Thoughts on reading.

It’s a cloudy, dark day today, though warmer than it has been. It’s quiet. Somewhere around 4pm, there was suddenly nothing else I wanted to do than read an old favourite, The Mayor of Casterbridge. At one point in my life I would have called this my favourite book. I don’t know why, but Victorian novels are so cozy and relaxing for me. I don’t want to claim that I’m some great fancy reader of Victorian novels, but I do tend to gravitate to them. In fact, the fiction section of my bookcase has Victorians separate from the rest, because for me, “I feel like reading fiction” and “I feel like reading fiction written before 1901” are two very different emotions.

My tendency to favour old books (and not just Victorian ones) is something that I didn’t even notice until a few years ago, when friends would ask me if I’d read the new So-and-So book and I realized I was always, always saying no. Sometimes even “I don’t know who that is.” It’s such a weird feeling to be an active writer, yet so woefully unaware of what’s new in the “industry.” I get all my news secondhand.

I’m trying to do better, though for some reason I still gravitate towards older books, “classics” or otherwise. I’m such a creature of habit, maybe that’s why. I don’t believe that there are “right” things for writers to read, but I do think I need to pull my head out of the past a little bit.

But later. Right now I have this book to make my way through, and it’s the perfect day for it too.

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Sarah

    It’s true, and good that you say, there aren’t the “right” things for a writer to read, just as there aren’t “wrong” things for a writer to read. I felt like I got a lot of writing news secondhand when I started my writing program, like who to read & who’s new that I’d never heard of. I feel like I keep up with it better now, but that’s not to say I don’t go back to those comfortable favorites :)

    1. Samantha

      Glad I’m not the only one! It’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind sometimes.

      1. Sarah

        I know! the books never end

  2. Danielle P.

    I’ve always wondered if I was alone in separating “classics” from the rest of the fiction on my shelves, but now you’ve reassured me.* It absolutely is a different emotion to want to read older or more modern books. For example, I simply can’t imagine reading Dickens, Eliot, Balzac, or Austen in spring or summer; these authors demand a slower, more reflective atmosphere.

    As for recent releases, I keep my eyes and ears open, but don’t actively seek them out. When they do find their way to me, my usual reaction is: “Meh, that just doesn’t sound interesting to me.” One exception: I was persuaded by high praise from a blogger I respect enormously to try a David Mitchell novel, and it was love at first read…

    *(I also gave mystery/crime fiction its own distinct section — does that make me weird?)

    1. Samantha

      I feel exactly the same way about reading classics in the summer!

      I think people should categorize their bookshelves in whatever way works for them! Now that you mention it, “I want to read a mystery” is also a separate emotion for me.

  3. Carla

    I think most people gravitate towards a certain type of book. Mine is a specific author for the most part, if I don’t read a Stephen King book every few months I think I get withdrawl. Reading is about what you enjoy, not what everyone else is reading. I am stuck right now in the middle of a book but already have my Stephen King lined up for when I finish…lol

    1. Samantha

      Good thing Stephen King is a pretty prolific writer then!

  4. saleema

    I have the same relationship with Victorian literature — total comfort reading.

    I have to ration myself, though, otherwise I start writing in long, Dickensian sentences! I try to keep it to bedtime reading.

    1. Samantha

      Haha, I’m the same way! I wrote something for a client recently that was accidentally a little Victorian-tinged.

  5. Georgia

    Ah yes, there’s something so delicious about visiting old literary friends. I often have an E.M Forster catch up at least once or twice during the year, which I always find so familiar and reassuring. Enjoy your Hardy!

    1. Samantha

      I’ve never read any EM Forster – I should!

  6. Birdie

    You should definitely read EM Forster!

    For comfort reading, I always pull out the Bradbury. I’m a sci-fi girl at heart. I read a lot of Spanish lit and poetry as well.

    1. Samantha

      I am definitely going to put some EM Forster on my list for next time I’m at the library!

      I haven’t read that much Bradbury (just one book, actually), and I always feel small amounts of shame about that.

      1. Birdie

        When I feel as if I am not a writer, my words spin decay, I pull out The Martian Chronicles. Sigh.