After listening to NPR this week, the Linda Holmes’ discussion You Can’t Possibly Read It All, So Stop Trying resonated with my consumptive reading style and had me thinking about its application to publishing.
“I had gone through and thought about the number of books you could conceivably read in a year, for example. And then if you extrapolate it out over your lifetime, how many can you reasonably read. And it got me thinking about how vast the world of books is and how small what you will ever take in actually is. And it becomes a sort of overwhelming thought when you realize that no matter how hard you try, no matter how smart you are, no matter how much you love to read, as I put it in the piece, statistically speaking, you’re going to die having missed almost everything.”
Now, I am a fast reader, it’s a consequence of working in the book industry and my love for reading book of all kinds, but the conundrum hit home with me. It applies to the publishing news I read in the morning, the number of queries an agent can read in a day/week/month, the magazines I read and more. You just can’t get to it all. You have like-minded friends and family members who recommend books to you, you follow people on twitter who tweet a great review, you find ways to consolidate information from bestseller lists and choose carefully how you spend your literary time. And, as Holmes says, this is a choice we make and have to live with–you can’t get to it all!
Those who have little time to read have to be even more resourceful finding book reviews and top 10 lists that connect with them. Book discovery is the key to finding your new favourite books, genres and tastes. Everyone’s looking for the next book that will change their life, which is what keeps many people reading and consuming fiction.
Her conclusion: Acknowledge that you can’t get to everyting and make literary choices that you can be at peace with. Develop your own opinons about books you feel strongly about instead of reiterating someone else’s review.
My subsequent conclusion: Reading everything you can get your hands on is a big part of being a writer or being in the industry, but the best way to learn about writing and inspiration is simply living your life to fullest. Achieve balance in your personal life and your literary life will be richer.
Q: What genres do you make a priority to read?