Reading Habits

A frequent question at panel discussions and bookstore events is What one book would you take to a deserted island?

I heard Margaret Atwood answer the question during an interview a few years ago: “Only one book? I’d take the biggest book I could find,” she said.

Same here!

But apart from that unrealistic “what if,” I’m what you might call a heavy reader—3 book clubs, hardbacks and paperbacks everywhere, and always a full e-reader. But for some reason, none of my four main protagonists are readers.

I’m not sure why no one in my gallery of characters is even a light reader. They confine themselves to literature that’s pertinent to their jobs or interests, almost never including fiction or reading for relaxation. Nor do they ever discuss books, a favorite pastime of mine.

Here’s the lineup and their reading habits:

• Dr. Gloria Lamerino, retired physicist, reads Physics Today, Scientific American, assorted technical papers, and The New Yorker cartoons. That’s it.

• Geraldine Porter, retired English teacher and miniaturist, often quotes Shakespeare, but not once in nine books has she picked up a volume and had a quiet read. She does occasionally leaf through a miniatures or crafts magazine.

• Professor Sophie Knowles, college math teacher, reads and contributes to mathematics journals and puzzle magazines. No fiction.

Finally, with my 4th series, I might have a reader.

• Cassie Miller (ADDRESSED TO KILL, July 2017), postmaster in a small Massachusetts town, reads crime fiction. Though I don’t give specific titles, I do have Cassie commenting on certain plot devices, and actually trying to read crime novels before bedtime. Granted she’s quickly distracted and turns to focusing on “the case” at hand.

One reason my amateur sleuths don’t read: they’re very busy people! In general, they solve a murder case in a week or so, sometimes sooner. That’s pretty quick, considering real cops sometimes take months, often years. I think this is typical of amateur sleuths—they crowd more into one day than the clichéd one-armed paper hanger, maintaining jobs, snooping around crime scenes and suspects’ desks, and sometimes juggling children on their hips.

Also, reading is very passive, as opposed to, say, a car chase, a shoot-out, or even a quiet stalking scene. It’s hard to make a reading scene exciting.

She stretched out on the couch, put on her reading glasses, picked up a book, found the bookmark, opened the book,  . . .

See what I mean?

Star of a TV movie!

Here’s a twist on this topic. A few years ago, a book by Bay Area screenwriter and true crime writer, James Dalessandro, was made into a movie for TV. In one scene, Jane’s Aunt Gertrude is pictured sitting comfortably, reading. Her book of choice: my first release, a hardback copy of The Hydrogen Murder. She holds it up, the turquoise cover visible, plain as day.

Suddenly an intruder breaks in and murders her!

The book falls out of her hands and onto the floor, cover side up, immortalized as part of the crime scene. Later in the show, crime scene photos show the book as it lay on the floor near Aunt Gertrude’s feet.

So, although my characters aren’t reading, someone is reading my characters!

 

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply