. I ate everything on my full plate and now I am digesting. It’s not exactly how I thought it would be but, well, the grass is always greener, eh? I hope you’re able to divvy up some free time soon, but also manage to enjoy the chaos of your copious dinnerware.

        Really? Me too! Oh wait, no. You said you dream “in Italian” and I only dream of them. 😉

        Be well, friend!

  3. “The writer is the dream, but I the reader am the sleep.”

    Um, how epic are you today, Cara? Seriously, I’m enjoying this little blog post. I loved hearing about how you read. Vocabulary is not my strong suit (at least, that’s what my standardized test scores claim), so I wish I was more like you in hunting down elusive words. Yet, when I’m writing, I often will stop and make sure the word I picked is exactly what I meant – and that can be tricky when you’re dealing with matters of clothing or architecture. Hence, the gable example you gave is actually quite perfect.

    I tend to read at a fast face. Not lightning speed, but I guess it’s just natural for me. I feel like I’m not missing anything, yet, compared to other people I know, it’s surprising that that’s really the case. However, my own version of mulling over words is actually putting the book down for a while. Even with your book – when I got to a really good quote or a twist, I had to stop reading, think about for a few days, and come back to the story again to read more. I don’t know why I do this, haha. Sometimes it’s tempting to delay the end of a good book too. You can always reread a book, but nothing’s like the first time you’re reading it.

    • Standardized test scores, pah! Vocabulary is a skill; like archery. If you want to improve that skill, you must first care, then work at it. This is my issue with testing. Because anything that seeks to measure the “standard” is missing the very essence of what makes a human an individual. That said, I would never have imagined you weren’t the wordsmith your stories declare you to be. Usually I’m caught up in the whimsy of it all, I doubt I’m paying too much attention to much else.

      Yes. Yes, exactly. All of it. Leaving and coming back, delaying the inevitable end. I know. It’s what I keen. A good book beckons to be read again and again, but you’re so very right – there is nothing like the first time through the words. Thanks, Kim.

  4. I read like a student learning from a teacher. I read like a baby clinging to a parent. I read like a peer trying to figure out if the relationship is worth it. I read like a judge critiquing every line. I read like a sister sharing whispered stories. I read like a kid hoping for adventure. I am so amazed by your beautiful prose…you are a talented writer…don’t stop 🙂

    • Bri, hi, thank you! Such a lovely comment. Your metaphors are bites of art. I think my favorite is “I read like a sister sharing whispered stories.” This conjures all sorts of images: flashlights, sheets pulled overhead, snickering and shadows. Thank you for coming by. 🙂

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