Aug 19 2010 11:29am
Gulp or sip: How do you read?

I was chatting to a friend about A Suitable Boy and she mentioned that because it was so long she’d had trouble setting aside enough time to read it. It is long, but I hadn’t had that problem because I don’t think of reading as something I have to stop to do. I read in the interstices of my day. I feel I have to clear time to write—I need free time that’s also psychologically free time I write, if I have to go to the bank later that hangs over me and gets in the way. But I don’t feel like that about reading at all. I read all the time I’m not actively doing anything else—and even sometimes when I am.

Actually, I read all the time. I carry my book around with me and read on the bus, on the metro, or if I’m waiting for someone. If I’m going out, I check that I have enough to read to last me. I generally read one book at a time, but occasionally I’ll read a big heavy hardback at home and take a little light paperback out with me. If I’m really enjoying the hardback I’ll lug it along—I’ll always remember reading Anathem while going round Ikea with my mother-in-law.

I always read if I’m eating alone. I have in fact perfected the art of eating with either a fork or chopsticks in my right hand with my book open in my left hand. I can turn pages one handed with no problem. This is one of the reasons I prefer paperbacks.

I read in cafes and tea houses. I don’t think of this as going there especially to read, any more than I think of going there to breathe. I will be reading and breathing while I am there drinking tea, that goes without saying. I won’t read if I’m there with somebody else, or if I’m having a meal with somebody else. But if it’s just me, or if you’re meeting me, you’ll find me inside the book—and if I’m there with you, I’ll get my book out for the two minutes while you’re in the bathroom.

I read in the bath—and this is why I vastly prefer baths to showers. I haven’t figured out a way to read in the shower yet. I used to only read in-print paperbacks and current SF magazines in the bath, but since I moved here where I have a huge old bath and very hot summers, I have given in and now even read hardbacks, as long as they belong to me. (I have never dropped a book in the bath, though I know the story about the person who dropped in The Fires of Heaven and *schlurp* suddenly found the book had sucked up all the water and they were high and dry.)

I mostly don’t read when I’m sitting on the loo, but when I worked in an office I used to, and I’d finish my chapter, too.

I always read in bed, even if I haven’t had time to read anything all day. I don’t do this for any reason other than that I know no other way to fall asleep—I read until I am asleep, then I put the book down and take my glasses off and switch the light off. So even on the busiest, tiredest day, I read a couple of pages.

Now, I can if I want to sit down and read for an extended period of time, and I often do. Some books I have literally read without putting them down. If I am stuck in bed I’ll lie there with a pile of books, reading directly from one to the next. It’s the same when I’m on a long train journey on Amtrak—I’ll just read and look out of the window for days. (It’s great. You have such comfortable trains in the U.S., and so cheap. Wonderful way to get around.) There are some books that seem to repay more sustained attention, especially when I’m just starting them. Conversely, there are others that I enjoy in little bits but that get wearying when I sit down and read them for hours.

I have nothing against reading in great gulps—it’s just that I don’t find it necessary for enjoyment. Reading in little sips works too.

So I was wondering—how odd am I? How many people are like me, reading as they go about their day, and how many like my friend, needing clear chunks of free time to get into a book? Does it matter if it’s a new book or a re-read? Do some books require more sustained attention than others? Are you a sipper or a gulper?

Photo from Flickr user Caro Wallis

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

James Hogan
1. Sonofthunder
This is an amazing article - I love reading and thinking about reading habits!! Thanks Jo!

And first off, I constantly hear from friends how "they don't have time to read". This, I always tell them, is a lie. If you really want to read, you *will* make the time. This is why I'm able to read multi-book series in a couple months time, full-time job notwithstanding. People are shocked by that - I don't really find it all that crazy. I like to read. So I do.

And my nighttime habit is the same as yours. Unless I've had an extremely crazy night(and even this doesn't usually stop me!), I will read at least a few pages of my current book. Usually more like a few chapters. Most of my nighttime books are re-reads, though. Otherwise, I've found I get so caught up in the book that I get far less sleep than I need and spend the next day at work quite...grumpy.

I don't carry books around with me all that often though, mostly just because I'll fear I get too distracted if I have a book sitting at my desk at work. It gnaws at me, knowing I have yummy literary goodness inches away. So I must confess to being a gulper, in general. Most of my new books, I will read extremely quickly(alright, Brothers Karamazov was an exception - took me about a month). I wish I could read slower, I really do. But if I've started a new book, I just can't not read it. Yes, my self control may be slightly lacking in this area. Alas.

And for most of my reading pleasure(besides my nighttime-reading, which is done in bed), I relax in my big comfy chair in my living room and soak up the words on the page as hours pass... I have never tried bathtub reading - it sounds dangerous. I'll take your word on that one.

Thanks for this delightful article!!
Captain Button
3. Captain Button
I've always been this way too. If I'm awake and not doing something that requires my full attention, I'm usually reading too.

I posted my version of the above in a USENET discussion years ago about formal versus informal readers.

I generally have what I call "the current car book" which I leave in the car* to read when eating out alone or waiting in line or for an appointment, etc.

The car book is generally something I'm rereading. If it was a new book it might either something riveting I don't want to put down when my number comes up, or might turn out to be something so dull or awful I don't want to continue (but I have a pretty high tolerance that way).

* As a proper US surburbanite, I drive everywhere.
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
I'd say that my reading habits are pretty much exactly like yours.
I read in all the little chunks of time (Lunch, between meetings, etc) and in the bigger chunks--in the bath and at night.
We've got a pool, so I find that a wonderful place to read while floating about the surface (on a pool floaty--I haven't mastered actually swimming and reading) on a quiet weekend.
So, I sip when I can and gulp when there is enough time to gulp.
I've found my iPhone and the various eReaders I've got on it really nice in that I don't have to lug around a whole book everywhere.
Kate Nepveu
5. katenepveu
I was a gulper for so long that it's hard for me to deal with being a sipper by necessity now, because I find it difficult to go back and forth between immersion in the story and the external world, and I also have trouble keeping track of the pace and structure and, sometimes, plot-critical information like people's names and where they are.

I used to regularly read books in a single sitting. I still remember the time I checked all of the then-existing Vlad Taltos books, up to _Athyra_, out of the library and read them all in publication order and then re-read them all in internal chronological order, in one weekend. Ah, college.

Actually I think this is why I just went on a weeks-long binge of fanfic downloaded onto my ebook reader, since most of it was shorter than novel-length and usually had less in the way of establishing ground rules, it was easier to read in sips. I'm currently reading a published novel in about ten-page increments and as much as I like the book, I'm still finding the experience less than satisfying.

(But this is the thing I love about an ebook reader, that it's smaller and lighter than a paper book and has many many books in it and so I can bring it anywhere and read in line at the store or while walking from the parking garage or whatever. I just wish I had more time to read from it at once.)
Captain Button
6. Phiala
Like you, I read as I breathe. I even read while walking to work. (Yes, I'm very careful!) I can even read and knit simultaneously if I'm knitting something simple.

Bathtub reading is an excellent way to unwind, especially with a glass of wine. For me that takes some advance planning, so I don't get to to it very often. But five or ten minutes here or there? Absolutely!
Captain Button
7. ofostlic
Yes, another one for reading everywhere.

