We all have our favorite books, those stories that we just fall into and never get tired of. They are the ones that call to us every few years to read again. Sometimes it’s one specific book, sometimes it’s a very specific genre, but when it’s time to read them we know.
I’ve tried my best to stay on track with my one book a month from the BBC Big Readlist each month and so far I’ve managed to keep up with my goal. However, my favorite genre has started calling me again and I know I can’t go splurge on pleasure reading until I finish my current book.
It’s starting to drive me nuts. I’ve learned more from reading these more challenging books that are clearly outside of my comfort zone. The depth of metaphor and language usage alone has been its own education – I can’t deny that I’ll be taking a few cues from these classics, but I need a book that I can enjoy and be immersed in.
Thankfully, I loved this month’s BBC choice, The Lovely Bones, and finished it in only a few days which means that I have some extra time to dive into a novel that had gathered dust on my nightstand.
Brandon Sanderson and the other writers on the Writing Excuses podcast remarked that one of the things that happens to professional writers is that they run out of time to read the books and genres they love because they are spending most of their time either writing and editing their own books or reading books for which that they are asked to give a cover quote.
I find this tragic. Fiction writers write fiction because they love reading great stories and love writing them even more. But, by becoming a writer some of the thrill found in reading the pages of great book is lost. There isn’t enough time to relax and read and when we do we start reading as writers instead of readers and look for flaws and weak prose.
The only other field where this happens is magic. People who become magicians start out as kids enchanted by watching magic tricks. They love being led to believe that there is magic in the world and want to be a part of it. As they learn magic tricks the illusion of this true magic is shattered. When they watch others perform magic, instead of being enthralled and amazed they instead look for how it’s done and how they can recreate the effect. In essence the magic is gone.
This is why it’s important to take time for pleasure reading and allow the poetry of the words take the reins while turning the writer brain off. This is easier said than done. An agent at a recent conference had to take reading vacations, where she didn’t allow herself to think about work and all she did was dive into her stash of guilty pleasure reading. A different author commented that they were able to enjoy books more when they listened to them rather than read them. Not being able to see the words helped him turn off his editing brain so that he could experience the story without ruining it for himself.
As for me, anytime I can enjoy a book without interruption is a welcome relief, especially if it’s something that I’ve been eager to read. In the past I’ve read in binges, sometimes going for months without finishing a book and then dropping everything and consuming three or four in the course of a week. With the book challenge I’ve had to change my habits to be sure to do some reading each day and it’s something I look forward to.
However you do it, find time to sink into a book you love!
Happy writing, um, I mean reading!