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5 Ways Reading Habits Can Change Over Time

December 5, 2013
20 years ago, this book didn't exist.

20 years ago, this book didn’t exist.

This struck me as weird.  One of my kids came home from school with a “Making Connections” chart for a reading activity.  Students were to write down a fact or an event from what they were reading and then write down how they related to it.  It was kind of like showing your work in math, except it was for reading, and I just thought everybody made connections when they read, but I guess a lot of kids don’t, and the kids that don’t make connections probably aren’t good readers.  Anyway (after I worked through all that internally), I realized I’m probably lucky that I just naturally make connections when I read.

For example, I just read an article in the USA Today that shows how reading patterns have changed over the last 20 years by comparing its bestsellers lists of 20 years ago with current lists.  When it comes to authors of fiction, the bestsellers list of 20 years ago looks kind of (but not completely) like today’s, with authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, Danielle Steele,and John Sandford still writing top sellers.

Though some of the authors remain the same, there have been some changes in reading tastes. In the early 1990s, a bunch of self-help books were bestsellers.  Today there are fewer self-help books and a lot more fiction, especially series.  Today there are lots and lots of series. In fact, there are probably waaaay too many book series right now (but that’s a different topic for a different time)

And when I started thinking about these national trends (here comes the…”connection”), I realized that my own reading tastes/habits have changed over the last 20 years, but not in the same way the national trends have.

5 WAYS MY READING HABITS HAVE CHANGED IN THE LAST 20 YEARS

20 years ago…

1.  I bought a lot of hardcovers.  I was proud of my hardcover collection until I realized (after getting married and having kids) that hardcovers took up a lot of space, were too expensive (even at half price), and very impractical. Why was I buying hardcovers for books I only read once?  If I were only going to read books once and NOT give them away, I should wait a few months for the paperbacks.   Now… I buy paperbacks and only get a hardcover if it’s in the bargain bin (or at the library).

2.  I was a lot more loyal to authors.  If Stephen King or John Grisham (or even Tom Clancy) wrote a book, I’d buy it.  Eventually, I realized that authors who churn out novels usually don’t churn out GOOD novels.  I also realized that authors wrote the same book over and over again.  I got tired of reading the same book over and over again.  It took me awhile, but I finally figured that out. So now I don’t read (usually) read more than three books from the same author.

3. I read (past tense) political books.  I was on one side of the political aisle and read a bunch of books that agreed with me.  I still have the same political beliefs I did 20 years ago, but I don’t want my money going to political blowhards.  I’d kind of like to get paid for being a blowhard though.  But I’m not going to pay money to read somebody else’s political views anymore (unless it’s funny… I mean, unless it’s meant to be funny).  If somebody wants to pay ME for reading their political beliefs, I’m open to it.

4.  I finished (or made a legitimate attempt to finish) every book I started.  Now, I quit reading a book whenever I feel like it.  It doesn’t even matter if I spent money on it; if I don’t want to finish it, I won’t.  I’d rather have wasted the money (hopefully not much money) than the time.  I’m sure I’m missing out on great books for a stupid reason, but I’m also enjoying some pretty good shorter books, so I guess it evens out.

5.  If there was a book series I was interested in, I would start at book one and piledrive through them, no matter how long the series was.  Now, if I know ahead of time the book is part of a long series, I usually don’t bother with it, especially if the series isn’t done yet.  I figure if the author can’t tell the story in a trilogy, then the author needs a better editor.  20 years from now, trilogies might be two books too many for me.

******

A lot of things have changed over the last 20 years. Hair styles, fashion, and music tastes are different.  Technology has changed.  We’re even living in a different millennium than we were 20 years ago. In the last 20 years, I’ve gotten married, had kids, and gone bald (and all three were major lifestyle changes).  And because of a “connection” I made while reading somebody else’s article,  I’ve realized that my reading tastes/habits have changed over the last 20 years.

