I read slowly.
I don’t mean that I’m a slow reader; that is, I’m lucky in that I don’t struggle reading. I read aloud to my daughters at a conversational pace. When I’m reading quietly to myself, however, I don’t read that much faster. Over the years, I’ve noticed an upside and a downside to this.
I tend to retain story better, I think because I read the language more carefully. I remember reading The Hobbit in my early teens, and for whatever reason, I put it aside after the first thirty pages. Two years later, I picked it up again and continued from the same point, remembering the relevant bits and lots of the tangential detail. It’s the same way with movies–I can watch half a movie (either half), and years later, see the other half and piece together the whole story. (Mind you, this only works with story – I’m horrible at recalling names).
The downside of this is that I’ll tend to enjoy maybe ten books a year. That makes me a little sad. There are a lot of great books that I would love to read. I keep a running list of things that catch my eye, but for a host of reasons, the list grows faster than I can get to them. And often the glitter that caught my eye one day fades after a month, and I’m left wondering why that book is on the list. As a result, I’ve abandoned and restarted several lists that I re-discover every few years.
For this reason, book stores depress me. Don’t get me wrong, I love brick-and-mortar book stores. And I love that there are brick-and-mortar bookstores. But I found that every time I go in one and just browse, I impulse-buy a stack of books that I rarely ever read. I still support those stores whenever I can, buying books at author readings, seeking out gifts, that sort of thing. I just don’t browse much anymore.
For a writer, this is precarious. I need to read much more than I do, so that I can absorb good writing, identify bad writing, and use the knowledge of both to improve my craft. I know this, and I struggle to make the time, to choose the book over a hundred other distractions.
I’ve found some peace by taking a serendipitous approach. I’ll read a book when it crosses my path at the right moment. I might buy a trilogy, let it gather dust for five years before I devour it in a couple months, or sample it over a few more years. (I’m 2/3 of the way through at least two trilogies right now…) Or I’ll read a review or get a recommendation right when I’m in between books, and that recommendation gets immediate attention.
I also tend to abandon books. Unless a story is really compelling, I’ll move on to something else after the first hundred pages. I have to. I don’t have the time to languish on something that doesn’t inspire me, and I want to read more compelling works so that I create a more compelling work. It’s actually less practical than that—it’s an emotional decision. Once a book descends into a meh, I just don’t have the energy to finish it.
Sorry for the long way around, but this brings me to my second goal for 2015. I will attempt to read twenty books this year, starting now. With ten months left to go, that’s two books a month. For me, it’s a stretch, but it’s do-able. I’ll revive my account at goodreads and track it there. If you have an account, ping me over there, and we can share our progress.
Pete reading 19 books is damn good when you have small kids. Great job on the blog too.