How my reading habits have changed since becoming an author

Before we begin, an announcement. If you preordered my book, firstly: THANK YOU. Secondly, you can get a free signed bookmark! All the details are here. Again, THANK YOU. ❤

It’s now been over two years since I signed with an agent and started thinking of myself as an author of books, instead of (or rather, as well as) a reader of books. In that time, my reading habits have changed very drastically. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, so I thought I’d write a blog post. (Warning: it’s very introspective.)

The topic of this post. Also, my blog in general. THIS IS MY KINGDOM.

Reading YA

I sometimes joke that when I was a teenager I read adult fiction, and now I’m an adult I read teenage fiction. It’s kind of true. I read a lot, lot more YA now than I ever used to. So far in 2015 I have read 55 YA novels, out of a total of 101 books (54%). In the whole of 2012, when I was writing The Next Together, I read 13 YA books out of a total of 80 books (16%).

One reason for this is because I’m in a community with a huge amount of passion for YA, and it’s hard not to want to read books that everyone you know loves. A less optimistic way of putting that is: I get caught up in the hype a lot more now that I ever used to as a reader. Whereas I previously only read books I really liked the sound of, I now try and read everything that’s getting Big. I feel like I have to keep on top of the YA world.

Sometimes this leads to absolute gems – books I get to read months and months before they hit the shelves (thank you, Netgalley! That website is another reason I read more YA- who can resist the siren call of review books?).

Other times it means that I don’t really enjoy the books I’m reading that much. Because, simply put, I’m not the target audience. I’m just not. There is a lot of crossover potential in YA for adults and teenagers, but that isn’t (and should never be) the main focus of YA novels. YA novels are for teenagers, and I am no longer one. This all tends to mean I don’t get as enthusiastic about books as I really should.

I recently enjoyed The Raven Cycle, and that’s probably the first YA series I’ve read since becoming an author that really clicked for me as a book that I can consider myself a real fan of, rather than reading it and appreciating it for what it is: a good book for teenagers.

I know I’ve mentioned The Raven Boys many, many times before. I’M JUST SO INTO IT.

That feeling of thoroughly, wholeheartedly enjoying a book made me suddenly realise what I’ve been missing. For a while, that kind of feeling will make me read only adult literature, or science fiction, or historical romances – or fanfiction.

Then another YA book will get lots of great reviews on twitter – or, more likely, I’ll start to feel guilty about not reading YA. As a writer of YA, I feel like I have a responsibility to read everything. It is my job, after all! I should know what’s out there! Why am I wasting time reading Neil Gaiman when I should be reading the YA bestsellers? Instead of reading for me, I feel like I’m reading so that I don’t feel like an imposter as an author.

How often I read

Looking through my goodreads list, I read more – a lot more – than I used to. I read 50 more books in 2014 than in 2013.

Some of that is simply because I’ve graduated now, and have more time. But a lot of it is that I feel bad about not having read stuff, like I discussed above. I feel more pressured to be reading as much as possible, so I can keep up with other people. Even as I write that, I know it’s ridiculous. ‘Keep up’? At reading? That’s nonsense. But it’s something I feel.

However, I do give up on books more easily now, though. If it’s something I think I’m not going to enjoy, I’ll stop reading it. I’m not investing time in something I won’t get anything out of. I like that I do that now, whereas I used to force my way through books as a matter of principle.

Reading for enjoyment

I am very, very unforgiving of a lack of diversity, gender equality, and a general lack of liberal values. I will now stop reading a book if it has any hint of racism/sexism/homophobic/transphobia/rape, whereas before I would happily read a 1950s scifi novel with no female characters, without thinking about how terrible that was – or worse, something written by Orson Scott Card. This may just be an age thing, though – I’m a lot more educated about feminism and social politics than I used to be as a teenager.

Me, every time I read a book that passes the Bechdel test.

I read books more critically now from an editorial point of view, as well – I actively assess what books does well, and what they don’t – because I want to make sure my own writing doesn’t fall into the same holes. I don’t lose myself in books any more, in the way I used to.

I won’t deny being a critical reader has taken some of the joy out of reading, but being an author is a job. Reading is just as much a part of that job as writing is – I might even argue that it’s more important, but that’s a blog post for another time.

However, on the bright side: I get that thrill from writing now, instead of reading. I’m always always excited to write (okay, unless I’m stuck on a plot point. Then I’d rather be doing literally anything else.) The feeling I get from writing totally outshines the way I ever used to feel about reading. So I wouldn’t change anything, for the world.

How have your reading habits changed over the years? Are you swayed by books you see on twitter or tumblr?

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here. 

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

2 thoughts on “How my reading habits have changed since becoming an author

  1. Yes! I can relate to so much of this. I’ve read almost exclusively YA for years now, partly because of wanting to ‘keep up’ (which I’m realising is impossible…TBR lists only get longer!), as well as stay on track with what’s popular. The last few months I’ve been reading more adult fiction, but probably for the same reasons — I keep hearing books recommended, or because I have the idea it might broaden the scope of my writing. Not necessarily bad things, but maybe I should let myself dust off some old favourites without feeling guilty!
    (And The Raven Cycle is *amazing*.)


    1. I’ve definitely been enjoying rereading old favourites more recently. I’ve think I’ve given myself fiction overload with all the new books constantly coming out – I just want to read Harry Potter!

      (The Raven Boys is all I care about anymore. This is it, this is my life now.)


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