Tag Archives: personal reading habits

Why Do You Read?

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My article today is a response to this week’s Musing Monday random question generated by the marvellous Jen on her blog A Daily Rhythm. Due to the horrendous cold I’ve battling with for the last month, I missed posting this last Monday, but decided I wanted to share it with you anyhow.

MusingMondays-ADailyRhythmSince I was tiny, books have been a draw. My mother says when I was a year old, she’d put me in the high chair with her precious copy of The Readers’ Digest and I would leaf through each page, looking at the pictures and the print without tearing it. It would take me half an hour or so to go through it, apparently.

I could decode my own name, but didn’t learn to read until I went to school, as Mum didn’t want me getting bored at a time when there was no streaming or differentiation. I don’t ever remember struggling, the words just seemed to peel open on the page. I do recall completing a reading test and being told to go along to the TV room, across the quadrangle to watch a show in the Hall – and crying quietly on the way, because I’d wanted to stay in the classroom with the books and my rather stern teacher had shouted at me when I’d asked to do just that. Once in England and at the local primary school, I was allowed to stay in at break and lunchtimes in my last year and tidy the shelves in the small school library – a wonderful treat… When Life became very turbulent during my teens, books were a refuge where I could retreat. I used to read under the bedclothes after I was made to turn the light out, nursing flat batteries back to life by tucking them under my arm.

I married far too young and it didn’t work out. There were a whole raft of reasons for this – but it didn’t help that he wasn’t a reader and didn’t like it much when I got lost between the covers of a book. And after my children were born, I actually stopped reading for seven years, because I knew that if I picked up a book and opened the pages – they could scream because they were hungry… because of a dirty nappy… because they’d fallen down the stairs… and it would be a struggle to put the book down and attend to their needs. Besides, I was busy reading and reciting poems and stories to them from the time they were born – making the next generation of avid readers, so it wasn’t a problem… Except things didn’t work out that way. They are both extremely intelligent and were very precocious, but neither are natural readers, who are born, I’ve discovered, not made… I love them both deeply and am very proud of them, but am I disappointed neither of them inherited my love of books? Oh yes. It would be wonderful to be able to discuss books with them. But, that’s the way it goes – my poor mother hoped that one of her three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren would turn out to share her passion for horses and not one of us has.

I read because I can’t not read. It’s fun. And I’m now married to a man who reads even more than I do, which means we regularly spend a day together curled up in front of the fire, reading. If I’m anywhere without a book (God bless my kindle for making mobile reading so much easier) the world is a greyer, grimmer place. I mostly read speculative fiction as I particularly enjoy opening up a book and never quite knowing what world I’ll plunge into between the covers. The great Terry Pratchett said that writing was the most fun you can have with your clothes on – but reading is right up there alongside it, I reckon.

What about you? Why do you read? Have you always read, or did you discover the joy of books later on? I’d love to know!

Reader Problems Tag

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Many thanks to Sara Letourneau for nominating me to answer these questions, after tackling these questions here herself. It’s always fascinating to discover how other people approach the very personal business of reading.

You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?

Pile of Books @ Windham library

Pile of Books @ Windham library

Hm. You’ve been peeping, haven’t you? It feels as if there are nearer 50,000 actually… And I sort them into piles with complicated theories of how I’m going to spread my reading time between Indie books and traditionally published books; books written by men and written by women; science fiction, fantasy and outstanding other reads, while wearing my writing tutor hat.
Then comes the time when I’ve finished a book at 2 am and I’m still not ready for sleep, so I reach for the next book on the pile – and nine times out of ten my hand will skid sideways onto another volume I somehow feel more in the mood for. I’ve learnt to my cost that if I DO force myself to read the book I ‘ought’ to read, it’s rarely as enjoyable and fulfilling an experience as it is when I just go with the flow. So that’s what I do, these days.

You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or commit?
I’ll give most books twenty pages, though I have been known to abandon a book halfway through the first page. And if I’m not actively enjoying the book, then it gets tossed. I log it, explaining to myself what my problem with it was, and then move on. The world is FULL of wonderful books I haven’t yet read, why would I waste my precious time and energy slogging through something that makes my heart sink every time I pick it up?

The end of the year is coming and you’re so close yet so far away on your GoodReads challenge. Do you quit or commit?
Confession time – I’m not a member of Goodreads yet, although it’s something I keep meaning to join. But I’ve set myself the challenge to post 100 book reviews on my blog during 2015. As I wouldn’t consider reviewing any book I hadn’t finished, it follows that I have to read said 100 books. Last year I achieved it with ease, having read 143 books and written 126 books reviews. As it was so successful, I decided to keep the same challenge. So far I am on track, having read 53 books to date, although this time last year, I’d read 64.
However, if I do get to the middle of December and find that I’ve only read 75 books, then I’ll abandon the challenge and start a new one next year. I read primarily for enjoyment and review books for a hobby as a way of spreading the word about the good’uns.

The covers of a series you love DO. NOT. MATCH. How do you cope?
Roll my eyes over the avoidable mistake and take a deep, calming breath. I also get very fed up when heroines are described as red-headed/with a facial scar/dark-skinned all though the book – and end up on the cover looking completely different. But it isn’t a dealbreaker. At the end of the day, it’s all about the words.

Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?
You know that log I told you about earlier? It’s private, as I never publically really tear a book apart. After all, I’m also a writer and I know only too well the effort and hard work that goes into crafting a book, even a bad one. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have STRONG opinions. That log holds them all. It’s wonder the pages don’t catch fire at times, when I’m really venting…

You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?
It takes a lot to make me cry over a book, these days. And it hasn’t happened in public – if I saw where the scene was going, I’d stop reading. But I emptied a laundrette in St Peter Port on Guernsey on holiday many years ago, reading Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures and howling with laughter while waiting for the family’s washing to cycle through the machines…

A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a summary on GoodReads? Cry in frustration?
If it’s a book I loved, I’ve probably written a review, or failing that, a brief synopsis as I always record the books I’ve read. That always reminds me sufficiently to dive into the book knowing enough to fully enjoy the experience.

You don’t want ANYONE borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people “nope” when they ask?
There are only a handful of authors whose books I feel possessive about – and that’s chiefly because Himself is a great re-reader and enjoys going back again and again to books he really loves. I don’t. The other category of books I wouldn’t lend are those which are signed by the author. Other than that, come and get ‘em. You’re very welcome to borrow them!

You’ve picked up and put down five different books in the past month. How do you get over the reading slump?
It simply doesn’t happen. I pick a book up and read it. Or it goes flying across the room. There are times when I read less books, but that tends to happen if I’m busy writing course notes into the wee small hours. I don’t stop reading when I’m writing my own novels.

There are so many new books coming out that you are dying to read! How many do you actually buy?
*sigh* More than I should… I am truly a book addict – and so is Himself. Our house is crammed with far too many books and we MUST get around to sorting them out and getting rid of some. Though we’ll probably fill up the freed space with more books.

After you’ve bought a new book you want to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf until you actually read them?
It varies. Common sense dictates that if it’s newly published, then I’ll make it a priority – and mostly that’s the case. But there are times when it still just sits there, because I wasn’t in the mood to read it when the time came.

Nomination time
I quite understand if you don’t have the time or inclination to take part – but I’d love the following to ‘fess all about their reading habits!
Mhairi Simpson
Sophie E. Tallis
Joanna “Melfka” Maciejewska
Charles French
Leiah Cooper (So I Read This Book Today)

Though if your name isn’t on the above list and you feel inspired to answer these questions, do please go for it. I’d be delighted and insanely curious  interested to find out how other people go about the very private business of reading for pleasure…

Reading List for 2014 – Crunching the numbers

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I read 143 books last year and wrote 126 reviews – but that says relatively little about my reading habits, other than I spend a fair bit of time with my nose buried in a book or writing about them… So how did those figures break down?digitalbookimage

Gender of author
Of those 143 books, 86 were written by women and 57 were written by men. I try to ensure a rough parity – the first couple of years I started writing reviews, I was shaken to notice that the huge majority of books I read and wrote about were written by men. I decided that simply wasn’t good enough – so over the last couple of years I have been mindful to ensure the gender balance doesn’t tip too heavily one way or another. And if it does, given my initial unconscious bias, it should be tilted towards female authors.

I’m NOT suggesting that anyone else does the same, after all deciding what you want to read should be a fundamental freedom – so long as it isn’t perverting young minds, or stirring up hatred. But as a female science fiction and fantasy writer whose hobby is writing book reviews, it behoves me to spread the word about the wealth of writing talent out there by a bunch of gifted, entertaining writers whose work somehow doesn’t get reviewed as often as their male counterparts.
What I do find interesting, is that after a couple of years of making a sustained effort to ensure gender parity, these days I hardly have to think about it. Many speculative fiction authors write series of books which I thoroughly enjoy and when browsing, there are invariably another crop of names I haven’t come across before that need checking out.

Genres
Below I’ve provided a table of genres – of course some of the books are a mash-up, in which case it’s a judgement call.

Sci fi    Fantasy     Urban fantasy     Alt history /Steampunk     Crime     Children     Literary /Other
36              41                19                                13                                     10              6                       18

Just to clarify things – the Crime section only includes ‘straight’ crime, not those murder mysteries with a twist of fantasy that I’m so fond of – I’ve included them in the Urban Fantasy section. The other sub-genre I decided against adding was YA – while a number of the books in all these lists are YA, that still doesn’t tell you exactly they are about, so I decided it wasn’t helpful. If I’d read more children’s books, I would have also separated those out into their genres, rather than age groups, but without exception they are either fantasy or science fiction.

The only other number that might be of interest, is that I read 60 books by authors I haven’t encountered before – which came as something of a shock as I assumed I’d read more books from new authors. Now I’ve segregated my reading list into the subject areas, the main thing that jumps out at me is that my reading content is fairly narrow these days. However, I also read a fair amount of poetry which I don’t review, so haven’t included it on my blog and neither have I included the ‘How To’ writing books I regularly dip in and out of, as I regard those as tools of the trade rather than books I want to share with other readers.

What genre do you most often read and why? Me – it’s simple – I love to open up a book and escape. It’s been the same from the very first books I handled – the further away from ‘real’ life, the better as far as I’m concerned. Which is why there is dearth of what my mother calls ‘sensible’ books on my reading list. I’d love to hear from you about your reading numbers last year, or your thoughts on why you want to read… I’m guessing there is a fairly wide range of reasons why people enjoy reading and I’d like to see if I’m right!