Read faces — just like a book



"Face Reading: Quick & Easy"

By Richard Webster; Llewellyn, 252 pages

“Face Reading: Quick & Easy”

By Richard Webster; Llewellyn, 252 pages

If you can read this column, I can comfortably assume that you can also read a book or a magazine or a highway sign. But can you read a face? It usually isn’t hard to look at a person’s face and tell whether that person is happy or sad. It’s the same with anger, fear, pain, surprise — the face is a window into a person’s emotional state. Now, there are always exceptions. The guards at Buckingham Palace, for example, take the phrase “keep a straight face” to a whole new level. A poker player who doesn’t have a “poker face” might not last very long. And while I’ve never seen a ninja in action, I’m guessing that ninja culture probably frowns upon facial expressions showing signs of anxiety or melancholy.

Face reading, however, can be a much more involved process. The author of “Face Reading: Quick & Easy,” Richard Webster, explains that face reading is more than just checking for smiles and tears. Referring to ancient Chinese practices such as palmistry and acupuncture, Webster describes how faces can be divided into elements, classifications, divisions and zones. Elements include wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Classifications — probably the most familiar category to us — refer to facial shapes such as round, square and triangular. When talking about facial divisions, the easiest way to think of it is in terms of yin and yang. The most interesting category, in my opinion, involves zones. The face is divided into three horizontal sections known as the analytical zone, starting at the hairline; the ambition zone which begins at the top of the eyebrows; and the practical zone, starting immediately below the nose. The zones, however, cannot be determined until young adulthood — when the face finally stops growing.

Everything from ear shape to the location of facial moles are important when learning the art of face reading. And according to Webster, with a little practice, anyone can master this activity. Putting aside ninjas, card-sharps and royal watchmen, it is reassuring to know that we can fine tune our mug-reading skills to ascertain personality characteristics and/or hidden meanings behind long noses, square foreheads and flat cheeks. Turns out one’s countenance has a language all its own.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at