The Different Kinds of Readers & Our Relationship with Books

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Dr Hops and I are new to the Boston area. Moving means new friends and new experiences, but this was one I wasn’t expecting. I recently had a new acquaintance over for dinner for the first time. She is a postdoc in an academic lab and is also new to the area. We don’t know a lot about each other but enough to know we get along, and after walking in to our apartment the following conversation ensued:

Her: [glances around the living room of our small Boston apartment] “I thought you read a lot?”

Me: “I’m not sure about ‘a lot’ but I do read more than most people, why?”

Her: “Where are all of your books? I thought you’d have tons of bookshelves. You only have like 10 books.”

Me: “I don’t keep many physical books. We’ve moved every 2-3 years and I read anywhere from 60-100 books a year, and have for the majority of my life, so it’s not feasible for me to keep a physical copy of everything I’ve read. Because of the sheer volume of books I go through, I also get a lot of physical and ebooks from the library or the cost would put a serious dent in our budget.”

Her: “But how do people know what you’ve read?”

Me: “I guess I’ve never thought of it that way [thinking but not saying, it’s not a trophy case, WTF]. I would assume people would be able to tell based on conversation… right? I wouldn’t randomly rattle off all the books I’ve ever read to someone I barely know..???”

This combined with the recent discovery of booktube (youtube reference to channels dedicated to books and reading) made me realize people have very strong opinions about and attachments to books. People record book hauls, where they show physical copies of all the books they buy, and they do bookshelf tours, where they take a viewer through all the of the physical books they have. VERY few youtubers seem to use ereaders, and fewer still only keep books they’ve read and loved. I think I’ve only seen one reference from the major vloggers that mentioned getting books from the library.

I really enjoy some of these things, like the book reviews, and recommendations. But this lead me to the idea of the different relationships people have with books and the following outlines of the types of readers.  I keep a reading list because I like to have specific reading goals every year, but it puts a new light on how unique the reading relationship is for different people. The following are completely made up [by me] names for the types of readers I’ve met and how I classify others who read.

[I’m a scientist, I like lists and categories… it’s kinds of an occupational hazard and some would say a personality flaw]

The Hoarder 


For me, this person is defined as someone who can’t turn down a book sale. We’ve all had friends like this. Every open space in the house is covered with books, the majority of which haven’t been nor will ever be read. They simply find pleasure in being surrounded by books and what they represent.

The Minimalist 


Ebooks or audiobooks only because it’s the least likely to leave clutter that has to be dealt with later. They think physical books are a waste because they take up room and many people never pick them up again once they’re read.

The Purist 


Physical books only for these people. Vintage and original hardbacks preferred over new and shiny copies with different cover art. Books with actors from movie adaptions are shunned.

The Consumer 


“MUST READ ALL THE THINGS,” is their motto. They “read” all forms of media, audiobooks, physical books, ebooks, magazines, pretty much anything that tells a story is good enough. They read across all genres and like knowing a little about a lot of things.

The Elitist 


These people only read the classics, normally within a VERY specific subcategory like Victorian romance in rural England. If you mention anything about current books, or [gasp] science fiction, you’re met with a reply about how they only read literature. (there is a rant here for me, but that’s for another day).

The Realist 


Non-fiction only please. These people love the facts and would rather read about real events and real people than anything else. I include people who enjoy instructional material in this group. Need to know how an elevator algorithm determines the floors it returns to, what about military theory from specific battles in World War I, they’ve got you covered.

The Art Collector 


Oh so pretty! These people buy books based more on the cover art than the premise of the story contained between the covers. They want matching covers if there are books in a series so they can look beautiful together next to one another on the shelf. They must be admired and petted because .. MY PRECIOUS!

The Eclectic 


These people don’t really fit any of the categories above. They read a little of everything in multiple forms. They might not keep many physical books, but they do keep those that mean a lot to them.

The Best-friend 


“I cry over literary characters,” could be their motto. These people keep books because they feel an attachment to the characters and/or world the authors created. These readers use the literary world as an escape and a way to gain insight into the lives of others. It’s hard for them to discard books because they feel an attachment to the world and seeing the books makes them remember how they felt when reading that particular book and spending time with those specific characters.


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