One of the best things about ebooks is that I'm much less likely to find I haven't taken enough reading material with me when I go out. I'll probably have a physical book, but if I finish it too soon there's plenty more on the iPod.
Hypatia James
8. hypatiajames
I am like you, Jo. I read constantly, unless I am working, and even sometimes I'll read when I *should* be working. I take the bus to work and have coworkers who think I am crazy - they being proper US suburbanites. Besides the $600 I am saving by not buying a parking pass, I don't think I would give up that hour or so I get to read each day. I eat most of my lunches at my desk reading. I'll read while waiting for pasta water to boil for dinner, in the bathtub, in bed, while my husband is deciding what our nightly hour of TV should be. I consider it a great luxury to be able to read in long stretches, and have expressly taken vacation from work just to do so (for a particularly engaging *The Gathering Storm*) - I couldn't help it. I had waited to read it for far to long.

For a long time I would only read books I owned in the tub, but then I stopped buying books (husband is a student again...). Now, I am significantly less concerned about the library's books. I've never dropped one, but if I did, I know my librarian would understand, and I would be happy to pay to replace it.
Bradley Beek
9. beeker73
I read almost exclusively on the bus to and from work. It's about 45 minutes each way. Sometimes I'll also continue reading once I'm downtown and having breakfast.

I usually only read one book at a time, but I have on occasion read one book in the morning on the way to work, and another book on the way home. The morning book is usually a lighter read.

I never read to fall asleep, because if I'm not really tired I'll read all night long. For me reading is a hindrance to sleep, not an aid.

I used to read in giant gulps - months at a time. I'd read all day, all night, and on the weekends. Whenever I wasn't required to be doing something else, like work. Then I would burn out and not read a book for 2 years. The cycle would repeat, until I started reading on the bus. This seems to be a small enough amount during the day that I don't burn out.
Pamela Adams
10. Pam Adams
Gulping all the way. I don't have a tub, so can't read in the bath, but otherwise, I've always got a book. Like you, If I’m going out, I check that I have enough to read to last me, and the need for enough to last is probably the only reason that I might consider an e-reader or smart phone. I do find that I'm reading a little less now that I'm carpooling rather than using transit- the need to make conversation slows down the reading.

I think the biggest time sink for the 'I don't have time to read' people is television. Mine tends to be off, and if I am watching something, the book is right there waiting for the commercials or boring moments.
Brit Mandelo
11. BritMandelo
I'd say I read exactly like you--I carry a bag when I go out that has at least one book and a notebook. (Generally, it'll have two books, in case I finish one.) In addition to reading whenever I have a spare ten minutes at a restaurant, a wait at an office, breaks at work, etc, I also read in huge gulps, too.

Some books I just can't put down, and I'll read them in a few hours. I just don't move from where I'm at and I'll read and read until I hit the end.

(The only thing I don't do is read in bed, because I have moderate to severe insomnia, and getting my brain to shut down long enough for sleep is hard enough without feeding it fantastic information beforehand.)
David Dyer-Bennet
12. dd-b
I picked up the idea of carrying a book around with me and reading in the interstices from a girlfriend in college. Then again, my life didn't have many interstices in it before college anyway. And I did have books with me at school regularly (there were entire empty periods to fill).

And I didn't start reading while eating until MUCH more recently. Reading at the table was not conceivable at my parents' (as it shouldn't be, really, when a group is eating together). (These days I do find myself reading even with other people at the table; possibly I should work on not doing that.)

If I don't get a fair number of pages of reading in in a day, I'll find myself reading at 5 in the morning. This is not good; better to do it earlier.

I'm only middling at turning pages one-handed with paperbacks. This is one of the big advantages of ebooks; turning the page is just pushing a button that's resting under some finger (depending what I'm reading on; no dedicated readers, but Palm Pilots and smart phones and a Nokia tablet). Also having a few hundred emergency books in my phone pretty much insures I'm never really stuck without anything to read (I could of course mess up my battery management and be stuck that way).

Even reading wouldn't make me tolerate baths. Besides, how would I ever solve any technical problems if I didn't take a shower in the morning to get ideas in?

I do a lot fewer really long reading sessions these days. I don't know if I'm busier, or my eyes are weaker, or what.
mark Proctor
13. mark-p
I only buy books if I know I don't have anything important to do. I have trouble putting down some thing new once I start it. Rereading is safer, and i read old books when I have a gap but I can't think about other things while I am reading.

Busses and train are so much better than cars. Who wants to be stuck in traffic when you could be on the train reading?

'(I have never dropped a book in the bath, though I know the story about the person who dropped in The Fires of Heaven and *schlurp* suddenly found the book had sucked up all the water and they were high and dry.)'

haha I did that, luckily it was only a paperback so there was still some water left for me. It took a while to dry out but was fine except for the cover falling off (a good thing i hated it).
Why aren't ebooks waterproof? That it probably one of the 3 main reasons I don't have one.
David Levinson
14. DemetriosX
I used to be a gulper, but my schedule rarely permits that any more. But I read at nearly every chance (including on the toilet, but then I don't take baths, so it compensates). My wife and I both read at breakfast and, if we're the only two people home for dinner, at the evening meal as well. (But then, we both work at home in the same room, so we aren't exactly losing out on important together time.)

My most extended reading time is before going to sleep, and like you, I need that reading to get to sleep properly. (Well, there are 2 other ways, but both require that my wife and I are reasonably awake. One is doing cryptic crosswords.) It would have happened anyway, but I've always blamed Heinlein. There's a scene in Glory Road where the group is making camp for the first time. Oscar tells Rufo he needs something, anything to read so he can get to sleep. It doesn't matter what. A book of matches or the back of a cereal box will do.
Captain Button
15. N. Mamatas
I read more, or at least finish books more quickly, these days, now that I have a commute on a train. When I worked from home, it was harder to find those moments to read without being interrupted by work or chores.
Other Alias
16. ghostcrab311
I am generally a gulper by inclination. All-nighters to finish a book? Oh yes.

However, life's exigencies have turned me into more of a sipper, at least till the last third of the book. After a certain point, stopping just isn't an option. :)

That being said, too much gulping and I do burn out and stop reading for a while to recover.
katherine m.
17. kittenscribble
I read constantly, several at a time. I strew books everywhere and sort my purses/bags into "paperback," "trade," and "hardback" sizes. My husband was surprised to discover that I liked to read while brushing my teeth. What I wouldn't give for a train commute.

The answer to sipper v. gulper is not simple. Circumstances generally dictate that I sip, though on weekends I tend to gulp. But really, the book decides. I just finished Brideshead Revisited and I had to sip; the text was lovely and delicate and I wanted to savor it slowly. Whereas I just know that when the next Miles Vorkosigan novel comes out, I will have to set aside a couple of hours so that I can devour it in a giant gulp; there will be no putting it down.
Captain Button
18. esotaria
Back when I was in school, I used to be a sipper. I'd read on the bus, before class started, after finishing an assignment but before the teacher resumed the lecture again... any spare second I could.

