As with so many writers, I fell in love with reading first. Over the years, I have found my reading life crucial to my continuing education as a writer. The best writing advice I’ve ever received is to read as widely as possible. The best part: Most of the tips, resources, and suggestions I am sharing here are little to no cost. One crucial requirement: a library card.
Read Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose
I read Reading Like A Writer well over a decade ago, but it is one of those books that never left me. I can’t recommend it enough for any writer. Prose makes the case for reading widely and for looking carefully at the literature you love most. Ask yourself: Why do I love this particular author? Why do I keep coming back to this particular genre, series, or author? What techniques is the author employing to keep readers interested?
There are endless opportunities to learn the craft of writing by reading if we know what questions to ask. Bonus: The reading list Prose includes for writers is wonderful.
Make Use of Your Local Library and Get to Know Your Local Librarians
A library card is a no brainer. These days, I tend to use mine to discover and borrow audiobooks via the service Hoopla, as well as borrow ebooks for my Kindle. Yes, I still checkout traditional books from time to time. The advantage to ebooks, including Kindle books, and anything from Hoopla is the simple fact that it isn’t necessary to visit the library at all. It is easy to borrow them online. Once they are due to be “returned,” the borrower simply no longer has access to the book. If not quite finished, readers may be able to renew online, depending on the popularity of the book.
Over the years, librarians have been extremely helpful. As an English teacher during the COVID 19 pandemic, I was fortunate to have local dedicated librarians who were willing to Zoom with my English classes in order to teach students how to borrow books digitally. Once restrictions were lifted, those same librarians helped me prepare a “book tasting” for my classes in an effort to help students figure out what genres they might enjoy. As a patron, if you ask, a librarian will nearly always be able to at least point you in the right direction. They, indeed, should run the world.
As a writer, if you find yourself in a rut in your reading life, there is no better place to seek inspiration than the library. I’ve been known to take pictures of the covers of books I find interesting in order to add them to my to-be-read pile later. At times, just the creative grouping or display of books at the library is enough to spark ideas. If nothing else, pick up a copy of the magazine BookPage to find out what’s new.
Utilize Audiobooks to Energize and Expand Your Reading Life
Sometimes, a book is just better via audiobook. I admit, I was skeptical. It felt like cheating. Frankly, the book Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim changed all that. As a fan of both The LIttle House on the Prairie book series and TV show, I knew that I didn’t want to miss Nellie Oleson herself reading her memoir. I was not disappointed. Currently, I am listening to The Storyteller by Dave Grohl. It is another example of the audiobook format being well worth it. Right now, with audiobooks, I am focusing on memoirs read by their authors. It seems a natural fit.
Personally, between work and school, I drive quite a bit. As much as I love listening to the radio and music, audiobooks are a great way to make the most of my time in the car. It gives me more time to devote to books, which is always a good thing.
Catalog – and Share – Your Reading Life
Before there was Goodreads, there was LibraryThing. While I have used other benefits of LibraryThing over the years (I am a lifetime member), it offers a way to easily catalog your collection of books or simply track your reading. Similar to Goodreads, LibraryThing also connects communities of readers.
Sadly, I don’t use either website to track my reading as I am trying to come up with a good system that I will continue to use. However, both Goodreads and LibraryThing are both excellent ways to find new titles, connect with other readers, read book reviews, and so much more.
Personally, one of my favorite annual features of LibraryThing is SantaThing during the Christmas season. After choosing a participation level between $20-$50, someone else in the LibraryThing community is tasked with finding books for you to enjoy within that dollar amount. As a participant, you get to pick for others. Fortunately, there is a form to fill out that helps avoid duplicates, detail favorite genres/authors, and more. It is fun to both pick out books for someone you don’t know and see what others have selected for you. I have participated for several years at this point, and I have yet to be disappointed. I view it as an annual birthday/Christmas present to myself. It is yet another way in which I’ve come across wonderful books I would have never picked up otherwise.
Sharing books is equally important. Frankly, I can’t imagine my reading life without having opportunities to share what I’ve read with others. I’m fortunate to have grown up in a family that shared and discussed books. Today, I share book reviews on my blog, Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde, and I still share my favorites with family and friends. Beware, I tend to review books I love. I rarely write a negative book review as I can think of only one exception.
Stay tuned for Part 2!