This year I am trying to be more aware of how I read. It isn’t really a resolution so much as a desire to break a very bad habit I know I have. The problem is that I really enjoy reading to the point where I tend to binge read if I find a book I like. To really understand the problem, you need to realize that when I say binge read I mean that I tend to read to the exclusion of everything. Work, eating, sleeping. It isn’t unusual for me to start a book and read it straight through over the course of a day or two (depending on the length) while taking minimal breaks. Honestly, I don’t know anyone else who behaves the same way.
I think I developed the habit in high school, but while this was fine in the past it can be a huge problem when I am in the middle of a project something. This is especially true if the book happens to be part of a series. Often, I will immediately dive into the sequel if I enjoyed a book, possibly leading to multiple days of inactivity. Really counterproductive when I’m busy with a project.
That said, I also find that a good story often gives me ideas for my writing. Either it shows me how to do something I’ve been having trouble with, or introduces ideas and themes that nicely complement my work. So reading is good for my writing, but also bad for my productivity. Ideally, I would be able to keep the good parts while avoiding the bad. To that end, I have been working hard not binge reading by limiting the time I spend reading. Seems to be working so far.
Anyway, as I have put a lot of attention on my reading habits I decided that I may as well share my current reading list. This isn’t everything I want to read, but it is the things I will most likely be trying to get to.
I’d been wanting to read this book since it’s release but hadn’t because I didn’t want to fall into my binge reading habits. I like almost much everything Brandon Sanderson writes. He is one of my favorite (living) authors right now, and amazingly prolific as well. Oathbringer is the third book in his Stormlight Archive series, which is tying together the rest of The Cosmere setting (which includes Mistborn, Elantris, and Warbreaker).
As of now, this is the only book on the list that I’ve already finished. Keeping myself to only reading a few chapters a day was remarkably difficult (as I knew it would be), and I ended up slipping near the end when the plot turns into an avalanche. Even so, I enjoyed myself immensely and started noticing things that Sanderson does that I could improve in my writing. It seems that happens every time I read something he’s written.
A Spell for Chameleon
This is the first book of the Xanth series, and that is about all I know about it. I only learned about the book because I was asking for recommendations, and had several different people suggest the Xanath series, then point me at this book as the first one when they learned I’d never heard of it. Since then, I’ve gotten it on my kindle, but have intentionally avoided any information about the book. I rarely get a chance to go into something blind.
The Three-Body Problem
Unlike the previous two books on this list, which are fantasy, this one is science fiction. That is part of the reason I got it, as I’ve been wanting to dip my toes into the genre sometime with a work of my own (once I feel confident). That I’ve heard a number of people talking about it recently is a good indicator that it has had an impact on the genre, so it just seemed like something to pay attention to.
There is another reason I ultimately decided to get this book: the author is Chinese, and I am especially interested to get a look at science fiction with a Chinese perspective.
How to do Things With Words
This is the latest in a string of books I’ve been reading about the craft of writing. It isn’t something I’m doing with any specific goal in mind, so much as exploring the topic to see what I pick up. At the very least, the different perspectives on writing give me something to think about while making me consider my approach. That cannot be anything but healthy.
If you are thinking about beginning to write fiction, this is something I highly recommend you begin doing sooner rather than later. I certainly wish I had. At worst, it will give you something to think about, but there is a good chance you will be exposed to ideas you hadn’t even considered before. If you aren’t sure where to start, my suggestion would be to go with more popular titles you may have heard about (such as The Elements of Style). Those are most likely to cover basics, which will become the foundation of everything you do. Later on, you can start to branch out into story theory, essay collections, and other topics.