Now I'm much more of a gulper. When I'm reading, it's the only thing I can do (I haven't really gotten into audiobooks... I enjoy ones that are done well, but for me it's not a great substitute for actually reading the words myself). I can't clean while reading, or knit while reading, or embroider while reading... that which occupies most of my outside-of-work time. So now, when I have a book I want to read, I carve out a chunk of time to do it...often while taking a bath. :)

If we expand beyond books, though, I still compulsively read anything around me. Anything I pick up off the printer, read the spines of any books I see... it could be a problem. XD;
Kurt Lorey
19. Shimrod
This post, and all the comments make me smile. Real book lovers are among my most favorite people.
John Fitzingo
20. Xandar01
Interesting, I never really thought about my approach to reading. I generally like to read in gulps, therefore I do not get as much read as my wife, daughter, and friends. Since those gulps take time, reading often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Maybe if I worked on the sipping approach. I could actually make progress on the long list of books that have been recommended to me.

I wonder though, does reading in sips help increase reading speed?

Thanks for the food for thought. ;)
Captain Button
21. CMPalmer
Wow, heavy readers must all have very similar habits, since mine matches Jo's almost exactly (although I may do a little more reading "on the loo" - my grandfather wanted to hang a Library sign on the door to the bathroom at his house).

Above all, I really try not to be anywhere without a book. As much as I love print on paper books, I've actually got quite comfortable reading ebooks on my iPhone (Kindle and Stanza apps) just because I can always have a few books with me wherever I am.

I try not read more than one fiction book at a time, but I'll often have a few non-fiction books that I'm working my way through in various places around the house or in my phone. Since I don't have to immerse myself in the story, I can "sip" from them much easier than I can fiction.

I read very fast (mostly due, I think, to lots and lots of practice). Fiction books rarely take me more than a few days to read, a week at most, depending on how busy I am. More often, I'll start one at lunch then finish it that night or by lunchtime the next day. I re-read Rocket Ship Galileo last night in a little over an hour. I read so fast that as much as I like the idea of audiobooks, while driving for instance, they usually drive me crazy because they are so much slower than just reading the book and usually too much trouble to sync listening in the car and reading the book at home.

I'd give up on audiobooks for good if it wasn't for the fact that some of them are excellent. The audiobook of Neil Gaiman's book Anansi Boys read by Lenny Henry is even better than the book, and I read the book first and liked it.

My wife is a slower reader and she is much pickier about what she reads. I think this goes hand in hand, since if you are going to devote two or three weeks to a book, mostly reading in the mornings or in bed at night, you want to make sure you're really going to enjoy it. I can finish off a pulpy mainstream or SF book in a couple of hours, so I'm less likely to feel cheated out of my time.
Karina Odde
22. avendesora
I read when the mood grabs me. When I'm eating breakfast and there's no one around. When I'm sitting on the bus. Waiting for friends. But I prefer reading shut up in my room with only the book and a cup of tea for company. If it's before I get up in the morning, in the middle of the day and I have a couple of hours to myself, before I fall asleep or because I can't sleep. I definitely prefer the big gulps because I feel that I get more into the book that way. It feels like I'm treating it with the respect that it deserves.
Captain Button
23. euphrosyne
Depends on the book. Some books are just sippers, others are gulpers.

On re-reads, I generally find that the initial tendency is amplified. I can be happy reading just a couple pages of Viriconium, but I want to read Neuromancer all at once.
Eric Rhoads
24. WordTipping
I prefer to have enough time to read at least a chapter which tends to be 15-20 minutes. When I start breaking a chapter into 2-3 page chunks I feel like you really loose the value of composition. You know may remember all the facts but loose the feeling of coherency. I equate it to listening to a music album. I can enjoy a single track at a time but I don't enjoying listening to each track in 15 second bursts.

If I know I don't have time to finish at least a chapter I will instead read the news, RSS feeds, Twitter, etc. Those forms of media are better for short time periods.
Captain Button
25. rushmc
I must say that I am opposed to the style of reading you describe. Reading should be one (important) aspect of life but should not subsume it. How much of life do you miss when you're out in the world but not seeing it because your nose and attention are in a book? It amazes me that you can write (and I've read a couple of your books and enjoyed them) with such a tenuous connection to the experiential world outside of books. I would love to be able to read more books than I do, but I wouldn't trade my worldly experiences in order to do so, and therefore must content myself with my ~100 books/year.

I am also astounded at your functional abilities while asleep!

>>I read until I am asleep, then I put the book down and take my glasses off and switch the light off.
Captain Button
26. Justin T.
I read like you. I read intermittently throughout my day. But few things feel better as a mini-vacation than finding out you'll have several hours of time alone to knock out several chapters of something you've been enjoying.
Captain Button
27. Count Spatula
When I buy a new book (especially a long one), I first find the time to have a good long bath where I can read with no interruptions (a couple of hours in the evening, usually). That allows me to put all my concentration into the book, I find my imagination is more active when I have nothing on my mind.

Then once I'm into the book I can pick it up and put it down as much as I like, really. At the moment, there's not a lot to do at work so I spend a few hours reading there, then half and hour or so in bed where I always try to get to the end of the chapter before I finish.

When work gets a bit busier, I'll probably only be able to have the half-hour. I don't get public transport to work, so I can't read there, and it's taboo to read at the table in my household.

I agree you have to want to read in order to make time for it. I generally have periods throughout the year where I'll read quite a lot and then times when I really don't feel like reading anything.
Captain Button
28. bwm
I tend to read in gulps, but my gulps don't take very long because I read relatively fast.

The problem is that I rarely want to put a book down once I get into it. This can cause great problems with any other area of life, so I try to avoid having the distraction other than at defined points. I will sometimes do what Jo does and carry the book with me, especially if I'm already in the middle of it, but it takes a lot of effort to do anything else constructive at the same time. I don't think that I could effectively read in two minute increments, unless the book had chapters that broke that way.

It's really more a self control issue than anything else. ;-)
Captain Button
29. OtterB
I'm a mix. I also need to read something at bedtime. Occasionally it's a current book, but that tends to keep me up late (which in my younger days was a feature, but has, alas, become more of a bug). So bedtime reading is often something I can dip into for a few pages or a scene and then put down, having enjoyed the company of an old friend.

I have about 20 minutes on the Metro each way to work, and have been doing some reading there. Have only missed my stop once.

"New" fiction tends to get read in gulps, because if it's not gripping enough to read in gulps, I'm probably not going to finish it. (Used to finish it anyway. Now, not so much.) The problem I have with reading in sips around cooking is that it tends to result in seriously overdone food when I fail to surface when required.

I read the paper or perhaps a magazine over breakfast, because I need something self-limiting if I'm going to get ready for the day in time.

On making sure you have enough to read ... that had been my habit for years, especially when flying. I got out of the habit when my children were very young because they needed my attention while flying. Then I took a business trip without them, packed the current book but not the usual next-and-a-spare - and had a flight delay, and ran out of reading material. The horror, the horror.
Nathan Martin
30. lerris
Like Loial, I always have a book ( or two if i'm close to the end of the current one ) in my pocket. I'm not shy about lugging hardcovers, they're built to take punishment, but I take forever to read anything I've had signed until it comes out in paperback.
Marcus W
31. toryx
My standard practice is to read at every available moment. It's what tipped me from books to reading e-books; being able to carry an ipod in my front trousers pocket and slip it out at any given moment sold me on the technology.

When I was a kid I was the one everyone knew who walked around with his face in the book. I read in the car while waiting for a train to cross the tracks and occasionally at very long traffic lights.

As soon as the new waterproof case for the Kindle becomes readily available I'll finally be able to read in the shower, something I've tried off and on to do for the last 25 years.

