Sunday, January 12, 2014


As part of a project I recently looked into positive adjectives often paired with “reader.” 

The most common is “avid,” which clocks in on google with 14.3 million results. “Avid,” of course, means “with eagerness,” suggesting the person reads gladly. It suggests an attitude rather than a quantity or quality.

Next comes “voracious reader,” with 862,000 results. “Voracious” is most often used in the context of food and suggests a big appetite, thus connoting that a person reads in great quantities. 

“Enthusiastic,” a synonym for “avid,” comes in third with 125,000 results. Again it indicates an attitude rather than being necessarily related to taste or quantity. 

Then comes “ravenous reader,” with 37,600 results, an alternative to “voracious.” 

Then comes the slightly oddball “omnivorous reader,” with 37,300 results.

Let me get all schoolmarmy and say an “omnivorous reader” does not necessarily read heaps of books, although that is implied. Rather, s/he reads indiscriminately, devouring everything from pulp fiction to Balkan history to tofu cookbooks to steampunk sci-fi to crime, etc., regardless of genre. In my opinion, one cannot be “an omnivorous reader of social science,” for example, because it already limits the scope.

While “omnivorous” may emphasize curiosity, it demands the reader cease to be discriminating. In the spirit of abandoning books, is that a positive thing? I start to doubt such a reader exists. You’ve got to care little for what you do with your time. 

By the way, last on my list is “prodigious reader,” with 18,700 results. The word “prodigious,” which shares its root with "prodigy," emphasizes accomplishment over appetite, intention or attitude. The first definition in Webster says “wonderful,” and thus this may be the best of all readers.


Kathleen said...

Wonderful list.

I read a lot, and all kinds of things--fiction, non-fiction, poetry, science, comparative religion, philosophy--so I do feel like a curious omnivore looking for real nutrition, variety, and flavor.

But I set books aside and sometimes never return to them! Other books I've set aside, I do return what turns out to be the right time to read them.

SarahJane said...

"Omnivore" makes me think of a dinosaur eating everything in its path. I think a discriminating omnivore is best described as "eclectic."

SarahJane said...

"eclectic reader" also comes up jillions of times, but often refers to a specific site or publication, rather than being used to describe a person.

Kathleen said...

I read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, so I keep thinking of it terms of nutritious food and wise choices based on the human being's actual needs. But, yes, I would much prefer to be eclectic in my reading than to be a chomping dinosaur!!

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