Last week, Fae Rowen discussed her reading habits in Beware: Voracious Reading Ahead. Like her, I remember reading way more than my friends and classmates when I was young, devouring every book that came my way.
I started with the marvelous for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew. Then a very strange novel in 5th grade captured my young heart — A Wrinkle in Time. (Is anyone else on the edge of their seat awaiting the movie rendering of this tale?) The Chronicles of Narnia kept me in fantasy world.
High school English introduced me to classic literature. While some of my friends tossed the reading list and opted for bodice-ripper romances instead, I fell into the world of classics like Alice into the rabbit hole. Indeed, for a long time I couldn't fathom becoming a writer, because in my mind, writers were people like Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Edgar Allen Poe, and Leo Tolstoy. What on earth did I have in common with those people?
In college, I returned some of my focus to commercial fiction — first drawn in by an odd book about a vampire. Yep, when I picked up Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, it was the first contemporary fiction I'd read in about five years.
After that, my reading list expanded to include all kinds of books, including classics, but also mainstream fiction and genre favorites. I read Agatha Christie and re-discovered my love of mysteries — the same love Nancy Drew had fostered in me years earlier. (Thank you, Mildred Benson.)
A book club I joined in my 30s got me reading more women's fiction, and raising children got me into middle grade and young adult novels. So basically, I've meandered all over the place.
But while I feel like I still read a lot these days, I'm a slacker compared to some fellow writers!
According to the Pew Research Center, the Average Reader reads 12 books per year — one a month. Compared to that, I can strut pretty, feeling good about clearing well more than twelve a year. In fact, I land in the Voracious Reader category of 50 books a year. In 2017, I read 47 books and about half of seven more.
But many writers fall into the Super Reader group, sucking down 80 books or more per year like water through a straw. Oftentimes, I find someone who reports reading 100, 150, or even 200 books a year. Good gravy, y'all! Do you sleep?
This is also why I get really and truly panicked when I read the array of writing advice that says:
- Read a lot of the bestsellers, so you know what sells
- Read a lot of books in the genre you write, to know what's out there
- Read a lot of books outside the genre you write, to broaden your perspective
- Read a lot of craft books, to hone your skills
- Read a lot of marketing and business books, to know how to be successful
Oh dear heavens, how can I do all of those things? (And still sleep...)
Knowing I will never plow my way through 200 books in a year — though impressed by those who do — I become very selective about what I read.
First off, there are some books I have to read for my day job. So that's takes about 10% of my reading list right away. Then there are books I copy-edit, which takes another 10%. The remaining 80% gets populated with a little of all of those categories above, with the largest emphasis on the genre I'm currently writing.
While writing young adult, I tend toward books that teens are buzzing about, books on state reading lists like the Texas Library Association's Tayshays list, and books recommended by trusted friends. I also read young adult books nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA awards.
While writing mysteries, I'm drawn to cozies with some bite. For instance, I've enjoyed Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness series, Stephanie Bond's Body Movers series, and Charlaine Harris's Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard Shakespeare series. Also, one of my clients writes creepy paranormal mysteries/urban fantasy I'd read even if she didn't pay me to copy-edit them — Peri Jean Mace Ghost Thrillers by Catie Rhodes.
Then I throw in a historical romance, a romantic comedy, a women's fiction book, and a classic here and there. I read a couple of craft books — usually cracking each open with the sense that I should read it but finishing because it hooks me with lessons I want to learn.
On top of that, I listen to success and marketing books, having learned that audiobooks are the best way for me to take in that information. Gaining business savvy while folding laundry or perusing grocery aisles is a good use of my multitasking skills.
Somehow or other, I end up with my 50-ish books every year. Would I like to read more? Sure. Maybe I can reach 60 this year. Maybe.
As for what genres I'll read in 2018, I'll lean toward mystery because I'm writing that now. And for the rest, I'll meander through genres picking up a novel here and there.
How many books do you try to read each year? Does what you're writing influence what you're reading?
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Julie Glover writes cozy mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®. When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.