This year I’m seven four books behind on my Goodreads challenge. What I lack are not books, it’s time. Stephen King will tell you to spend every spare second reading. As a kid I did. Books kept me from being bored but now with 24-hour access to the world via practically any electronic device, on demand TV, games, life, the lost cyber hole of social media, I’m lucky to read in binge fits between my favorite TV shows.
All the greats tell you to read your genre and read widely. Stephen King says he reads an average of 70 to 80 books a year. (Voracious appetite, almost matches his prodigious writing output.) For most writers, reading is the other fun part of the job. It is also how we, as writers, learn. We absorb the writing.
Last year I managed to read 49 out of 55 books in my Goodreads Book challenge. Some were memorable and others, well, not so much. It wasn’t that I read bad books. Pushing oneself to read can be an admirable goal, but there are pitfalls. Reading too many books in the same genre can begin to feel like a revolving door. Burn out on a genre or a favorite author has happened. I forget why I am reading. Everything goes through the writer eye in clinical fashion – a dissection of the parts. Reading then becomes homework and I lose the beauty that brought me to the written page to begin with.
Readers only care about one thing: the ride. Being taken on a journey with what you hope will be a good tour guide. For at the heart of a book, whether as a reader or a writer is one question. Is it a good story? By the last page, we always know. Perhaps that is the challenge.