I read in the theater while waiting for the movie to start, and even keep going while they're playing the commercials, only putting away the book when the trailers finally start.

When I eat alone I read; I even read sometimes when I'm playing a computer game that doesn't require my absolute attention. And like you, Jo, I read to fall asleep. That backfires when I'm reading something really good and gripping but most times just lying down with a good book will get the betawaves going and I've fallen asleep often enough with the book still in hand or sprawled across my chest.

Reading is like breathing to me and without a book at hand I might as well be undressed.
Captain Button
32. Anassa
I'm definitely this way, partly from habit and partly because there's no other way to get reading time. I read on the bus, I read on meal breaks at work, I read while waiting for people, and I read whenever I have time to spare when I'm out and about. I don't read at home except—like you—when I'm in bed or in the bath. When I'm home, I'm writing, or at least pretending I am.

If I don't have a book to read when I'm out of the house, I get twitchy, sometimes literally. I have even gone into a bookstore just so I can have something to read for half an hour, when I know the book I really want is waiting at home.

I started doing this in elementary school, because there was a lot of downtime for me. I'd finish work early, or everyone else would finish it late, or it took the teacher five minutes to get people settled down after recess, and I quickly got bored of just sitting, so I'd pull out a book and escape. This started to come in handy in high school, and especially university, when there was no way to keep up with my reading lists except to read during downtime.

I'm not usually a gulper. I've only accidentally read into the wee hours on a handful of occasions. I generally stop at the end of a chapter or scene if I'm getting tired, and I generally have enough self-control not to drift back to a book when I'm supposed to be writing. But sometimes I just get hooked…
Phaedra Collins
33. phaerie
I read much like you, on breaks at work, when I'm waiting for people, when I'm eating by myself. (Though when I was younger my mother would often read when it was just us two eating together, so by necessity I started to as well.)I'll even read while watching tv. I cannot however bring my book to bed with me, otherwise I will stay up all night reading it.
Daniel Goss
34. Beren
Ahh, the joys of finding time to read as a responsible adult. As far as gulping vs taking sip . . . both? I am also one of those who is rarely far from a book of some kind. Paperbacks are great because they fit in the back pocket of a pair of jeans and they can be replaced fairly easily. Recently I have also discovered how an audiobook can make the morning commute just fly by. However, I have also been known to take a vacation day off of work when there is a book coming out that I'm particularly excited about, and I'll devour it in a day. Or, in the case of some of them, a day and a night. I read at my desk at work between calls, I read at night before I go to bed, I read while I'm watching TV (until my wife complains about me forgetting to fast-forward through the commercials of programs on the DVR) I read while I'm playing WoW during downtime in a raid, I read to my kids before they go to bed . . . Sip, Gulp, or just swim and get whatever I can.
Captain Button
35. Miriam Sagan
I loved your article! So this is why I always have time to read...however, I have dropped books (and in the ocean too). Might it be possible for me to re-blog this essay at Miriam's Well ( A librarian friend just posted the link, but I think readers might enjoy just having it up! (so easy to read!).
Captain Button
36. rustyw
Sipper and Gulper. Upon waking I read, at work I read, lunch breaks, any free moment at all. I had to stop reading Deadhouse Gates by Erickson to read this article, and am at work answering the phone at the same time. Maybe why I'm not very efficient and could get fired any moment... Hey, more time to read!
William Uniac
37. Billiac
My reading habits have changed a bit over the years. Currently I read magazines over breakfast for about 45 minutes. I have a 45-60 minute commute into work (bus, subway, subway) that I spend the majority of reading my current book. I get another half hour or so in over my lunch, then another 45-60 on the way home. No reading at my desk, though. I manage to average 100 pages a day this way.

I am another one that will not leave the house without a book. Any bag I have must have a seperate pocket or compartment for just my book(s), so I know where to dig for it without any interference. If I think I will finish the current one I always pack a spare, unless (like today) I know I won't finish it until the trip home. I can't chain-read my books. I need some time to process the one before moving on to the next.

Reading while in line, waiting for people and eating alone is a must. I never read when I am with other people though. I prefer pocketbooks to trades or hardcovers, as they are easier to read on a crowded train and one-handed, while also being lighter to carry. The next book is often determined by size in relation to the current one. Reading Kay's Under Heaven now means I can't then jump into The Passage. Gonna need something lighter! I have learned to cut my food all at once, so I can then read for the rest of the meal uninterrupted, except by the wait staff.

I don't tend to read books much at home anymore. Unless I am nearly done one, it is a non-work day with little to do, or I just have to finish this book now (!!!), I leave them for the next time I am out of the house. The time when I could lock myself in my room and read a series in one go are long past me by, I am afraid.
Alex Brown
38. AlexBrown
Yeha, I'm also a little of both. It really depends on the book, frankly. Manga I tend to read just about anywhere and can pick up and drop without freaking out about it. Anything that requires thought (ie Mieville, Gaiman, Waugh, etc.) I will only read when I have solitude, and generally without any music. I want to get lost in those worlds and not have reality seeping in on the edges.

Jane Austen is just about the only author I read in the bath...she's sorta become tied to soaking in the bath with a cuppa and maybe some Damien Rice or Nick Drake. But I'll read her anywhere, really, because I've read her so much now that I can easily dip in and out and tune the world out. Everything else, for the most part, I can sip anywhere and everywhere.

But I read constantly. Since I work in the late afternoon/evening I spend my afternoons reading and writing outside. But not a day goes by when I'm not hurtling around in the written word.
Captain Button
39. Rush-That-Speaks
Some of both, really. It doesn't depend on new-read/reread, but on some kind of text density that I perceive and that may be unique to me. If the text feels really dense, I need to sit down with it and give it some actual time, and if not, not. The reason I think the density issue is idiosyncratic is that it does not map remotely to what other people think is difficult reading. Cherryh is dense, no matter what she's doing; Thomas Aquinas isn't, I can just read that.

And rereading dense things takes as much time and effort as a first read.

I also try to sit down for a while with things that are going to break my wrists. There's a copy of A Suitable Boy in the house, and I haven't read it yet because I can't figure out how to physically hold it without hurting myself. I can't take the thing around with me because I can't support it. I can't put it flat on a table as we haven't any table chairs that don't destroy my back if I sit in them longer than twenty minutes. There must be a way around this somehow.
Gabe Karl
40. Kaim82
I have yet to read without being distracted with the Internet, my PS3 and other stuff, I would like to finish the books that I bought this past few years, esp Neal Stephenson's books, I remember reading some of your articles like this and you gave me and advise I would never forget, which was to "burn my tv" (which I never did), I am almost done reading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (the politics and magic intrigued me with no ends with his works), then next up is his Warbreaker (I am also almost done with the Mistborn trilogy of his), lately I am distracted with reading short stories, I just picked up an anthology about the devil (because awesome authors like Neil Gaiman is in the book)and for the first time reading the collection Poe's Children edited by Peter Straub, I am also went back to writing after almost a decade of not writing, and reading a book about writing comics by Peter David, I wish I have the focus you have in reading a book, with all the distractions that I have plus I am bumming in my Moms Apartment being unemployed and all .... I would love to tackle all of my books, with different types of subjects, from Fiction to Non Fiction, Would love to read and finish War and Peace, Tale of Genji and Anathem, ... and also re read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell .... someday I would be able to read all the books that I own .... by the way I am having doubts in buying an e-reader I love the smell of paper as you flip them and with the e reader it seems lifeless maybe someday, also today I just read that Barnes and Noble is on Sale ... I fear that the age of book binding will be long gone... anyways thank you for your time reading this and hopefully I will be able to conquer my massive collection of books ...
Hugh Arai
41. HArai
I read in almost the same fashion as you Jo. The one significant difference is that I definitely don't read to get ready to sleep. On the contrary, for me to fall asleep, I can't be reading. I can fall asleep to music, tv, people talking - you name it - but I have to put the book down to sleep.
Captain Button
42. neeuqdrazil
I'm definitely a sipper. I read ALL the time. I've always got at least one book on me, and a back-up most of the time, too. A page here. A paragraph there. A chapter when I can squeeze it in.

