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.)
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.
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.
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.