Stephen King reads more than 80 books a year. I thought I was ahead of the game attempting to read 50 books a year. Since I started keeping track:
2010 – 10 books (It was a bad year in many ways) (9 fiction, 1 non-fiction)
2011 – 32 (14 fiction, 18 non-fiction)
2012 – 33 (24 fiction, 9 non-fiction)
2013 – 37 (24 fiction, 13 non-fiction).
I felt rather chastised after reading King’s book On Writing because he is reading all the time (even waiting in line at the post office, etc). His advice is basically that writers must immerse themselves in books in order to improve writing skills. I agree with this. And as I am writing fiction, I feel like I haven’t been reading enough fiction.
This year I decided to read more fiction, and I started the early months off wonderfully. I read 11 books by the first week in February. But I am not Stephen King, and there was a backlash…repercussions. Since that first week in February I have been reading strictly non-fiction (except for some of the blogs I keep up with). I went far too long without getting my dose of reality. My interests are far too varied to keep my nose buried in novels when there is so much I have to learn and know about everything.
And as far as the 50 books/year goes, well – I will keep that goal, just so that I am constantly moving forward and improving myself. And even though I feel bad sometimes that I haven’t made that goal yet, I don’t think that is a bad thing, considering that I don’t take into account the thousands of words of news I read daily, or my subscriptions to The Economist, YES!, Wired, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Entertainment Weekly, Family Handyman, Mother Jones, Urban Farm, Grit, Reason, and a couple of others I may have missed, plus my local newspaper. Yeah, I feel satisfied that I read the equivalent of at least 100 books a year, if not more.
So maybe I’m not learning as much about how fiction writers write fiction. But I’m sure that my varied interests and all of my learning will somehow reveal themselves in my own fiction, and even though my books may not become NYT bestsellers (although there’s always a chance), at least they will be unique, different, and mine. Stephen King* can read all the fiction he wants, I just can’t do it.
*Before anyone gets the wrong idea, King is one of my all time great idols. And I only have a few all time great idols. He is a hero to me. It is because of my respect for him that his statement in the book bothered me enough that I had to write about it and justify, if only for myself, why I don’t follow in his footsteps in this area.
7 thoughts on “On reading”
But what about the quality/quantity issue? There´s a lot of books about nothing much really. Is it worth filling your mind with that? As a writer I don´t suppose you want to write about what you learn from books but what you learn from life? I get your point but I don´t know……
About books, I am confident in my own ability to analyze and rate the materials I read. Plus there are authors that I trust more than others. As far as learning from life, everything is learning. Reading, playing, socializing, everything we do. Plus, I write about science in my fiction, and I read about quantum physics in real life, which helps me gain ideas and perspectives. It’s all tied together. I’m not going to spend my time reading stuff of poor quality. I’ve never reached that 50/yr goal, but the fact that the goal exists keeps me moving along. If I didn’t set a goal, I might read very few books indeed.
I don’t know. I’ve been so distracted by ‘writing’ and ‘learning’ that I fell off the fiction readers wagon for a long time. I’m trying to get back in to it – not nearly as ambitiously – and I’m starting to have a better appreciation for everything I’ve been missing. Plus, most news articles don’t meet terribly high quality standards.
I guess my thinking is that if I want to write a salable book, I need to study salable books. Not necessarily for enjoyment as much as a learning experience.
I’m trying, but it is amazingly hard to find the time to read as much as I should. At least I’m keeping track this year.(So far, not so good.)
Are you using Goodreads or another tracker, or are you just writing down what you wrote, old-school?
One of my most favorite quotes just happens to be from King: “I want to mess with your life. I want you to miss appointments, burn dinner, skip your homework. I want you to tell your wife to take that moonlight stroll on the beach at Waikiki with the resort tennis pro while you read a few more chapters.” He nails it!