I read while I'm walking. I read on the bus and subway and streetcar. I read in the bathroom. I read while eating on my own - I actually read while eating with my partner, too - we both read at restaurants.

Basically, if I don't have a book, I'm twitchy. So I always have a book. And more often than not, it's open.
Captain Button
43. JustinS
I seem to be the only one who reads *while* watching TV. If it is good tv, I may put the book down for a while, if it is a really good part of the book, I may ignore the TV for a bit...
Captain Button
44. sfinkle
My reading habits have changed a lot over the years. In college, high school and younger, I always had a book. I usually had a book open on lap under the desk, much to my teacher's dismay. I carried a book everywhere and read every moment I could.
After losing several books to the tub, I gave up the idea of reading anything except magazine in the bath.
Later I read on the train back and forth to work, during downtime at my job, at home with my kids were young. Still a lot, but not quite as much or as fast.
Now my reading has decreased even more. Too many commitments and no commute time. I read more other things as well - the newspaper over breakfast and lunch, online articles and blogs during breaks, more nonfiction as part of my job. So I am still reading, but not getting to the ever increasing pile of novels. I haven't slowed down my buying even has my reading has decreased so the piles keep getting bigger.
I love to read in long stretches, but I have a hard time stopping. Bedtime can be bad because it could be 2am when I stop. When I am reading I do not hear anything so music or TV is a lost cause when I have a book in hand. Vacations are for reading and my husband and I pack a couple dozen books for a week vacation. I think as you get older, it may get harder to find the little bursts to read and I may need to carve some specific time out of the day for reading. Hopefully once retirement hits, I will have more time again.
Sarah Hale
45. rocketshale
I also always carry a book in my bag for any available moment. My job often requires me to be out of the office on job sites, sometimes for days at a time; however, some days there isn't much to do. I can spend my day reading /and/ get paid for it! Those days are rare, but greatly appreciated. For days when I’m in the office, reading is generally confined to the evening hours when I’m at home, and then my book just goes back into my bag for the next day.

However, I have had days where I've had to purposefully leave my book at home or in the car. If I know that I'd rather be reading, I occasionally sneak into the lesser used bathroom and read a few chapters. When that starts to prevent work from getting done, it is time to leave the book out of reach. :}

I have also arrived a little late for work because I’ve decided to read a couple of chapters in the morning when I wake up. Then it turns into, “Just one chapter more.” And then, “Oooh, I can’t just leave it there.” Then I get to, “Yikes, I really should get going soon.” And finally, “Put the book down. Get out of bed and get dressed.”
Captain Button
46. SarahS
In the shower if you like audiobooks. In the loo (perfect time). While watching TV, of course, especially the news, which is usually exactly the same day after day. At night, instead of sleeping. My favorite is while cooking; anything that requires stirring can obviously be done with one hand, leaving the other free to turn pages.

The only place I never read in? A cafe. That's for writing in.
Robert Lloyd
47. RobertAllan
It's fascinating to find out how many other addicts there are out there. As a child I was allowed to select adult books from the library, checked by the librarian, as I had read all the childrens books. In my teens I had learned that I could get by on 5 hours sleep so if I finished a book at 1 a.m. I would start another. Eventually I was forced to ration and control my addiction as I couldn't afford the money or the time. I tried taking books to work but couldn't control the temptation to sneak a look during quiet periods. Unfortunately once I'm reading you could paint me and I wouldn't notice.
My addiction is under control but like those people who attend AA meetings I remain an addict and need to monitor the reactions of my family to ensure that I never lose control. For the record my sips usually turned into gulps because once I'm interested I always lose track of the time.
...Now I must get back to my book.
Captain Button
48. kluelos
I seldom listen to music anymore (currently trying to figure out what "ska" is), but I bought a cheap little MP3 player on a whim awhile back. Now, I'm completely addicted to audiobooks.

Too often I am just too occupied with some physical activity to sit down and read, but my mind is very frequently underused at such times. I can carry a dozen different audiobooks from different genres (mood changes, y'know) in this tiny little matchbox clipped to the sleeve of my t-shirt.

The earphones, twist-tied, snake up my sleeve and out the neckline where they can dangle when I'm not using them. Earbuds plenty good enough for spoken word are dirt cheap, so I don't worry about damage. A tap on the player stops and starts it, so if my ears are needed elsewhere, it takes but a moment.

I can get tons of audiobooks from the local library (on CD's, which I rip to MP3 -- useful skill, that.) including just about anything, through inter-library loans, and I could get tons more off of the DarkNet if I ever even considered doing such a terrible thing, which of course I did not. Write me and I'll tell you some Bittorrent web sites you should stay far away from, because they are infested with audiobooks.

It is a little bit different from reading, and you will have to make some adjustments. You'll have to become aware that you weren't paying sufficient attention, and need to rewind and re-listen to the past few minutes, for example. You don't typically get the different voices that I hear in my head when I read. Some readers are better than others about this.

That's another thing: the reader is just as important as the author. Some readers are truly terrible. Some can't help it. F***** M** has a relentless regional accent that is very tiring to my ears, for example, while Neil Gaiman's voice is a national treasure. So is Stephen Fry's.

There's an organization called LibriVox, that does free voice recordings of public domain books. Fortunately, their "thing" requires a little voice advertisement before and after each recorded segment, so you can quickly identify them. I delete LibriVox recordings as soon as I identify them, because their standards intentionally disregard pronunciation errors. Those are even more annoying to me than typos, and I find the practice of willfully ignoring them, unforgivable. Too busy to take a couple of minutes, look it up, learn how to pronounce it correctly and know that for the rest of your life? It's complacency with ignorance. Like if Project Gutenberg ignored typos.

Likewise, the Amazon Kindle device is capable of robotically reading material. Kindle recordings I also stay away from. I disagree that it is better than nothing: I'd rather have nothing than a Kindle reading of it.

With those caveats, there's a very rich field of audiobooks out there that you can listen to while running errands, waiting, doing housework, shopping, etc., and you are spared the weird looks you get with a book propped up in your grocery cart or at a restaurant table. Also you don't run into things or people.

I didn't think I would use an MP3 player when I got one. Now I can't imagine life without it. My original US$9.00 cheapo was junk, I realize that now, but my non-Apple replacement was quite inexpensive to start (and ended up being free -- long story). It was wonderful to have during a recent hospital stay -- except that then, I DID get the weird looks. "Why is his television always turned off?"
Joe Romano
49. Drunes
I'm a gulper, but admire sippers. During a break in an aikido class I take, a new student took a book out of her gym bag to read instead of a water bottle like everyone else. That surprised me. Unfortunately, we've broken her of that habit now, but I still marvel that she could read like that.

