Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bad Reading Habits of Randomly Effective Writers

Happy New Year!

I am a bad reader. First of all, I'll read anything. I can't be without something to read and If I ever have to commute for more than 10 minutes without reading material, I tend to start biting my nails. So if Tim leaves a Dennis Wheately book lying around in the laundry room and I've got six minutes left on the 'drain & spin' cycle, I'll get stuck in the morass of a sentence like this:

"An appetite in keeping with his mighty frame had enabled Van Ryn to do ample justice to each well-chosen course and, as was his custom each time the young American arrived in England, the Duke had produced his finest wines for this, their reunion dinner at his flat."

I can't help myself. If it's a book, pamphlet or cereal box in a language that I semi-understand, I'll read it.

My second bad reading trait is that I can't read only one book at a time. Unless it's a fast-paced book (like the Hunger Games trilogy which actually had me feeling as if I'd really done some exercise instead of just sat in my armchair letting my tea get cold.) I will read two or three books at once. Take for example what I'm reading now. The light bodied read - a book I've read before: Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, the medium read - a book I've not read before but one that can be put down and picked up again without any problem; The Fool, by Christopher Moore. And the HEAVY read - the book I feel I ought to be reading: Until the new year this was The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, but I've given that one up for now and picked up The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. We shall see if I ever find out what the ef is up with Count Fosco.

Okay, here's the other bad habit I have about books. I lie. I don't always do it on purpose, for example there is another book I'm currently reading, I guess you'd call it the stealth read: Tithe by Holly Black. I forgot I was reading it and just picked it up again. I haven't figured out if I like it or not so until I do we'll have an on again-off again relationship. But I also lie when someone asks me what I'm reading. How can I tell them I'm reading four books at once. So I usually lie and say "I'm thinking of reading GWTDT" which I am. Thinking about. One day.

I do long for the kind of brain space, time and quiet it would take me to read Bleak House (which I've tried, numerous times to get through) because I know close, careful reading has it's rewards. But my bad habits won't let me.

So, here's my New Year's resolution: Read no more than two books at a time and keep track of what I read. I got one of these from Farley's bookstore in New Hope to keep track and keep me honest. It's like a readers version of a weight watchers points system. Man, I hope I can keep to it. Maybe the number of books I try in the year will go down, but hopefully the number of books I finish and enjoy will go up.

What are your reader resolutions? What are your bad reading habits? Any one got any suggestions for me?


  1. My reading bad habits often surface when I'm at a bookstore. My eye is constantly caught by a new title or interesting cover I've never seen before. Always a must-have. Unfortunately, I don't always have the money to buy them. I then add the must-have titles to a list and wait for gift giving opportunities (i.e., birthday and Christmas) to ask for them. This way I not only get the book, but I am not forced to spend my money.

    Beyond that, I usually read one writing focused book while reading a novel. Since I am trying to get into mystery writing, I read one mystery then move to a non-mystery novel. Repeat. An attempt to be well read, don't hold your breath.

    I guess my third bad habit would be the amount of unread books I own. My book shelves are double stacked; the bottom of my bedside table is completely covered; my entertainment unit is filled with books; books hide in boxes in my storage unit. My goal is to read all of them before I buy another one, but clearly I don't posses the will power necessary to make that goal a reality. I hang my head in shame, but giggle just a little as a run my hand over the bindings and listen to the whispers of wonderful stories waiting for me.


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