But enough about me!  I’m sure I’m not the only reader whose tastes have changed over time.  How have your reading tastes changed over the last 20 years (or 10 years, or 5 years or 1 year)?

21 Comments
  1. Enjoyed reading this post. Thanks DL

  2. I am already getting sick of trilogies. I find that even when I absolutely adore the first book in a series, the work goes downhill from there and I usually hate it by the end. Maybe it’s because the author gets a book deal after the first, gets a deadline and an audience, and feels rushed to put out a book. But the writing usually suffers by the end of the series, and I am just as tired of reading it as (I am sure) the author was writing it.

  3. I’ve seen this happen to me in five years lol

  4. ceising4 permalink

    Haha, 20 years ago, I was just learning how to read! Ten years ago, I read mostly YA/thrillers/mysteries. Five years ago, I read mostly science fiction and fantasy. One year ago…no difference with today (which is basically, whatever I feel like reading). Ask me again in twenty years.

  5. silverline7 permalink

    Reblogged this on silverline7.

  6. 20 years ago I wasn’t even alive yet (I’m 18). Ten years ago I had to prove to my second grade teacher that I was ready for a step up from the picture books in the school library in favor of American Girl and Nancy Drew. Five years ago I was burning my way through my public library’s YA section but my absolute favorite was Harry Potter. One year ago I read Les Misérables, which started my interest in reading classic French literature. I realized how much of a watershed experience that was when my dad told me that I should read the newest book in the Eragon series after I finished L’homme Qui Rit and I stopped myself just short of scoffing, “I’ve outgrown that stuff, Dad!”

  7. Thanks for this thought provoking post, DL.

    Apparently I work along the same lines as you only now I have to live on a pension my books are all free and come from the mobile library that stops just outside my front door.

  8. I only buy hardcovers for books I REALLY enjoy and read often. I call them shelf worthy books. I trade, sell, or give away the books that aren’t shelf worthy (I love paperbackswap.com for this kind of thing!!).

    Even if a book has a great story line, it just wasn’t told well enough, it still doesn’t cut it. It’s not a good book, because it must be good in all aspects (the story telling, the polt, the writing, etc). It’s for that reason that I don’t feel guilty for not finishing a book. They get a 3 to 5 chapters from me and if nothing is in it to keep me going, I’m done with it.

    Most mainstream authors I’m not into. Mainstream doesn’t always mean quality. Mainstream books/authors are read by people who don’t read a lot, so they don’t notice the lack of quality. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Every so often a gem does become mainstream.

    Long series are not always good and the wait time sucks on unfinished series. But there are exceptions to every rule.

    As I read better quality books, the same books I’ve highly regarded 10 or 20 years ago I do not regard today when I re-read them. As life experience changes me, my tastes change too.

    Because a lot of authors don’t always make a book as good as the one I love them for, I’ve never had a favorite author for many, many years.

    The first and only author that I call my favorite is Karen Marie Moning. I actually enjoy every book she has written. However, it was her Fever Series that blew me away! She is unconventional but so skillful at writing. It’s a finished 5 book series, but trust me she didn’t waste pages. She is intelligently witty, you can escape into her books, but she gives you a TON of food for thought. She delves deeper and deeper into philosophies with each book and challenges a lot. She’s not a perfect writer, but by far the most talented I have come across. When I read her earlier books, I watched her grow as writer right before my eyes! It’s pretty cool. But to catch everything in the Fever Series, I wouldn’t recommend reading the books back to back. Her fans had to wait 1-2 years for each book. In the interim, we would dissect the books. It’s philosophies, go into to theories for all the unanswered questions, dissect & defend & defame it’s characters. These were very lively debates and took a lot of re-reading, thought and dissecting. You’ll miss so much in the first read. It definitely helped the experience. So wait a couple weeks in between or something 😉

    • I agree, if you read 3-5 chapters and decide not to finish a book, you’ve given it more than a fair chance. I looked up the series you mentioned, and there was a LOT of discussion about it, most of it positive. It sounds like the series gets better as it goes on, which (I think) is rare.