I'm a reflector, too, and need to stop periodically and think about what I read. Once while on a bus I saw a man finish one book and immediately start another. I could never do that.

Then again, I only carried one book with me during the commute--
Captain Button
50. PhoenixFalls
I am a gulper by inclination, and for the most part (meaning for just about all fantasies, mysteries, and most science fiction) I read books in a single sitting. There are some exceptions (hello, John Crowley!) but unless the book is super-demanding I like to totally immerse myself. And if I can't totally immerse myself I have to at least be able to read until a natural stopping point -- my parents used to joke that they were going to put "as soon as I finish this chapter" on my tombstone.

All those interstitial times you're talking about I reserve for daydreaming, world-building, and plotting my own stories, especially that time as I'm falling asleep. (The danger here is that I occasionally lose track of very, very good ideas -- or at least, they seemed like good ideas at the time. . .) The only time I routinely sip books is in the bathroom, which is why I leave my nonfiction in there. :)
Sherri Nichols
51. snichols
I gulp, I sip, I drink, I guzzle, I read. The Kindle has made it easy for me to always have a book with me, so I read anytime I have time. I don't read in the bath, though, because shower time is thinking time. And I have a confession to make; my family of three will often all read at the table when we're eating together. We love each other, we talk to each other, but we also love to read!
Captain Button
52. Jon_Shaw
"I read until I am asleep, then I put the book down and take my glasses off and switch the light off."

Exactly my habit, beautifully described
Darius Bacon
53. Darius
I won a gag award in junior high as the most likely to walk between classes with nose in book, though honestly I never did that *that* much. I think.

I read while eating, too, which makes modern glue-bound books bum me out -- they don't stay open! (Except small paperbacks that as Jo mentioned can be fully wrangled in one hand.) I've grown surprisingly reluctant to buy these larger new book-like objects and my iPad is taking up much of the slack. It's great for bedtime reading with lights out.
Catherine Parker
54. cathp
The most extreme reader I know was a childhood friend.

On being made to get out of the house and walk the dog, she could be found on roller skates, book in hand and being towed along by the dog.

We once invited her on a bushwalk. She brought eight Agatha Christie novels and made her way along the track by sighting the ground ahead and then dropping back into her book.

I have observed her stumbling but never actually falling flat on her face.
Captain Button
55. Teka Lynn
I will not leave the house without a book. If I'm stranded somewhere, I damn well want something to read.

The only reason I don't read books when I eat at home any more, is because I eat in front of the computer. Lunch or breaks at work? Book.

Bus commute to and from work (when I took the bus)? Hell yeah.

Restroom reading? Yep yep. Never learned how to read in the bath, though. Nor do I read while I walk. Everywhere else is pretty much fair game.
Captain Button
56. NancyM
I cannot imagine taking a bath without a book to read. There would be almost no point. I have never dropped a book in the bath yet, but I'm still not yet willing to risk my kindle.

I really struggle to fit reading into my day, not because I don't have time, but because once I start a book I don't want to do anything else except finish it. I read before going to sleep at night, which means I go to sleep later than I'd prefer almost every night, but at least the night's sleep gives me enough of a break from the book that I can get other things done the next day.

If I've got a book I'm really looking forward to reading I might save it for a weekend or holiday so I can read it in one sitting.
Leigh Taylor
57. kingheart
I'd have to say that I'm a little bit of a gulper and a sipper. I gulp my way through rereads but often find myself sipping at new books. Though that is merely trend and not absolute.
I can't keep myself pinned to one book though. I generally read four at a time, one before bed, one on my ereader, listen to another in the car, and one to two others that I read when I can.
I have to say my phone's ereader has been a blessing since my phone is the one thing that I absolutely never leave home without.
Audiobooks have been another great thing since I bike to and from class. I'd say that 70% of the books that I've read in the last 8 years have been audiobooks. I don't just reserve them for the car either, doing chores flies by when I'm engaged in a story; it's practically the only way I'll consent to doing the vaccumming.
Captain Button
58. Jordan Bell Alias Breaker
I'm exactly the same as you with regard to reading. Do it everywhere, even sometimes while walking from the busstop to work if it's a particularly good book. I've also discovered audio books, which is like being able to read while driving!
Captain Button
59. richardw
Thinking of reading in sips and gulps made remember this:
Taken by the recently deceased Wes Skiles, showing how best to fill decompression time.
Captain Button
60. Serdar
I just started reading the new translation of "The Count of Monte Cristo" (it's 1200 pages), and I made a conscious effort to read in the biggest bites I could muster. It's paid off: I get that much more immersed in the book, and it feels like I'm accomplishing that much more.

"Read in big bites" is generally a good rule, for larger works as well as small ones. The more you read, the easier it is to throw your arms around larger, more complex works as well as smaller, more intimate ones.

More on this here:
Heather Jones
61. JourneywomanJones
I used to take books with me everywhere I went, but since I started working I've realised I'd much rather sit and read rather than work. I don't bring books to work with me anymore :( Mind you, since I got my iPhone, I've never been without an eBook or two!
Captain Button
62. im like loial too :]
Ah, it feels like my own subconcious wrote this article. It's exactly how I do things.

I will never go anywhere without a book. This generally backfires on me as in my purse, along with all my junk, my paperbacks are constantly being dogeared and their covers torn. :
Jo Walton
63. bluejo
Rushmc: I do miss things because I'm reading when I'm out, but I think I actually have plenty of experiential life as well. I read in the cracks, or if you look at it the other way, I live in the cracks of reading. Plenty of both. Good and balanced. There are things I don't like to do because it takes me away from being in the moment -- taking photographs is one, because I focus (literally as well!) on doing that instead of really looking. But having a book I am reading and a book I am writing in my head while I am walking and cooking and talking doesn't have that effect.

Also, re sleep -- really. I am seldom awake enough to remember doing it, but I always do it, and sometimes when I pick up the book I've clearly dreamed the last few pages.
Captain Button
64. Donbo
I read every chance I get, both gulping and sipping. When I go out, it doesn't matter to where or for what purpose, I have a book with me. My wife thinks I am crazy because we will be driving to take our dog for a walk in the park or to the grocery store, yet I still make sure to grab my book and put it in the car. You never know what might happen, leaving you with time to read; even if it's only a couple of pages at a time.

I read during breaks at work, in the bathroom, walking from one place to another, basically every chance I get.

Also, I always have an "actual" book with me. I haven't converted to e-readers. The smell and feel and weight of an actual book is something I am not yet ready to give up, nor do I think I ever will.
65. birgit
I prefer to read novels in gulps, but when work gets in the way I often take the book with me and continue reading in breaks. Usually I fill small breaks with reading magazines. I seldom read on the bus, but on longer train journeys I always read. I often read before going to bed, but reading until I fall asleep doesn't work for me. Audiobooks are nice for chores that occupy the hands but not the mind.
Vicki Rosenzweig
66. vicki
I seem to sip more than I used to: instead of diving into a book when I get on the train, I'll read for a few stations, then stop and play a game for a few minutes, then pick the book up again. I don't seem to dive as deep as I used to.

Something jumped out at me upthread: the person who said they "read less" because they're spending a lot of time reading blogs, and nonfiction for work, and such.

