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What are your self-destructive reading habits?

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People read for many different reasons. Sometimes they do it to acquire knowledge. Sometimes they want to inspire themselves. Sometimes, however, they want to do the literary equivalent of banging their heads against a rock. Take a look at how I use books to destroy myself.

"At least they're reading," is the idea that everyone falls back on, when looking at a child reading some execrable book. We take for granted the idea that reading is always salutary. And yet, I'm perfectly sure, that there is a dark, twisted side to reading. There's a compulsive side that leads us to harmful behavior again and again, because we just can't stop ourselves. This compulsion isn't a guilty pleasure. A guilty pleasure is something that, though it might interfere with your life, the benefits are immediate and obvious. You know you'll enjoy it. Self-destructive reading is the kind of reading you do even though you know it's going to suck.

I blame Stephen King for my habit. I could steer clear of his doorstop-like novels, but then he had to publish collections of short, scary stories. Each little chunk of morbid horror was right there, and could be read in a few pages. They all had interesting titles. I would pick them up at the library, as I was browsing for other books, and read a story or two, standing, before I went on.


I'm not the type of person who should be reading scary stories. I say this not because they scare me, but because they don't . . . immediately. Instead, they nest in my head until the appropriate time. In the library, I was intrigued by King's take on the classic monster-in-the-closet. Years later, when I got a closet, I casually checked it every night before bed. And then casually leaned stuff against it. And then casually left the light on as I slept. I did this for weeks at a time. Other King stories made me, years after reading them, nervous about paintings with humans in them, creeped out during the full moon, and leery of big frogs. There are probably more, but I've mercifully forgotten them.

The thing is, I don't like horror stories. I just have a need to look at them, find out what threat the early pages of the story hint at, and stare it right in the printed page. Sadly, it doesn't stay on the page, but follows me, becoming more intense and vivid as I move to appropriate settings. This is a habit I know I have, but I still can't stop sneaking glances at horror stories, or reading spoilers about novels to look at what the terrifying monster will be. This kind of reading is not good for me.


But everyone has their version of it. Some people can't help but read every word written by someone who they vehemently disagree with, politically, knowing that they're going to fume about it during their commute. Some people prescribe literary novels, knowing they won't like them, and get sick of the written word for weeks at a time. Some people keep reading a book they don't enjoy to the very end, because they have to complete it, all the while thinking they're wasting their time. Reading is not the innocuous past time that so many people make it out to be. So what are your worst reading habits? How do you, unnecessarily, make yourself a less happy person?

And do you know how to bolt a closet door shut?

Top Image: KoS