Reading Habits

Pat here:

I’m currently reading a fast-paced action mystery that is going to be impossible to solve because there are no clues. I’m interested in other elements of the story, so I’m fine with that. But I find myself skimming more and more as I progress into the story, looking for the elements that interest me. I’m skipping the sex scenes and only catching the dialogue in the action scenes. I really don’t care who boinks whom and how, any more than I care who gets shot with what caliber gun. I’m sure the book is well written and appeals to action fans, but I just don’t care enough about the characters to read for anything except the fun elements like the puzzles and the ghosts. This is not a comment on the book so much as on my reading habits.

For example—I just finished a historical mystery that had almost nothing happening except the setting and the intriguing characters. I still settled in to happily wander through another time and place. I read every word, although I easily figured out the whodunnit of the mystery, so I didn’t even have the fun of a puzzle to keep me going. Reviews have described this book as boring, and I’m certain it is for people who love action and sex. But as I’ve already shown, my preference is for character and apparently setting, although they both have to be of a sort that intrigues me. I don’t read about protagonists who are bullies, for instance, and I have little interest in China.

Is this just a character flaw of mine? How do others choose what to skim and what to read word-by-word? When I’m writing, I’m often stumped by how much information to put into my stories, probably because of my own weird reading habits. Finding a balance between my interest in entertaining bits of history, eccentric character traits, and the need to keep the action moving is a challenge.  I’d love to see how other people’s reading habits correlate to mine.  Any insights?

Pat Rice’s new original ebook Evil Genius can be found at




Reading Habits — 5 Comments

  1. That can be a tough question to answer simply, because it depends so much on the book. (And my mood. And what I came to the book for.) A narrative voice that appeals to me can keep me reading longer than I might if I don’t care for the voice. Humor is a huge draw for me.

    If the setting is very familiar, I might skim because I already know the facts, or I can be thrown out if a fact is wrong, or I recognize the source (this happens a great deal with fiction set around 1800, for example, as I’ve been reading about that period for roughly four decades) but a new setting, vividly evoked, will draw me right in. Or a familiar setting in an unfamiliar time–which is why I adore reading travelogues about familiar places, for example, Two Years Before the Mast, which includes detailed, vivid descriptions of what would eventually become Southern California. Spots just a bike ride from here. That might not excite another reader, but the balance of the familiar and unfamiliar engages me.

    I guess the same can be said for the meat and potatoes of fiction, character interaction. If I can not only predict what will happen but most of the dialogue, well, I’ll leave that book to a younger reader who hasn’t read as much as I have, because of the old truism: if you read a lot of what you love most, it’s harder to find any surprises.

    However, characters acting randomly, especially for shock value, leaves me cold.

  2. I skimmed all the horror in Lovecraft and only read the parts where he describes cities. I still think he’s a genius, it’s just that he’s not scary at all, his cities are charming.

    I often tend to skim any action scenes. And, ah, of course, with mysteries I always look up the ending first so I can track the whodunit through the book.

    But I can recite, by heart, how Bulgakov describes Moscow or how Clarke describes the City. Because their descriptions are an important part of the action.

  3. You read the ending of mysteries! I mostly read mysteries just to test my detection skills. “G” and for the characters.

    Hmm, maybe I should have asked what readers look for in a particular genre. I’m thinking romance readers aren’t looking for setting so much as mystery or history readers.

  4. I tend to read word-by-word regardless because I don’t know when something important will come up. Skimming is mostly for non-fiction.

  5. I can be a skimmer, too, but if the book doesn’t grab me in the first couple of chapters, I will put it down. For me, that usually means the characters have got to grab me, and the plot has to move. However, other pet peeves:

    Excessive tell: Like you mentioned–does the caliber of gun really matter? I don’t care if the guy has brown wavy locks and steely gray eyes. I don’t care much if he has dreads and a gold tooth–unless he’s very vain about that tooth!

    I skim the sex scenes, too. You can fade to black.

    I read a multiple of genres, though very little literary or romance. If I have to read about angst or swelling hearts, there needs to be a good murder, some magic, or spaceships or somesuch to back them up! 😉 Or great humor. I read one risque romance novel all the way through, and it was because the scenes–even the intimate ones–were hilarious.