I've seen this before, and I wonder: how much of the "people don't read anymore" means "people don't read novels anymore." A reference manual is a different kind of thing from reading a book, yes, but drawing a line that says that a novel is different from a biography, or a historical novel about Rome counts as reading in a way that a nonfiction history of that era doesn't, feels off.

For some of the arguments in favor of encouraging people to read, these distinctions really don't matter. Practice is practice, and immersing yourself in a narrative is much the same (besides, novelists tell truths, and biographers and historians get things wrong).

To say "I don't have time to read because I spend a lot of time surfing the web" may be different: there's less continuity there. But a short story here is as much reading, if not more so, than a newspaper.
Captain Button
67. Seanna Lea
I'm a gulper. While I read on the train or at the cafeteria or while waiting around, I prefer to read a book in a largish chunk of time. There are books that even now if I reread them I will finish them off in a day or so, forgoing other activities to get them done.

When I sip, I'm usually reading literature. My copies of Les Mis and Atlas Shrugged are sitting on my bedside table for a bit of reading each night. It might take me a year or more to finish one of them that way, but they are getting read.
Ian Gazzotti
68. Atrus
To me it depends a lot on the book, so I keep books for when I can/have to sip (at work, in queue, etc.) and other books for when I want to immerse myself.

As an example, I just finished reading 'The orphan's tales' by Cat Valente and I don't think I would've managed to keep track of all the tales and recurring characters had I read it a bit here and there; it was hard enough as it is - one time I even had to go back a few pages to remember who was narrating what to whom.
On the other side, Asimov is an author I can easily read 2-3 pages at a time and pick up from where I left it without a problem.
Captain Button
69. dwndrgn
All of the above. Except for reading in the bath and reading in bed - I dislike taking baths and always have and I cannot read in bed or I'd never get any sleep. I'm a master at eating and reading at the same time. I only have a half an hour for lunch and I have to get to the lunchroom and obtain my lunch as well so I rush through everything - cutting up salad ahead of time, etc. - to try and get as much reading in as possible.

I wish I could take public transportation to work, I would love to enjoy that time reading. After research it would take me two hours to get there (the routes all go in different directions and it would take three different bus changes and a mile walk) and it just isn't practical. I do, however, get to work approximately a half hour early so that I can have another cup of coffee and read some more.
Captain Button
70. Dovile
I'm definitely a gulper, I find that I enjoy the book the most when I can fully immerse in it for at least a half an hour, so I read only when I have more free time. I'm a quick reader though, and it usually takes me only a couple of days to read a book.

For the above reason, I don't take books out with me, unless I'm going on a longer journey.

I don't usually stay late to read a book, as reading in the evening strains my eyes, but it happened a few times, when I was near the end and I just had to finish it:)
Captain Button
71. bookmunkie
It felt like I was reading my autobiography. This is why I LOVE having a library's worth of books right on my phone. The main reason I developed my current reading habits is I've been reading on little screens ever since I bought my Palm m130 in high school
Sandi Kallas
72. Sandikal
I read in both sips and gulps. Two technological advances have really increased the amount of reading I do: audiobooks on the iPod and ebooks on my Nook. The iPod lets me listen to books when I couldn't possibly read a print book--while filing, dusting, making the bed, etc. The Nook lets me keep a whole library in my purse and the bookmark doesn't ever fall out.

My biggest suggestion for those who want to read more--turn off the TV. I just let my husband control the remote and I read while he does.
Captain Button
73. Kristi aka FiberFool
I think I land somewhere in between. Mostly because I have this burning desire to only stop at the ends of chapters. In the cases of long-chaptered books I will sometimes give in and stop at inter-chapter breaks. But I find books with long chapters take me much longer to get through than those with short chapters because I'm much more apt to reach for a shorter chaptered book when I have a few minutes. If I'm reading a long chaptered book I'll find something else to occupy those minutes like knitting a round or two on a sock.
Captain Button
74. dmg
Ahh, yet another excellent post and amazing thread, Jo.

At home, I sip and gulp, but believe the book cheats me if I do not want to gulp it. (I sip books I admire or respect, whereas I gulp books I adore.)

I travel a lot, and often. On pleasure trips, I could be away for 15-30 days, for which I calculate a need for an average of 100pp/day (split between sips during random downtime and stealing entire gulps). And what if I grabbed the wrong books? (My primary selections sucked.) So I would double the page count...

Do the arithmetic: that calls for 1500 to 3000 pages, but really 3000 to 6000 pages! Everyone thought (thinks) me a lunatic. The several travel guides, etc only added to the total weight.

And now I have my iPad... 800 mostly unread books, travel guides included, await. I leave soon for a month in Italy. Certainly my (down-)time is spoken for!
Lindsey Turnbow
75. Obi
I like to read in gulps when I have time, but if I wait around for it, I'm not likely to finish much. So most of my reading is in sips anyway.

I read between classes, while I'm eating, while waiting for my boyfriend (because his twenty minutes equals my forty for some reason). It actually depresses me that I'll get motion sick if I read in a moving vehicle. Especially since I do it sometimes anyway.

Best part about my job: I can read while I work. It's a tiny sushi restaurant, and sometimes there's literally nothing for me to do. So I stand behind the counter (or sit at a table if there aren't any customers) and read until someone needs something. The only problem here is that large books (like textbooks and hardcovers) can be a bit of a pain to handle.

Now I've a Kindle, so I can read one-handed! I never perfected the one-handed page turn, so, yeah. It works much better with the eating.
Alexandra Wolfe
76. awolfe
My reading habits have definitely changed over the years and have been dictated to (at one time or another) by age, as well as where I worked.

As a kid of four, five and six, I was a full on gulper, I couldn't get enough and was happily reading 5-6 books a week (as were all my siblings at the time). School didn't slow me down either, in fact, I would say I found the capacity to read more because, by then, I had become a both a gulper and a sipper.

I sipped at every given moment, and yes, would fall asleep every night with a book in my hand. I continued gulping and sipping in various proportions throughout most of my working life and would carry if not one, then at least two books around with me wherever I went. But people look at you funny when you have a paperback book stuffed in either back pocket of your jeans!

Then? This year I bought myself an ipad and, oh my, not only have I been reading a lot more new material, but, Jo, thanks to your good self and these columns on Tor, I'm now rereading a whole slew of books from my past, especially Heinlein-who I grew up on.

As a result of the iPad purchase my partner now refers to me as Roo and my iPad as Kanga, given it goes everywhere with me in its own soft-cloth shoulder bag. From bathroom to bedroom, kitchen to couch, train to bus, though I have yet to figure out how to take it into the shower? Any pointers?

My only grumble? Please, everyone, make more ebook versions available!
S. L. Casteel
77. castiron
Sipper, with occasional gulps.

I'm finding these days that when I don't have an extended amount of time for reading (at least a 20 minute stretch), I prefer to read an ebook rather than a paper book. With first my Palm and now my iPod Touch, I've always got a variety of things to read whereever I am, and I don't have to worry about losing my place in a given book. (For books that I like to browse bits rather than read straight through, though, I prefer the paper version.)

