Lynda Barry's "The Stages of Reading"

A truly wonderful comic by Lynda Barry, on the 20 stages of reading, from infancy onward.

Lynda Barry Stages of Reading 7 and 8

I can think of a couple of other stages that aren’t here, though:

Somewhere between #9 and #12: First adult book — not sexy book necessarily, “adult” as in “not written for kids” — that you read and at least somewhat comprehended. (Mine, IIRC, was Slaughterhouse-Five.)

First movie or TV adaptation of a beloved book that made you furious because they changed or deleted things that you loved. (For me, that was definitely Winnie the Pooh. FUCK YOU, DISNEY!)

And first time you re-read a beloved children’s book as an adult, and realized that it was even better than you remembered, and that there was tons of stuff in it that had totally gone over your head when you were eight or whatever. (“Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass.”) See also: first time you re-read a beloved children’s book as an adult, and realized it really wasn’t all that great. (“Little Women,” anybody?)

Oh, and apropos of nothing: I am being entertained all out of proportion by “The Boring Butterfly” in #2.

So what other stages of reading can you think of?

(Via Pharyngula.)

Lynda Barry's "The Stages of Reading"

11 thoughts on “Lynda Barry's "The Stages of Reading"

  1. 1

    There’s the stage when you read a series of books and discover the author is writing the same book over and over again (JK Rowling’s Harry Potter) or the series started off well but went downhill (Steven King’s Tower of Darkness or Frank Herbert’s Dune).

  2. 2

    Not a reading stage exactly, but there’s a point where you realize that an author you really admire is not living in an ivory tower or dead or in a separate space/time continuum, but is actually a person who exists in your world whom you could write to, if you wanted. This occurred to me in my early teens about several people — Isaac Asimov and Stephen Jay Gould are the ones I remember the most, though, because I never got up the courage either time, and then they died and I couldn’t. I’m still not good at this. I feel like as a fan, I don’t have anything unique to say — ‘I really love your work?’ Everyone says that!

    Now I realize that no one gets tired of hearing ‘I really love your work.’

    Maybe this is a good time to brag about how I met Lynda Barry and she was THE BEST. She came to the Yuma Art Symposium one year, gave a really great talk on participation vs consumption of creative acts, and my stupid cell phone went off during her talk. I apologized afterward and I must have looked abject and broken because she HUGGED me. I was a huge fan of hers, so that’s like my greatest celebrity experience. 🙂

    P.S. Greta Christina, I really love your work. I just finished ‘Bending’ and thought it was great, especially the novella.

  3. 3

    The stage where you realize that some series books are ok, but clearly written for $$$ (for me it was Nancy Drew series) while others are clearly written for the love of telling the story (For me, the Anne of Green Gables books).

    I later used this realization to tempt my kids away from “goosebumps” and “bnabysitters club” and into A Wrinkle in Time. I am proud that one of my biggest achievements as a parent was to get my two (now adult) kids as totally addicted to the written word as I am.

  4. 4

    Not /reading/ precisely, but…

    – First fantasy of being a writer yourself.

    – First attempt at writing something yourself.

    – First impact of a draft with the wastepaper bin (usually following the previous point by about twenty seconds).

  5. 6

    @Al Dente- If you’re referring to the Dark Tower, them’s fightin’ words. Though I think criticisms of the way it came to a conclusion are fair, imo it never completely went downhill and ended in a way that was appropriate for the series and for King’s style.

    I think an important stage in reading would be: First book/genre you admitted to not liking/getting etc., regardless of how it would effect your standing among peers.

  6. 7

    – First book you didn’t enjoy because it was legitimately poor quality. (I vividly remember this book from elementary school, but not the title. I thought I could like any book until then.)
    – First book that your knowledge of the author and their life experiences affected how you read and understood the book. (Atlas Shrugged perhaps?)
    – First book that you deeply despised, but you learned to accept that your friends liked it. (e.g. Twilight)

  7. 8

    Ah, Uncle E, the ending of the Dark Tower series was the only bit of it I genuinely liked. Fabulous, I know it hacked a lot of people off but I thought it was amazing. The rest, not so much. Particularly the section that is LITERALLY self-insert fanfiction of HIS OWN BOOKS. Ugh, ugh, and thrice ugh.

  8. 9

    Similar to nonnie’s middle suggestion: First time you realized that the author you enjoyed is/was, outside of their authorship, something of an asshat. Say, H.P. Lovecraft and racism/xenophobia.

  9. 10

    I never reach any “forswearing of genre fiction”. Nearly everything I read is Science Fiction or Fantasy.

    – First book you didn’t enjoy because it was legitimately poor quality.

    About half of the “great works of literature” that I was assigned in high school. The rest were mostly just depressing. You want to know why so few people read for pleasure? Because the school curriculum has no pleasurable books in it.

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