Booking Through Thursday: What is Reading?

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance. ( 5/29/08 )

My answer: To me, reading is reading a book. A novel, graphic or not (although I don’t read graphic novels), a non-fiction book about anything under the moon, a newspaper or magazine, or an e-book; anything that involves reading words on a page (or screen). I don’t consider audiobooks to be reading in its strictest sense, and they are not something I use, but I do consider them to be just another alternative way to experience a book. It’s just not a way that I’m comfortable with.

Comics, however, are a more complicated thing for me. I often read collections of popular comics, like For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston, Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed, and Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterston. But I don’t really consider them to be reading. It feels like a separate activity, one that I greatly enjoy, but it seems to engage a different part of my brain. I think this separation comes from the fact that I will often read this comic collections by chance, when they happen to be near at hand. They’re more about instant gratification: a quiet chuckle as I’m waiting for a pot of water to boil on the stove. When I sit down to read a book, it is much more of a deliberate decision and I am prepared to sit for a long time and let myself become a part of the story.

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