Reading competes some with knitting as a way to fill odd moments, but overall they complement each other. I can't read when I'm a car passenger (I get carsick), and I don't like to read on the bus because I might get absorbed and miss my stop. Knitting comes to the rescue then. When I'm eating alone in a restaurant, though, the book or iPod comes out.
Estara Swanberg
78. Estara
When I was a student that's how I read, too. Now I'm sometimes so involved with what happened during work that I can't slip away into the book right away. I also have less patience with a book that doesn't grab me in the first 50 pages, so I dnf more or decide I don't want to read a particular book I bought right away. I'm no longer able to read very emotionally wrought books when I feel stressed myself, then I really just want light relief of whatever variety. Summer hols are ideal for digging into the slings and arrows of fortune in a book.

It is still the case that I do not go without reading in a day (except when my eye is acting up and I can't read at all).

With a favoured author I will read the book till its finished (unless it's epic in length - but even that is fine during the holidays).

Ebook readers are a godsend because I can increase the font. Brilliant. Reading in a restaurant you don't have to switch pages and maybe lose food from your fork, you just press a button with the free hand and go on eating and reading. Put them in a ziploc bag and they're splashproof in the bath (just don't let them fall in the water).
Captain Button
79. Kvon
I'm another who has a book in the bed, a book in the bathroom, a book by the computer, three books in the car (because I might finish the one I'm reading).

People have asked me before how I can keep straight three or four books that I'm reading at one time. My current reply is that they probably keep straight the plots in three or four tv one has objected to that yet.

I do more sipping now, book time has gotten cut into by internet, crosswords, and activities than it used to.
Captain Button
80. HeatherCatherine
I read in bed, in the bath, at my kids' karate promotions, druing meals alone and, sometimes, during meals with my kids - if we have all agreed to read. Reading is like breathing. If I could not do it regularly throughout the day, I'd die (at least mentally and spiritually, anyway.)
franis angel
81. franis
Reading - I can't not do it. It's writing that takes time and thought. Reading is as easy as opening up my eyes and glancing at the whole page or paragraph while I imagine the scenes, remembering to blink once in awhile.
Have read some books by skipping all the descriptive scenes and cutting to the chase on the action. In other books, the descriptions or the world-building are the interesting parts and I'll skip the lousy plot or severely lacking characterization.
Depends on how a book grabs me what style I adopt while reading; definitely gulping it is in order if the plot is easily understood and I'm interested in the characters and how they react.
The only time I will stop reading a book is when the author violates my sense of belief in a way that makes me sort of "pop out" of the world and reality that is established.
Different sorts of books I'll read in different styles; non-fiction books are best ingested backwards or completely out of sequence. Whereas fiction I usually read in order as a story. But some stories are told out of sequence anyway, so I'm able to read those out of sequence without the enjoyment of the book being affected.
I do keep books in the car for moments when I must be waiting. It's also a great place to keep books that have become moldy that cannot be alongside the unpolluted books.
Often I read part of a book and then put it down and imagine the rest of the story and how things will work out. Sometimes I read only to find out how my imagination compared to the author's, which is why I will sometimes read back to front.
A.J. Bobo
82. Daedylus
I'd have to say that I'm more of a sipper than a gulper. I hate being bored and I like to have a book with me to avoid that situation.

Once upon a time I was going to stay with some friends for a few days. One of my friends (who I hadn't seen in a couple of years) met me at the bus station and the first thing she asked me was "Where's the novel?". I immediately pulled one of the Belgariad books out of my pocket. I ALWAYS had a book on me then. Now I do some of my reading on an ebook reader that's on my phone. That's convenient.

I have found, however, that some books are better gulped than sipped. I think Neil Stephenson's books are better the faster you read them.
Captain Button
83. MS_smartwoman
What an energizing experience it is to read the comments of fellow bibliophiles! Having been a rather voracious reader since the age of 4, I suppose I am by inclination a 'gulper'. I adore words, in every shape and form and use, and I read everything around me. I vividly remember 'shush-ing' my mother at breakfast so I could focus on reading the cereal box. She is an elementary-school teacher, so she was very understanding. However, now that I am in the final semesters of graduate school, I find that I do not have the necessary time to read in the way that I prefer. So, I have transitioned to sipping. To be honest, I do not find it as rewarding as gulping an entire work at one sitting, but I do enjoy it. I do find it difficult to readjust my focus to the 'real world' when the time comes to pause, but I am getting more used to the shift. It is almost like a meditation to me, and a very necessary part of my day. On occassion, I do still devour a book in its entirety, but I'm learning to enjoy my slow and steady sips.
Captain Button
84. logankstewart
Definitely not odd. In fact, this whole article nearly represents me, excepting that I cannot imagine a trip to the bathroom without a book or a magazine. Excellent piece.
85. janetl
I was amused by your statement:

>>I read until I am asleep, then I put the book down and take my glasses off and switch the light off.

One commenter above doubted you, but a friend of my has medical evidence that it's possible. She was evaluated at a sleep clinic. She recalled reading for awhile, then turning off the light and falling asleep. The doctor told her that she fell asleep (as measured in brain waves) while reading, continued to read for a while, her eyes tracking and hands turning the pages, then put the book down and took off her glasses.

I'm both a sipper and a gulper. I read Mary Robinette Kowal's "Shades of Milk and Honey" in one sitting yesterday, but I'm always sipping, too. The one downside of switching from a regular toothbrush to an electric one is that I had to give up reading while brushing. Too many speckles!
Captain Button
86. Awfly Wee Eli
I do both, and it completely depends on the book. Sometimes I'll sit down intending do to a bit of sipping between projects, and the next thing I know two hours have passed.

Just now, though, I'm reading Natural Prayers by Chet Raymo, and even though the shortness of the book and the lightness of the tone could make it a 3- or 4-day read, I'm forcing myself to sip. It's set up calendrically, and reading it slowly (one "season" per day) helps me immerse myself in that sense of time.

Of course, everyone has different ideas of what constitutes a "sip" vs. a "gulp". Jo, you say you read while you eat. For you, the 20 or 30 minutes you sit and do that is a sip, but for hyper-busy people who "don't have time to read", it might be a gulp. If you had, say, 3 kids under 10, a couple of dogs, and a power job beckoning, 20 or 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time might be as fantastical a concept as a unicorn.
87. janetl
Awfly Wee Eli @86: My definition of "gulp" is that you fling yourself headlong into finishing that book. If you've got time to burn, that means sitting down and reading it uninterrupted. If you're busy, that means staying up too late reading; reading on the bus and discovering that you've missed your stop; and so on.
Captain Button
88. Severian
Your article was like you were describing me! I have the same reading habits, almost exactly. Sometimes I thought, "hmmm maybe I look dumb carrying a book everywhere".. but I guess I do get to read more in a busy day, trying to get a bit more reading time, that's what the sips are for... its true that some books require more attention than others... When I read SciFi, sometimes I can actually read a chapter on commute to work, while driving! (Stoplights are major) And I do the same, paperback on the go and hardback at home... and many times I do debate on getting the book out... when someone goes to the bathroom I think how long its going to take , then take the chance and read a bit.. plus I do the same thing at night, need to at least open a book and read a page or two even if I'm really tired, just to kinda "check in" something... I sometimes use this technique to explore a new book I have in my library that I haven't looked at, knowing I'm too tired to get through a chapter or to understand the book I'm reading at the moment... Eating alone: same thing!, the one handed trick, (yet I do not master the chopsticks) although usually what I prefer to do is eat really fast, and then read during the rest of my lunch hour.. (at work).

... Some the paperbacks really get trashed up this way,, but I guess that doesn't really matter too much..!

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