A Reading Confession

I really hate having to admit this, but I must. I haven’t finished a book in about a month. I mean, I’ve been reading, but the two books that I’d started just haven’t held my interest. Luckily, they were library books, so I didn’t feel bad about spending money on them and then not reading them.

I did feel bad, though, since one of these books is a paranormal/urban fantasy—the genre I’m writing in. Another writer pointed out to me, though, that no one has time to read every book in a particular genre. Likewise, a friend and avid reader pointed out that life’s just too short to read books you don’t enjoy. And finally, my own personal spin on this is that I don’t want to inadvertently absorb bad writing habits from my leisure reading. Now, that’s not to say that these were necessarily bad books. They just lacked whatever I needed to pull me in.

It’s also possible that I’m at that point in my development as a writer were I’m just hypercritical of everything. My understanding is that eventually this happens to writers, and some learn to move past it and others simply become more discriminating about what they read. I’m not sure what will happen in my case. But I’ve decided not to feel guilty about it.

3 thoughts on “A Reading Confession

  1. I stop reading any boon the moment it becomes a chore. Leisure reading should not feel like a homework assignment you don’t want to do.

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  2. I usually try to keep pushing through even if a book starts to feel slow. I’ve had a lot of experiences where I slog through 30 or even 50 pages, and then the book picks up and I end up loving it. I even had one (Neil Stephenson’s “Anathem”) where I was utterly bored by the first two thirds of the (long!) book, and then in the final third, everything came together and those first two thirds were suddenly totally worthwhile. I will say, had I been not been “reading” Anathem on audiobook, I probably would not have made it to the payoff point.

    There are, however, other books that I just cannot make myself complete. I tried and tried to get through H.P. Lovecraft’s “Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,” a seminal classic in its genre, and just could not. Ditto Kerouac’s “On The Road.” Tried twice, and just can’t force myself to stay with it. It’s not so much that it’s a “bad book,” exactly, it’s just that it’s not for me.

    My attitude is that I’ll keep reading even if I think the writing is lousy, because at least I can identify some things I want to avoid in my own writing. That was my experience with a number of epic fantasy novels. I went through a period of being hyper-critical, but I think it’s a transient thing. Like critics of most art forms, I think writers go through a phase where they find poor art offensive (you should have heard me lambast “The English Patient” when I was sixteen!) but eventually learn to tolerate art they find disagreeable, and accept that it has its place. Art is, after all, subjective.

    Unless you’re talking about “Twilight,” of course. That shit’s just unforgivable. 😉

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    1. You know, I actually read the first chapter of Twilight. Decided it wasn’t my cup of tea.

      You’re right, though, that for some books it’s worth pushing through the ‘boring’ bits. I may try again with these books, but for right now, I’m just not going to worry about it.

      One thing that worries me, though, is that reading bad writing will cause my own writing to become worse.

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