Sunday, February 6, 2011

Do you consider yourself well read?

On yet another Twitter event conversation, a number of new writers talked about how they didn't read much these days. Or, that they aren't much of readers in general. One comment that really stuck out for me was along the lines of "I'm writing urban fantasy. I've never read that genre before but my story demands to be this!"

I'd like to say that it's a rare, isolated case, but I'm starting to discover that it isn't. Many new writers writing and submitting short fiction to magazines, never having read a short story since high school. Too many don't know that there are small presses out there and that there is a lot between NY Big Houses (tm) and self-publishing on Amazon and Smashwords. (If they read small presses, they'd know).

I'm not well read in the best sellers and big named authors, I admit. A lot of those books haven't appealed to me, though I've picked up a Patricia Briggs and a Charlene Harris book to give them a try. I often like smaller press, smaller named authors, or just oddball stuff (I love Star Trek novels, for example).

I also don't read in one genre. I generally go through phases, where I pick up a dozen SF novels and not read SF for a couple of years because I've moved on to fantasy, then mysteries, then romance, etc... I also don't read when I'm really entrenched in a writing project. However, when I need to recharge my batteries, I pick up a novel.

Need a little help getting started? Here's a little reading challenge that I've been doing this year:

1. Alternate reading female and male authors
2. Read a subgenre that you haven't read before or not recently
3. Alternate reading books published by small presses and big publishing houses
4. Read an author that lives in your province (or, state, territory, etc).
5. Read a fiction magazine
6. Read an anthology or short story collection
7. Read a book published in my country (I'm Canadian) or in other countries not the US (since most of what I buy is American-written and published)

Do you consider yourself well read? What are you reading right now?


  1. I'm trying to be better read. I'm so completely addicted to urban fantasy/supernatural horror I don't often go outside that genre...although that said I've been trying to expand the different formats I read in.

    Right now I'm reading A Brush Of Darkness by Alison Pang

  2. I don't consider myself poorly read, but I'm not as well read as I'd like to be. There are so many books on my "to read, someday, eventually... when I get around to it" list, everything from Lord of the Flies to China Mieville.

    I usually gravitate towards SF and fantasy, and more often than not that's what I write, too. I think those genres have been completely ingrained in my brain. Right now though, I'm reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, which I suppose is either general or literary fiction. (I'm honestly not sure what makes a book the one or the other. Like I said, I'm an SF/F type.)

  3. Stephen King had reportedly read all 17,000 books in his personal library, except for about 30 books waiting to be read. While in college, he was often seen with a different paperback in the morning, afternoon and evening. If he had read three books a day, it would take him 15 years to fill out his personal library. His writing reflects the level of dedication that he has for reading.

    Many classic books are now available as free ebooks. Pick up an ebook reader or install an app to start downloading. Read the books that many writers had written and read over the centuries.

  4. Other than the first one, I did that last year rather well. I do tend to read predominantly female writers... but not exclusively. It'd be interesting to try to alternate.

    I still would say I'm not as well read as I'd like to be... not at all. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to keep up with my TBR list. I'm hoping to fix that and add more hours. It seems reasonable.

  5. I've found that the alternating gender really brings a lot of newness to the reading list. I discovered that I was reading about the same amount of both sexes, but was only reading one gender in some genres and the other gender in others. By switching it up, it has really opened up a lot of new possibilities.

  6. 1. Alternate reading female and male authors -- I've been favoring male authors lately, but I have several female authors I love and adore.

    2. Read a subgenre that you haven't read before or not recently -- Yes! I hit the library and cleaned out the stack of paperbooks of everything that looked remotely interesting. Many were older books, all in genres I don't usually read.

    3. Alternate reading books published by small presses and big publishing houses -- I honestly never check to see who the publisher is. But I'll make a point to look in the future.

    4. Read an author that lives in your province (or, state, territory, etc). -- Er... um.... does it count if I moved into an area that an author I read lives in? What if the book is completely unrelated to the area we live in?

    5. Read a fiction magazine -- I take it PopSci doesn't count? What about tabloid headlines?

    6. Read an anthology or short story collection -- Yes! I do that frequently.

    7. Read a book published in my country (I'm Canadian) or in other countries not the US (since most of what I buy is American-written and published) -- Would Shakespeare, Dante, or Tolkien count as foreign enough, or no? I've read quite a few from Africa, but I want more South American titles.

  7. If you live in Canada or the US, you'll be hard pressed to NOT have an author living within 500 kilometers of you. It's kinda funny, as our cul de sac has two published fiction authors living here...there's 12 houses LOL

    HAHA re: popsci Nah, you can't count that :p

    Your list of dead guys counts, though maybe try some living folks to round it out LOL

  8. I'm always amazed that so few people check publishers names -- or even how many can't remember which authors they read -they just pick up books at random (i.e., selecting written work on the basis of cover artists, which makes no sense, really.) Knowing the author not only gives one much better odds of liking other books by the same person, it allows one a deeper understanding of the novel by being able to place it within the broader context of that author's cannon.

    Many people get the importance of author, but fail to realize that the same applies to publishers. If I pick up a book from Tor, I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to be looking at, because it is going to reflect the tastes of Tom Dorthey or the Haydens etc. -- mainstream SF, but 'peer reviewed' and pre-selected by editors I trust. If I pick up something from Baen Books, I know exactly what I am getting (which is why I'll put it down again, unless I'm in the mood for brainless action). This is even more true of smaller presses -- I'm pretty much going to love anything from ChiZine Publications, even though it is dark fantasy/horror -- a genre I generally detest-- because Kasturi and Savory are brilliant editors who are never wrong. And so on. Some publisher's logos have become "keep away" warning signs because they have no standards; others attract me like a magnet as if the book had been recommended to me by friends at a party....

  9. I agree. I really do pay attention to publisher name as well as author name. If I like an author, I often will try other books by their publisher AND by that author who have them with other publishers.

  10. I'm always surprised at the number of writers who only seem to read their own genre. There is so much more out there in the world, and I think it important to read broadly.

  11. Caroline, I didn't even realize people did this until I joined an online writing group a few years ago. I couldn't believe it! First, it just seems so narrow-minded; why wouldn't a writer want to expose themselves to so many different worlds. Reading different genres offers that.

    I also think reading a few books that aren't based in the US is good for folks, too. I've come across a number of "bad" feedback because the reader/critiquer assumed that my book was set in a universe solely based on today's American laws, military, government, and culture.