Reading Is Fundamental

Post ImageI’ve heard that part of being a good writer is also being a good reader. Of course, if you follow that logic (and also happen to be a big fan of Pixar films) you might also conclude that part of being a good chef is also about being a good rat. But hey, some things weren’t meant to make sense. Like my blogging. But I digress.

Now I do like reading. And I do try to use it to make me a better writer. It’s a great way to discover adjectives I’d never thought of and I’ve also learned there’s a fine line between “paying homage to” and “plagiarizing.” But as much as I like to read, I just don’t end up with a lot of time for it. Therefore it takes me a fairly long time to get through even the shortest of books. I mean, take a look at how each and every day of my life pans out:

pie chart daily breakdown

To compound the problem, I never read just one book at a time. Here’s what I’m going through at this very moment, in one form or another (reading, reading out loud, or listening to on audiobook):

  • Notes from a Small Island
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
  • The Hobbit
  • Outliers
  • Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir
  • The Children of Hurin
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • In a Sunburned Country

Sidebar: I also just finished up two Neil Gaiman books on audio: Stardust and The Graveyard Book, both recommended. Now I need to rent the movie version of the former, which I’ve heard is actually pretty good.

So given this reading schedule, if I get through one page a day on any book, I’ll call that a blazing success.

How about you? Do you find time to read? Do you read more than one book at a time? Do you find yourself subconsciously plagiarizing others’ works when you write? Leave a comment below.

18 Responses to “Reading Is Fundamental”

Cynthia said
October 22, 2009 at 2:46 am

When I was a kid, I liked to read so much I read cereal boxes at breakfast. I always find time to read. I often read while eating. Which I suppose is less than ideal but it’s a good time to down a chapter or two.

I try not to do it too often, but absolutely I am guilty of reading more than one book at a time. I am also a re-reader. If I really enjoy a book, I may read it again at intervals in my life. Just ‘cuz. Like comfort food, there are comfort books.

I do think reading helps tons with vocabulary, but other than my blog, I’m no writer. I like serious books and fluffy ones. I’ve been known to call in sick when I wasn’t, ’cause I got engrossed in a book and had to finish.

I seem to have less time than I used to to read, but I can go through books at a fearsome rate when I’m in the mood to devote time to it.

Sandie said
October 22, 2009 at 4:18 am

I used to read so much! I would stay up all hours of the night just to finish a chapter that usually went on to be 5 or 6 chapters. Of course now I’ve got 4 children (5 if you count hubby!) so I rarely get time to read anything other than school pamphlets or teachers notes πŸ™

TexasDeb said
October 22, 2009 at 7:50 am

I’ve been an avid reader life long. When I had small kids and couldn’t sustain reading for long stretches I turned to magazines. (that was pre-internet). Mostly I read during the lunch hour (which explains spots/stains in so many of my books).

Question: You LISTENED to 2 Gaiman books? I thought his were mostly graphic novels??? How does that translate to an audio experience?

    Charlie said
    October 24, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Not all graphic novels. He actually writes too. πŸ˜‰

    Two quick links for more info:
    * Stardust
    * The Graveyard Book

    The latter won the 2009 Newbery award, for children’s literature. Can’t do that with little more than pictures!

Kyddryn said
October 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

I read constantly – while cooking (sorry I burned the oatmeal), while watching TV (wait, WHAT did CSI Duquesne just say about an alligator in her underpants??), while in the…erm…throne room…(the quietest place in the house, alas), while brushing my teeth, while vacuuming (umm…where’s the kitten??) – any where, any time I can find a minute to turn a page or twelve.

I usually have several books going at once. Right now I’m only reading four, but I have been a wee busy of late. Wait, seven if you include the books I’m reading to the Evil Genius (he likes to keep more than one going at once, too). And then there are the dozens of blogs…

I also re-read. Some books just never grow old.

I try to vary my reading between genres and authors so I don’t fall into any one else’s style when writing – I loathe discovering the story I just enjoyed penning is a parrot of another author’s work.

I used to disdain audio books…until I started traveling more. A good audio book really does shorten a long drive – especially when the reader is a perfect fit for the story!

Speaking of writing novels – sorry ’bout the long comment…

Shade and Sweetwater,

Biz said
October 22, 2009 at 10:44 am

I used to read all the time growing up – I remember going to the River Forest library with Mom and bringing home 8 books to read and I read them all weekend.

Now I read blogs, so I guess that’s something! I’ll have to check out your list, except the Hobbit, I will never read that! πŸ˜€

    Charlie said
    October 24, 2009 at 8:27 am


Quix said
October 22, 2009 at 10:45 am

When I was growing up I DEVOURED books. I think I just finally hit a point where I was over them in my teenage years and then college really drove a nail in the reading coffin – I had to read so much for school, I didn’t have the time nor desire to do it for pleasure.

