In my last post, I talked about how being a writer has limited my capacity as a reader. But I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t read any more. Far from it. I just find I have to be a lot more selective these days.
So what do I read and how do I prioritise? Well, here are some thoughts. In terms of priority, it’s roughly in order, but subject to change on the basis of necessity or whim.
1. I still read to my kids. I’ve put this first, because it happens almost every day, so it probably makes up the bulk of my fiction reading, even though it’s not technically for me. They’re 12 & 10 now, but they love being read to. Right now we’re reading Joan Aiken’s All But a Few. But we’ve worked our way through plenty of fabulous books. This is pure, unadulterated fun.
2. Books I really, really want to read. These are the ones that furnish the landscape of my imagination. These books have built the pantheon that I want to be a part of as a writer. They feed my muse and inspire me.
3. Books I want to read because they’re going to help me improve my craft. They might be beautifully written, or have an intriguing story premise, or won an award, or have caught the zeitgeist, or be somehow relevant to my own work.
4. Beta reading for friends. It might not be for leisure, but it’s reading fiction written by someone else and it certainly helps my own craft.
5. Non-fiction reading, usually for research, but sometimes for fun. Hell, the best research is fun.
6. Catching up on published work by friends. This is basically an impossible task now. But I do what I can.
And that’s it. That’s all I can fit in.
What I find interesting, now I’ve put that list together, is how all of it ties back, somehow, to supporting my own writing. It might just (just! *rolls eyes*) be reigniting my passion for stories and beautiful words, or it might be something more concrete, like learning more about a historical period, or how to construct a murder mystery. But I can’t not read without that writer part of my brain ticking over, hoarding the good stuff and putting squiggly red lines under the bad.
Which tells me, ultimately, that time spent reading is time well spent. Even though – or perhaps because – it’s rarer and more precious than it used to be.