At the turn of the year, I saw numerous posts about reading goals. I’m always happy when I see people commit to read more – and even happier when I see them actually doing it.
I read a lot. I carve out reading time every day. Often, it means not watching TV or videos, which is just fine with me. In the days when I wasn’t staying at home due to the pandemic, I made sure to carry a book (or my Kindle) with me at all times, so that anytime I was stuck waiting – or commuting on public transportation – I had something to read. I carry a notebook and pen with me, too, in case I decide to get some writing done, but that’s a different post for a different day.
I learned my alphabet early. My mother still tells the story of us being on a bus in Chicago when I was about 18 months old, and I pointed out the different letters in the signs on the bus (loudly). I remember leaning to read from the book GREEN EGGS AND HAM – my mother tells me I was just over two years old when she taught me to read.
Both parents were big readers (my mother, at 96, still reads for several hours every day). So, of course, I was a reader, too. And going to the library became a favorite adventure when I was little. I got my first library card at the Rye Free Reading Room in Rye, NY, when I was six years old – the earliest it was allowed.
I don’t trust people who don’t have books in their living or working spaces.
Someday, I will live in a house big enough so I can unpack all my books.
I don’t post my reading totals at the end of the year, because people wouldn’t believe them, and I’m not arguing with them. I’d rather spend that energy. . .reading.
From January to May, for instance, I read – yes, actually read – over 100 books for a contest I judge. And I’m a paid reviewer for a publication, so I read regularly for those assignments.
But that doesn’t stop reading as much as possible for pleasure.
Last Sunday, for instance, I read three books. My body needed the rest, and my soul needed the restoration. I read the remaining two books in a mystery series I’ve enjoyed; in between, I read a small nonfiction book that was recommended to me, but I found filled with privilege and making excuses for it. Glad I read it; didn’t like it.
It was a good day.
I did some puttering around and some cooking. Some percolating on writing for the coming week. Too much time on social media, waiting for damn Congress to hold the domestic terrorists accountable.
But mostly, I used reading to restore my wounded soul, and rest my body.
Had the weather been warm enough, I would have read outside, on the covered deck, where I spend as much time as possible in spring, summer, and fall. I love reading outside.
I used to take books to the Ashumet Sanctuary over in Falmouth and read amongst the hollies (which are among my favorite trees).
As far as goals, I don’t set a number of books to read. I think it’s great when other people set a number and then work to hit it, but that’s not how I like to structure my reading.
My reading goal is to expand my reading. I read a pretty wide range, but especially in the mystery/suspense/thriller genres, and I read a lot of nonfiction, especially when I’m researching my own writing. I enjoy fantasy, steampunk, some science fiction, uncategorized fiction, historical fiction. I read some romance, but I’m more likely to read books with romantic elements. However, when I’m in the mood for an uplifting romance, I have a wonderful ensemble of authors I trust to give me a good experience, and I’m always happy to expand it.
One of my favorite things, when I worked as a librarian, was keeping up with new releases, and choosing a large variety of books that I thought patrons would enjoy.
Whether it’s for myself or others, a review of a book matters less to me than the blurb. If the blurb is interesting, chances are I’ll ignore reviews and make my own decisions.
My review assignments cover a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. Every time I pick up a book, whether it’s for review, or a contest entry, or something I ordered from the library – I hope to fall in love with it. I read books on recommendations from friends and acquaintances IRL or on social media. If I see a post about a book and it looks interesting, I’ll give it a try. I belong to my university’s online book club – the Voracious Violets of NYU. They’ve introduced me to books I might not have found on my own.
I miss being able to browse library and bookstore shelves – once I’m vaccinated, and things safely open back up again, that is one of the things I will add back in to my life as quickly as possible. I especially miss browsing secondhand bookstores. I’ve been introduced to some wonderful new-to-me authors by finding them on secondhand shelves, and then buying new releases as they come out.
I read for pleasure, but, as a writer, every book I read teaches me something. When the author does their job well, I see the world in a different way, and I think about it far beyond the time the book is finished. I also learn craft from every book I read, even if it doesn’t work for me. How are the characters developed? Is the setting used well? Is the book structured well, with a strong, internal rhythm that’s as unique as a heartbeat? Does the author understand the genre enough so that, when breaking the formula, it’s a structured choice, and not just carelessness?
I started keeping a reading log a few years ago, in a black-and-white covered composition book. I note the date, title, author, publisher, copyright date, and from where I got it – library, if it’s a review assignment, if it’s one of my own books – and then I write a couple of sentences of impressions. I can go back and look things up, and see how my frame of reference was influenced by what else was going on around me.
A year or so ago, on this blog, I did a Readers’ Expansion Challenge, where every month, I tried reading something out of my usual repertoire, and encouraged other readers to do the same. I’m not doing anything as formally as that this year, but I do plan to continue to expand my reading so I’m not just reinforcing my standing opinions.
I like fresh perspectives on the world, and reading offers that in a far more intimate way than anything visual. Reading is internal, living in your heart and soul and brain, as much as it is the external of holding the material and having eyes translate it to brain. I like the intimacy.
Enjoy your year of reading!