Now I’m starting to get back into it a little, but I find I mostly pick up a book and read it on vacation (I’ve gotten through 4 books in the last 6 months this way, yay!) when I actually have the time to get through it. When I’m at home, I can’t read right before bed or it will keep me up (and sci fi TV puts me to sleep, go figure). I know, bad writer. BAD!

M.C. Snoresalot said
October 22, 2009 at 10:56 am

It takes a little willpower to get off the net and read a printed book. It takes a little more willpower to read a fun book rather than a “useful” book, like “Advanced Perl: Rolling Your Face on the Keyboard .” I think reading for fun has a big payoff, especially when reading books about the peanut butter diet.

It used to be I felt obligated to finish a book no matter how much it bored me. Had to change that after picking up Neal Stephenson’s baroque trilogy. Neal, what did you do to us? (Is he reading this?)

Right now I’m reading about 5 books: “The Scar” by China Mieville and the top 4 on my stack of ethics books. They keep popping up like plates at the Shoney’s buffet.

Loquin said
October 22, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I too am an avid reader: I’m in the middle of 2 novels (Re-reading “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett which is one of my all time favorites, and “My Life in France” by Julia Child) 1 book of stories (urm, they’re…private…), a few magazines, a few more online magazines and papers, and lots and lots of blogs. Not to mention all the reading I do at work for research.

Like many/most other commenters I’m always reading something almost all day long. Whether its the news in the morning (while NPR Morning Edition plays in the background – I am a multitasker) to skimming through blogs while the TV plays its mindless chatter I’m always absorbed in the printed word. Even in the bath. And when I’m blow-drying my hair. If I could figure out a way to read in the shower, I would.

I don’t know that reading currently helps with my creative writing. I would say almost 28 years of nearly continuously devouring the printed word has definitely helped my writing, improving my vocaublary and syntax beyond measure and my English Lit degree has given me a wide bredth of knowledge I couldn’t have attained elsewhere. But as far as reading whatever it is I read on the average day? What it has done is make me want to write more. I’m always working on some sort of unfinished “masterpeice” (schlock fantasy) and have just started a blog. I’m looking forward to Nanowrimo because I’m psychotic. Reading inspires me.

As for subconsciously plagarizing — that is really hard. I try to be very aware of my influences and to come up with unique ideas. Doesn’t always work though (schlock fantasy). In writing my blog I’ve discovered that I reference a lot of articles that I’ve read from online magazines but I’m always really careful to cite them and link back. (I hope!!) But I only read two or three blogs that have the same subject matter as mine does so I hope I’m not overly influenced.

I think I might maybe have an actual original idea for this November’s Nanowrimo. I know I’ve never read anything like it anywhere. And I guess that’s where my best writing comes from – I try and write what I want to read but can’t find in anyone else’s work.

    Charlie said
    October 24, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Winner: longest comment! πŸ˜€

Mom / Jerry said
October 22, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I read a LOT growing up – my grandma used to say “you’ve always got your nose in a book! Go outside and play!” I can still get totally engrossed in a good novel- my favorite genre. Pre-retirement, I traveled a lot, and always looked forward to a long stretch of uninterrupted reading during flights.
I recently joined a book club, so I’m being introduced to books I’d never pick up on my own. Right now I’m re-reading So Big and trying to finish Peace Like A River.
My favorite all time re-read is The Source by Michener. I dip into it about every three or four years.

sherry (nite swimming) said
October 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm

I used to have about 2 – 3 books going at a time. Now it’s usually one at a time or maybe one novel and one nonfic. I set reading goals…yep, it’s come to this. I try to read 50 pgs a day. When I start a book if it doesn’t grab me by the first 50 pgs, it’s adios.

    Charlie said
    October 24, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I just visited your blog. It’s about books!

      sherry (nite swimming) said
      October 24, 2009 at 2:25 pm

      Yes, it is mostly about books. You should send me a review copy of your book.

Suzie said
October 24, 2009 at 1:02 am

I too am an avid reader. I usually try not to have more than one or two books going at the same time but sometimes I just can’t help it, I’ll have a work book (I’m a sociologist) and a fun book going at the same time. I love reading memoirs and anything by the Bronte sisters – I could reread Jane Eyre a million times.

Ps. I’m so glad your back, I really missed reading your blog!

Charlie said
October 24, 2009 at 8:40 am

I should have added my all-time, number one re-read is The Hobbit plus (wait for it) The Lord of the Rings. I read it annually. I just do. I know, I’m pathetic. I’m on my 18th read-through this year.

You really should give it a try, Biz. I finally got mom to read it a couple years ago and she liked it! It just might be Life Cereal to your inner Mikey.

Joe Spammer said
April 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I respect your honesty and your opinion. I’m a man. I never read comic books. I don’t know if i could have pointed to Iron Man in a lineup of comic book characters. And i don’t particularly like movies based on comic books. BUT I love Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges, so i decided to give the movie a chance.

bst reg-s.

[Now here’s an interesting new spam attack vector. –Charlie]