“Only in retirement have I felt the thrill, comfort, and healing of reading,” a family friend recently told me. I didn’t wait that long, but I can relate: before my mid-twenties, I wouldn’t have described the experience as thrilling or comforting or healing—just “assigned.”
After college, though, I discovered the joy of reading—and the nuance, too. Like our relationships with friends, I realized, the kind of time we spend with books varies depending on our mood, our desires, and which parts of ourselves need fulfillment.
We have different types of friends, and, by my account, at least 19 types of reading—assigned reading not included. Here are the kinds I’ve done. I bet you’ve done them, too!
1. Travel Reading: Until you get too sleepy (plane), crowded (train), or, in my case, nauseated (automobile).
2. Rereading for Nourishment: Because The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid fills me up every time.
3. Rereading for Nostalgia: Because Charlotte’s Web takes me back.
4. Toilet Reading: So you can secretly scoff at your friends who just scroll through Instagram.
5. Intellectual Reading: So you can secretly scoff at your friends who only read Fifty Shades.
6. Guilty Pleasure Reading: So you can secretly scoff at your friends who say you can’t read Fifty Shades and still be a feminist.
7. Leisure Reading: Sunny Saturday. Cute sweater. Cup of coffee. The park. 10 a.m. to noon.
8. Lazy Reading: Chilly Sunday. Dirty sweatpants. Cup of coffee. The couch. 10 a.m. to whenever.
9. Bedtime Reading: The book that puts you to sleep.
10. Page-Turner Reading: The book that won’t let you sleep.
11. Pre-Movie Adaptation Reading: A Wrinkle in Time, because the book is always better.
12. Post-Movie Adaptation Reading: The Color Purple, because the book is always better.
13. Emotive Reading: Like This Is Us for the page—waterworks welcome.
14. Couples Reading: Followed by footsie.
15. Self-Help Reading: Sometimes the greatest form of resistance is self-care.
16. Resistance Reading: Other times, the greatest form of resistance is revolution.
17. Beach Reading: Sandier than advertised.
18. Bath Reading: Soggier than advertised.
19. Book Club Reading: Just pretend you finished in time for the meeting.
Featured Illustrations by Eric Hanson