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On Reading

Most of the time when I am not doing things that I have to do or putting off the things that I should do I can be found reading. This is not too surprising given that I am a Teacher of English and both my parents were bookworms. Well, they were people but they both loved to read. My mum would read crime fiction but infrequently as she worked a lot. My Dad would, and still does, read historical books mainly around World War Two. This is pretty typical of a man of his age and social class. It has been said that after a certain age a man will either develop an unhealthy relationship with either cars or the Second World War. He will also read some non-war based fiction as he spent a long time extolling the virtues of a book call ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes. I read it and I liked it. Neither of my brothers read that much for various reasons. But I have always read voraciously. I will read almost anything and everything. I like literary fiction, trashy fiction, biographies, histories and almost everything else in between. It is a constant pleasure to hear that my nieces love to read.

They are some traits of my apparent autism in my reading habits. Because of course they are. It seemingly touches every aspect of my life and my personality.

Firstly, I like books that are part of a series and if I have read one I tend to buy them all. Then they go on my shelf in chronological order. The editions have to be the same – so you can imagine my annoyance when the Rizzoli and Isles series changed from white background and spine to full colour. It now looks messy on the shelf. If I spot that they have been rearranged then I will spend the time sorting them into order. They have to be ordered, they have to be the same. This especially matters with the Jack Reacher sets of books. I have to have the UK paperback editions and this means I do not get to read the latest release until the paper back is released and this is normally about six months after the hard copy. I did once buy the US large print edition of ‘The Sentinel’ but this is now downstairs and away from the main collection, in its place is a UK paperback edition that I bought. So, I bought the book twice because it has to be the same. The only other exception is the collection of short stories that is a UK hardback. This is ok for two reasons: it was a present from my wife and it is short stories and not a full novel. The format of the stories are different so it is reflected in the physical copy of the book.

Secondly, when I am reading I do not “see” the characters or the scene in mind’s eye. I know what everything should look like but it is not there for me. Autism is the disorder of the ‘should’ – I should know what to say or do, I should know what people mean, I should not say some of the things that I do. Anyway, I have asked other people who are neuro-typical and they describe it as having a film playing in their mind. They have sound, visualise the characters and action. I do not do this, or if I do, I do not recognise that I do.

Thirdly, I do tend to read more non-fiction and biographies of historical people. The non-fiction element can be down to my desire to understand why people act the way they do. It could be a way of understanding an incomprehensible world through the actions of others. Though I am not sure about this. I like non-fiction because of the inability to picture, with any clarity, the fictional world that is being created. One major reason I don’t care that much about fantasy novels.

Finally, I read in bursts. I will be absorbed by one book and fly through it quickly or, even if I like the book, it may take my weeks or months to finish a book. I was once described as being “obsessed with something for two weeks” and then it is abandoned. This I believe is reflected in my reading habits. I also have more than one book and an audio book going at the same time and am perfectly able to pick up where I was with the narrative without the need to reread.

I do worry that a lot of what I have read doesn’t stick into my long term memory but my wife reminded me that it is because I am not “using the information” but when I need it I am more than likely going to recall this information. It is there, safe and secure, but not always accessible.

At this present time I am deep into one of my “cannot read” phases, this normally makes my therapist worry about my mood. But I don’t think it is that. Not this time anyway.


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