This summer I started and set aside four young adult novels in a row. They were all books I thought I should read for one reason or another. An agent I was interested in querying represented the book. A writer I respected wrote the book. A writer I respected recommended the book. Or dozens of writers on Twitter were raving about the book. And yet when I picked it up, I just couldn’t get into it. It was an unfortunate coincidence that this happened four times in a row. Often even if I’m not loving a book, I’m still engaged enough to read through to the end. But these just weren’t for me, and that’s ok. It’s called subjectivity, and it’s a real thing that we’re so often on the receiving end of as writers. It’s not surprising we experience it as readers, too.
I was so burned out on trying new books that might disappoint me, I turned to my trusty bookcase downstairs. I don’t keep a book unless I intend to read it again. All 608 of these … ok, yes, I know exactly how many books are on these shelves, and this is where you might start to think I’m a little crazy. My husband certainly does! The thing was, when I went down to decide what to read, I realized I always go back to the same books, despite the fact I’d once loved each of these books enough to want to read them again. So I decided to catalogue them all in a spreadsheet. And since I’ve been tracking what I read on this blog since 2012, I added a column marking that so I wouldn’t fall back on the same old favorites before I gave another book a chance again.
What have I discovered from this so far? Well, I used Random.org to tell me what I should read, and I started an older trilogy from one of my favorite romance authors. I … didn’t love it anymore, so I decided it could be removed from the shelves (leaving room for new books to love!). But the next series it told me to read has been a revelation on the joy of losing myself in the words. It’s a historical romance novel series, so it’s completely different from anything I’d write. I’m five books into it, and I’m just enjoying the stories and the characters (who are delightfully unique in each book!). It’s true I can’t completely shut my writing mind off even with these books, but it’s nice not to be thinking about the market or who represents the author or how I would write a review for the book.
Because sometimes you should just read for fun.
And if you have fun making spreadsheets for your books, that’s just a side benefit :).