I’m always shocked by how few writers actually read these days. I meet writers all the time who are eager to talk about what they’re writing, and keen to spend hard-earned dollars on writing classes, workshops and conferences they hope will advance their development as writers; but when I ask them what they’re reading they often look blank, then vaguely uncomfortable.
“I have so little time,” they say, “what with writing, my family, my work, and all that blogging and social media stuff we’re expected to do. I do most of my reading online these days.”
What a shame.
It’s not that I don’t understand that there aren’t enough hours in the day for everything we’re expected to do as writers. It’s that I don’t understand how anything but work and family commitments can be a higher priority than reading. I would even put reading ahead of writing.
When studying, aren’t we taught to gather knowledge from primary sources?
While I find reading an author’s blog entertaining and enlightening, it’s in their writing that I find the primary source of their creativity and skill, and the best lessons for how to be a better writer myself. Besides, social media is a recent phenomenon. Unless we read beyond social media, we deny ourselves access to a vast amount of wisdom, knowledge and entertainment written before the age of social media, workshops and conferences.
So do you read? And do you read outside of the genre you write in? What about books older than six months, or a year, or fifty years? What about books that are many hundreds of years old? Do you read them?
I’ve noticed that the scope of my own reading has become narrower recently. So, once a month, I’m going to share a photograph of my current to-be-read pile and I’d love you to share your lists and photos with me here, too.
If you’re reading, that is…
There are quite a few books available to read online, such as this 18th century book about brewing. Books written in the time my characters are traveling to are a great aid in absorbing the way language was used at that time:
I am desperately seeking a "to-read" pile. Maybe I should steal yours. Sure, I've got lots of "day-job" books to read, and at least 3 or 4 books on writing. But I need a deep, Gothic, mysterious, well-written edge-of-my-seat can't turn the light off until 3:00am book. Does that kind of writing even exist any more?
You mean apart from the one I'm writing? 🙂
I discovered a new author at the Edgar Allan Poe talk I attended tonight at Redondo Beach Library: Jeri Westerson. She writes a series of mysteries solved by a disgraced 14th century knight, Crispin Guest.
The blurb from The Boston Globe says it's "A medieval Sam Spade, a tough guy who operates according to his own moral compass and observes with detached, dry humor" and Booklist describes it as "Authentically detailed… has an intriguingly dark edge that will appeal to fans of both historical fiction and noir."
Goodness! How can writers NOT read? My current pile is 12 books high and consists of research, 'keeping up with the industry' (ie children's and YA books), review stuff and pleasure. I read widely in most categories–books are part of the fabric of my life and being. I wouldn't BE a writer without them, and probably bore people rigid by asking them 'have you read….' Just finished advance copy of Nicola Morgan's 'Wasted' (wonderful–about the machinations of luck and chance). I don't talk about what I'm writing much, except in the sketchiest terms–I find it takes all the energy out of it….
Lucy, I'm glad you shared the categories of your reading pile. In the past I only read for pleasure, but now, it's true, I read for many different reasons: research (though always these are areas that fascinate me, anyway); to keep up with what's popular in the market; and to see what friends are publishing. Becoming a writer has therefore widened my focus considerably. But, sadly, that leaves less time for the purely pleasurable read, and I read more analytically now. It takes more skill from the writer to make me forget my analytic brain and immerse myself fully in the world of the story. I miss my teenage self's effortless ability to do that.
Lia, I am shocked when I meet writers who don't read. Where is the time they say. If that's their attitude, then what about the general people, who have a several other forms of entertainment.
I will share my this month's book list with you. Its a mixed bag: some old, some new.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Doll's House by Evelyn Anthony
Loser Takes All by Graham Greene
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Ooh, now that's a lovely eclectic book list, Rachna! Hope you don't get literary whiplash as you lurch from one to the other. Which brings me to an interesting question: when you finish one book and start the next, does the one you've just finished colour your experience of the one that follows? I sometimes feel the need to design the order of my reading list like a meal, so each course complements the one that comes after in some way. Unless I leave a reasonable amount of time between books.
Lia, sometimes there is a slight case of literary whiplash, but I manage by taking few days off between books. As I like to read everything from non fiction to fiction: both adult and children, its not possible to design the order of my reading list. Sometimes I feel I am not enjoying a book as much as I wanted to. Thats when I stop for few days and repick the book up later.
Yeah… I like your idea of the need to design the order of our reading lists. Will surely try it.