Books are awesome. Books are, quite literally, what our foundation of aspirations and printed words will, hopefully, one day be.
I wouldn’t say that it’s something I preach, but it’s sure as hell something I’ve mentioned in the past; reading is important for those who want to be writers, especially for those wanting to become authors. I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve only just recently made the switch from crappy YA to full-fledged fantasy. You could still say I’m a beginner in the genre (I most definitely am; I’ve yet to read Lord of the Rings, even, and don’t plan to until some point next year…) and I will be for quite some time. I’m not 100% sure what it’s like for other genres, but for fantasy, there are so many long, intricate series and worlds that are said to be “required reading” for any fantasy fan. And as of now, I’ve barely taken a dent out of that list.
As some of you may have seen already, on my blog there’s a page dedicated to my current reading list- I think at this moment, it’s 45 books long, of which I’ve probably read about 13. It’s October already and I have to say that I’m incredibly ashamed as to my reading habits this year. Unlike the previous years where I read at every opportunity, this year I only really read when I felt I had to. It never really mattered how badly I wanted to finish a series, I just wouldn’t feel like sitting down and becoming invested in the various characters and the world. And I don’t really blame myself for this- there have been years where I read 200+ books- yet I also want to find an in-between, where I can read when I want and still add a reasonable amount of books to my Goodreads “finished/read” list every year. A number I hear thrown around a lot is 50- that writers should aim to read that many books per year. Personally, I don’t find this number at all unreasonable. There are so many opportunities every day where you (or at least I) can sneak in a couple minutes of reading. Nobody said you had to sit down for two hours and do it, though I suppose many of us would much prefer that.
If you aim to read 50 books a year, that’s about 4-5 per month. For some that may be intimidating, because that would mean you would need to, on average, finish a book every week. Some of the books out there are really long, and thus, make this somewhat difficult to achieve. I especially believe that this is a daunting task for me because I’m trying to catch up on my fantasy reading, where it’s not at all uncommon to find series of ten books that are all over a thousand pages long. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to believe, with a rather busy schedule, that finishing one of those large tomes every week is a bit of an unrealistic goal. Thankfully, not all books are like that. Even in the fantasy genre, it’s not too hard to find appealing novels that are only about 400 pages long, which can easily serve as the bulk of a years reading in between the giant novels that serve as the main course.
I think what I’ve learned through almost an entire year of minimal reading is how much I miss all of the alternate worlds that I encountered through my journeys in different novels. Sure, I’ve had my own worlds to expand and explore, but there’s something special and enticing about reading someone else’s work. You’re not trying to find the final piece of the puzzle that makes your world authentic and gorgeous, someone’s already done it. All you have to do is read and follow along for the ride.
Another thing I’ve missed about reading so much is that reading gives me the opportunity to view what other writers have done in their work, reflect on what they’ve done, and compare it to mine. I can’t quite explain it, but anyone whose gone and objectively compared different elements of your novel to someone else’s will know what I’m talking about. It’s always exciting to learn that you’ve done something a bit different than someone else, while also keeping it appealing.
So, overall, what I’ve taken from my adventure of minimal reading was that it was a terrible idea to put it on the down-low until I “had more time”. Reading, in numerous ways, has improved my livelihood and overall writing life. Not only did it prove as an effective break from everything, it also served as an adequate “study” time for writing while remaining entertaining.
I fully regret reading so little this year, and as of today, I’m picking up my poor books more frequently. While I don’t think it’s possible for me to finish my 2014 list by the end of this year- unfortunately there are too many long books remaining- I should be able to get what I can, and refresh the list at the start of 2015 to replace what I managed to get done. With that, next year I’ll be taking my reading goals much more seriously!
How have your reading goals been faring so far for 2014?