The Biggest Difference in 2016 So Far:
Podcasts have replaced a lot of my audiobook time, which is likely to substantially decrease the total number of books I “read.” So far in 2016, I’ve finished one audiobook (Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary). While I’ve also listened to about 30 hours of Robert Caro’s massive Lyndon Johnson bio, that’s still way down from last year. I’m likely to read a lot less non-fiction, in particular, at this rate, so I’m kind of hoping my podcast obsession will taper off soon.
Results of My TBR-Only Experiment:
At the start of the year, I decided to read only from my TBR and library books I already had on hold for January, and then when I realized how early Lent started this year, I extended it until Easter. The upshot?
- At first I had too many library books. I paused/cancelled some holds, but probably only about half my reading was from the TBR for this first quarter of the year. I cheated a little: I let my husband buy me Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Next year, stay out of bookstores during the “fast.”
- I bought three e-books on Easter. On the other hand, they were all books I’d had on my radar for a while. I saw a tweet that Cathy Pegau’s Murder on the Last Frontier was on sale, snapped it up and read it immediately. The main goal of my book-buying “fasts” is not to stop buying books altogether, but to make my buying habits more intentional once the fast is over–to stop buying things I’m only vaguely interested in just because they’re cheap; and to stop stockpiling, especially of e-books, buying most books only when I’m ready to read them. In the last couple of years, my buying habits have moved in those directions, so I’m counting this a win.
- My library wishlist has ballooned. Maybe next year for Lent I should give up browsing my library’s recommendation lists and new purchases! But while this felt like a problem at first, it’s a change from putting everything that looks interesting on hold. A wishlist can be pruned if I lose interest, and I can put things on hold when I’m ready to read them. (One thing I’ve learned is that a good book is just as good six months–or six years–after everyone else has read it, but some books no longer look appealing to me once the buzz has died down).
- I found a lot of things in my TBR that I probably will never read. This is especially true of my e-TBR, which is mostly romance. I bought a lot when I was new to the genre, was reading a ton of it, and didn’t really understand my romance-reading tastes. I wish I hadn’t gone crazy with book-buying in that stage, but oh well. On the plus side, there are also great things in my TBR that I’d forgotten all about and am excited to read.
- I may have five library books checked out right now, but I’m still going to try to read more from my TBR. I’m considering a monthly quota.
Reading More Poetry:
Yes! I’m loving it! Despite my embrace of “not getting it,” I feel like an awfully hapless reader of poetry for someone with a PhD in English. I brought home a textbook from work that I plan to dip into over the summer.
(I’m not sure who I saw talking about preferring “inclusive” to “diverse” because it doesn’t emphasize a white default, but it was a good point). This has led to some of my best, most exciting and original reading this year, including Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, Fran Ross’ Oreo, and Robin Coste Lewis’ Voyage of the Sable Venus. And some of the most fun, in Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, which I will probably finish today. There’s no compromise in quality in these reading choices.
Speaking of Cho, she has a really interesting blog post on “Writing My Culture for Fun and Profit.” In it, she writes that
For me, to write using local myths and beliefs is a form of accessing a deep truth. Something like the Regency voice is pure performance — I am doing something sort of serious with it, but it’s mostly play.
While I am enjoying Sorcerer to the Crown, it does feel like a performance somehow. It’s a pastiche, and some of the elements are really familiar if you love Heyer or something like Wrede and Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecilia (which I do). Cho’s book has been most exciting for me when it departs from those sources, much as I love them, and brings in elements of her culture like the Malaysian sorceress Mak Genggang. So I’m really looking forward to reading some of her stories that draw more on that culture. One of my Easter purchases was her story “The Terracotta Bride.”
Lists, Awards, Tournaments:
Last fall, I enjoyed following a group of bloggers doing a Shadow (Wo)Man Booker read of the shortlist. Then there were people discussing the just-completed Tournament of Books (for which I’d actually read the winner, though almost nothing else), and now I’m following Savidge Reads’ discussion of the Baileys longlist. I’ve found books I want to check out on all of these lists, and I’ve been wondering why literary fiction award shortlists tend to work better as recommendations for me than, say, romance’s RITA awards or even something like the Hugos. For the RITAs, it’s pretty simple: there are so many categories, and the judging process is so random (i.e. so many judges that the list is not reflective of a particular guiding philosophy, while a small panel tends to produce a more coherent shortlist). Since the Hugos are voted in by fans, I guess the same is true there (and then there are the political shenanigans). And then, I just haven’t read enough SFF to get a good sense of when prize-givers’ taste aligns with mine. I use the literary awards lists for discovery; I don’t just assume that if it’s an award shortlist I’ll like it. I haven’t found that genre awards work the same way for me.