When it comes to books and words and the creation and consumption of both, although I write nearly every day, I’ve always considered myself a reader first while only second am I a writer.
Of course, there is factual truth to this statement: I literally learned and continued to read stories before I started writing them (although the timing for both is close; I clearly recall writing my first “novel” in grade two).
Even now as an adult, my almost-daily reading occurs earlier in the day (dinner time) than does my almost-daily writing (after dinner, the last thing before I go to sleep).
Ever since my very first Amazon book purchase on October 25, 2002, I’ve never stopped debating myself on the value of customer book reviews.
(If you ever want to enjoy a nostalgia-filled blast through the past, go through your Amazon purchase history order by order, year by year, back to the very beginning.)
On the one hand, professional reviewers aren’t always giving in-depth reviews of the books I read or want to read. As well, there are way more customer reviewers out there; the law of averages alone suggests I’m more likely to share tastes with an amateur than a pro, many of whom fall into more similar social demographics to each other than to me.
There are people out there who read like fifty books a year.
This post is not for them.
(Indeed, I wish one of them would write their own post to teach me to read more.)
Reading is my oldest pastime, yet the older I get, the less time I seem to have for it.
I don’t ever want to stop reading books. But life is busy and full of countless distractions, not the least of which include writing, socializing, finally watching Homeland on Netflix (seriously, have you seen that show?!), and of course working – by far the biggest occupier of my time.
Last year for New Year’s, I resolved to read 12 books for the year. A book a month-ish, as I took to calling it given the overlap of some calendar months that occurred.
I recently concluded that reading Young Adult dystopian isn’t for me.
Admittedly, having just celebrated my 35th birthday, it’s hardly a revelation that I’m the genre’s target audience.
However, my conclusion came even less recently than that; it happened about a month ago when I finished my sixth YA dystopian title this year after Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy, and Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season:
The uber-popular Divergent, by Veronica Roth (soon to be a movie in 2014).
In this book, all 16-year-olds – the main character, Tris, included – undergo often violent and competitive initiations in order to be inducted into one of four societal factions that go on the govern the rest of their lives (full plot summary here).
Every reader has a T(o) B(e) R(ead) pile; sometimes a TBR pile that’s years in the making.
I’m no exception in this regard. To wit, I’ve been meaning to read the fantasy novel In the Eye of Heaven since its publication in 2007. Back then, fantasy was my genre of choice, and this book was blurbed by my favourite fantasy author, Jacqueline Carey.
As well, the book’s author – David Keck – is a fellow Canadian and was a debut author in the genre in which I’d hoped to someday be published.
I finally read this book this past May. It’s success in summiting my eight-years-long TBR pile has a lot to do with its subject matter, as well as my assertion in a previous post that sometimes research for one’s own novel is conducted via fictional sources.
As someone hard at work writing a historical fiction novel, I’ve read a startlingly large number of research books.
Cover and spine of my worse-for-wear copy of The Pillars of the Earth. Over the course of reading, it eventually became a contest to see which would occur first: me reaching the end or the back cover falling off. The cover won.
Not all of them have been nonfiction.
I suspect that conducting research via fiction is something numerous writers do, and not just those writing historicals.
I’m sure almost every writer has consciously studied existing novels to see how others have handled any number of elements of writing craft, from as broad as character development to as concrete as the number of pages per chapter.
So it was, therefore, that I came to Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. Reading this book fell under the purview of “research” for three reasons:
- I wanted to study the pacing of such a lengthy (973 pages) novel since my own WIP, though in two novels, will also be a long-ish tale
- I wanted to study Follett’s presentation and accuracy of historical details (for all that Pillars takes place about three-quarters of a century earlier than my WIP)
- I wanted to read the book before watching the Pillars of the Earth miniseries so I could critique the fidelity of the adaptation in preparation for when my WIP is someday turned into a film.
Although, it could happen. Anything could happen.
(A/N: Mild spoilers for Beth Revis’s Across the Universe series)
Here’s a scenario for you:
Imagine you had the opportunity to help colonize a new planet located hundreds of light-years away. This would involve saying goodbye forever to everyone and everything you know and love on Earth, being cryogenically frozen for centuries, and shipped off into the stars.
Would you go?*
This question is brought to you by a dystopian young adult sci-fi series dealing with this very subject: Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy. This trilogy includes Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and the final book of the series – Shades of Earth – which I read back in February.