      • very rare. The first book, the main character would not be anyone’s favorite. She’s superficial and just a lot of fluff. But that’s the point. You follow her journey as she faces a lot of tough things and you watch her transform and learn a lot of really tough lessons.
        it’s not for the light hearted and it’s best if you learned similar lessons going through somewhat (it is fictional and fantasy yet the principles still apply) similar hardships as well to fully appreciate it. 🙂

  9. I agree that my way of reading and my understanding of books, both, have changed over the past 20 years. I also used to try to finish whatever I started, but now, if the writing is frustratingly bad or if the storyline doesn’t capture my interest, then I stop. The author needs to do a better job than that and there are plenty out there who do, so why waste my time on those who don’t?

    When it comes to my understanding of books, as a young teen, I disliked a lot of what I read, but after re-reading the stories as an adult, I understand them on a whole new level and end up liking them. It’s usually because I have more life experience and now appreciate what the author was trying to say. I’ve also noticed that when I re-read a book that I did enjoy when I was younger, I find that I identify with different characters. As a kid, I identified with the kids (if there were any), but as an adult, I strangely understand what the parents (or adults) are going through. Sometimes it’s like reading a whole new book because you get such a different perspective!

    I honestly can’t wait (well, I sort of can…) to re-read those same books in another 20 years to see if I get yet another perspective from them!

  10. Mishchiefette permalink

    I’m with you on point 5. I do like books that are part of a series as I like following the progress of characters over time.

    But I do want the series to end, no matter how interesting the plot/people are. And once it has ended I don’t want the author to resurrect it somehow, just to get another series out there, which usually will include either the *exact* same characters who do a rerun of the old story, or characters that have different names but still manage to rerun the old story.

  11. Wonderful post! (and I like the comments from readers who weren’t born or who were just learning to read 20 years ago :-)). 20 years ago I was very much alive and able to read, but I wasn’t reading much of anything except self-help titles like Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. I guess that pretty much sums up where I was 20 years ago and whom I was spending my time with (women-hating men). I’ve changed in similar ways as you – I don’t buy hardcovers and with some exceptions will buy just paperbacks but only at used book sales. I also no longer force myself to finish books I don’t enjoy. And while I was too “busy” to read 20 years ago I now make it a point to read.

  12. Eerily similar on this end. Have collection of hardcovers I will never re-read..some I have re-read ad-nauseum …and agreed….. even if I pay…if it is un-readable, I see no need to torture myself. Good post as always:)

  13. What do you think has changed your reading habits? Do you think the new technology has influenced it?

    • Definitely. Being able to read on a phone (and sampling free books), I can read more (and decide NOT to finish more) books than ever before. Having access to all that has probably made me more impatient too. Thanks. That was a good question.

  14. Does anybody pay full price for books any more? Between used bookstores and half.com and paperbackswap one can get a library for the price of going to the library.

  15. I used to be much more loyal to authors. I’d go through a phase of reading Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton. Also, I agree there are too many series, especially in fantasy. When I pick up a book that looks interesting and see it’s Book 3 of the Gendragion Cycle or something, I just put it down again.

  16. I feel like everyone reading book blogs connects the things they read to their lifestyles and events. Reading a book is a very personal thing, probably because it all happens only in your head! And I think as you change, so do your reading habits.

    I haven’t even been reading for 20 years but since I’ve graduated high school, (and then college, gotten a job, and moved out on my own) I was curious to reread some of the classics that were forced under my nose as assignments when I was in high school. I came up with my 2014 New Years Resolution to give these past “assignments” a second chance at becoming beloved classics in my eyes instead of just what society tell me is a wonderful classic.

    Anyone is welcome to join me in revisiting the classics I could never appreciate as a younger reader. Has anyone else done this? How did it go for you?

    Here’s me list: http://betweenlinesbookclub.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/the-classics-revisited-2014-new-years-book-resolution/

    Thanks for getting me thinking on this track. Happy Reading!

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