Do You Have Rules for Reading?

A comment on When Do You Make Time to Think? got me thinking about books. I am a big, big reader. On vacation, I can easily read two, sometimes three books a day. Not on vacation, I only read a couple of books a week. I skim much of the non-fiction, so maybe I actually “read” more books that two a week.

I believe in abundance when reading (as opposed to scarcity). I used to have a rule: I must finish every book I start. I have modified that rule to be: I can finish this book if I remain interested in it or in the topic. That rule transformation created an abundance mindset for my reading.

That transformation and abundance mindset has freed me to try many more books.

I read all manner of fiction. I prefer romantic suspense (contemporary or historical), thriller, and action/adventure. Oh, and urban fantasy and steampunk. I also like romantic comedy, mysteries of all kinds, paranormal, and straight romance.

I used to read all kinds of science fiction. For me, too much of it now is dystopian or horror. Not my cup of tea. I still like science fiction, but it depends on the story.

I might have hit all genres by now. Did I say I like to read?

I happen to buy books. My daughters tend to use the library. Buy or rent, I hope you read, too.

When I find a writer I like, I binge on their series. Some writers write in several genres, and only one series is to my taste. That’s fine. I buy the first book in the series, decide if I like it, and buy the rest of the series. If I don’t like it, I’ve only “invested” in one book. That allows me to use the abundance mentality for my reading.

When I changed my rule about book finishing, I became freer to experiment more in my reading. That reading experimentation led me to experiments with my thinking. I had a chance to ask more “what if” questions. The wider I read, the more ideas I get to consider. It doesn’t matter if I read fiction or non-fiction. I still gather a ton of ideas.

Even better, the ideas collide in my brain, creating more diffused learning.

In non-fiction, I learn by practicing. Yes, I do the homework in non-fiction books. (Why do you think I include “Now Try This” in my books??) I realize I might be unique for doing the homework. That’s okay.

I also learn in my fiction reading. I learn how another writer has written something that resonated with me. Or, that the topic resonated—or didn’t. I learn who I want to use as a model for my writing.

I’m not talking about copying or any form of plagiarism. I am talking about how the writer told the story or explained the idea. Not the specific form, but the how.

I don’t have to enjoy every single book, even a well-known bestseller. I don’t make myself finish books any longer. I do read for enjoyment in all genres, fiction and non-fiction. That enjoyment allows me to learn in any number of ways.

I think of this learning as diffused thinking. I’m learning without focusing on the learning. That makes my reading even more enjoyable. And, I gain the benefit of diffused thinking and learning.

That is the question this week: Do you have rules for reading?

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7 thoughts on “Do You Have Rules for Reading?

  1. Pingback: Five Blogs – 7 March 2019 – 5blogs

  2. robertday154

    I don’t have ‘rules’ as such for reading; but I have gotten into the habit of reviewing what I read as often as I can (exceptions are purely technical works that have no particular distinguishing features, such as an unusual approach or presentational style). Developing this skill enables me to read critically; in turn, this often means that even if I find a book lacking in merit, I can often extract value from it nonetheless. My hatchet jobs are few and far between.

    I contribute reviews to the book-sharing site LibraryThing.com; as that has a limited user base outside of the US (though there are users worldwide), I now also cross-post most of my reviews to a separate blog I have set up. Knowing that I shall be writing about the book after I finish it makes me read in a deeper, more critical way.

    I agree that diverse reading triggers diverse ideas. I also find that diverse reading helps develop my own writing. As a published author – even though my books are quite specialist and only appeal to a limited group of readers – I think that it is my duty to make my writing as good as it can be. That would be the case no matter what genre I wrote in. Reading widely and often is my way of achieving that.

    1. johanna Post author

      Robert, what a great idea. I sometimes post reviews to Amazon and Goodreads. I didn’t know about Librarything.com.

      I read fiction for pleasure. If I realize the writer has done something I want to learn how to do, I’ll go back and re-read and even type in a few pages. (I study what I typed in and then delete it. I don’t use what I typed except for study.)

      I agree with you about making my writing as good as it can be. I also find reading widely helps a lot.

  3. Dave Gordon

    Like you, I used to read science fiction but got away from it as it became more dreary than exciting. I recently re-discovered Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein in a used book store—I managed to walk out with 11 ratty paperbacks. That said, I read far too much non-fiction, from books about ancient peoples and archaeology to traditional woodworking to biographies. So if I don’t finish a book on the Neanderthal or some Stephen Ambrose tome, I glance over to that stack of pulp and feel sure that I really can come back later.

  4. karlosmid

    Hi Johanna, great post, reading in low pace a couple books per week looks awesome.

    From 2018, my commitment is 30 pages per day, I read fiction and books (in English and my native language Croatian) to improve my software testing skills. For later, I make notes (Kindle notes and in paper books I just put ! mark beside a-ha moment paragraph). Those marks become source for my blog posts.

    Currently I am reading your book Managed It.
    It opened my mind, because I realized that software testing is strongly influenced with successful/unsuccessful project management.

    Regards, Karlo.

    1. johanna Post author

      Karlo, wonderful! Since I only read English, I am very impressed with your ability to read as much as you do in other languages. If others wonder, 30 pages is actually a lot. In Manage It! and other non-fiction books, that’s a chapter or a bit more. (In fiction, it might be a couple of chapters.) Thanks for your comment about Manage It!. Yes, how we choose to manage projects influences how successful testing can be. Thanks!

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