Sunday, February 15, 2015

How/What I Read 5.0

I really should have done a 5.0 earlier. I feel like I'm on a 7.0 or 8.0 version of organizing how and what I read. First, let me say that this is a very important thing to do, especially if you are a student or want to be an academic (like I do) or a writer (also, like I do). (I suppose there are other professions I could add here, like scientist, but you get the idea.) If you want to be any of these things, you have to read a lot. Some things will be more important than others. Balance is important, too, as is diversity. So I thought sharing this would help some people out. This is how I do things (weekly).

Fiction

The most important category for fiction writers. But do you read genre or literary? I write both and love to read both. Also, I think, even if you don't write both, you probably should broaden your horizons a bit and read both. But do you read two fiction books (at a time) or do you alternate (that is, read a genre book then a literary one)? I prefer to read one narrative at a time. I'm more focused on that narrative. I tried the former approach and, while it may satisfy that ADD compulsion to read a whole bunch of stuff, it kinda sucks to constantly pause in the narrative and lose some of it while you read the other book.

But it gets more complicated (for me, at least). Reading one fiction book at a time is all well and good, but how do I ensure I get a good balance between all the great works written long ago and the contemporary masterpieces? For genre, again for me, it's not a significant problem. However, literary-wise, there are just so many great book out there, separated by literary movements: the classics, renaissance, rationalism, romanticism, realism, naturalism, modernism, post-modernism. I want to make sure I read the great works written long ago as well as those written nowadays. So I further divide the literary subcategory into three: Pre-1820, 1820-1965, and Post-1965. (The important literary periods here are realism [1820] and post-modernism [1965].) What I do is read, say, something from "Pre-1820"; then a genre novel; and then back to literary, in this case, something from "1820-1965."

Other

This is a large category in which I put all of the fields and/or areas that are important to me for one reason or another to read about. I arrange them in alphabetical order and go from one to the next on the list. So here are the subcategories: Anthologies/Collections, Criticism/Pedagogy/Theory, Finance, Health (including body, mind, and survival), More Writing (writing books are important to me so I have this category twice here, separated by a bit), Language (usually foreign language, but stuff on the history of the English language or linguistics I also find interesting), Non-Fiction (bios, journalism, and memoirs) and Religion (two things in one category since there are only a few religious texts I'm interested in reading), Science/Philosophy (contemporary), Science/Philosophy (old: anything before 1965), Textbooks and Trivia (another two in one), and (again) Writing (which includes grammar and technical books as well as creative writing books.)

Read Later

In this category, I make sure to read some article(s) from my "Read Later" bookmark on my Web browser and something creative, such as a poem, flash fiction piece, song lyrics, or even a speech.

In addition to all this, I alternate on a weekly basis with reading something from a read later pile I keep booklets, papers, etc, I get and haven't and should read and reading my magazine subscriptions. There are also many email newsletters I get and read.

This is the strategy that is working for me right now. I'm always tweaking, so things are liable to change. But this seems pretty good for a while. I hope this has given you some ideas as to how to organize your own reading. If you want to know what I'm reading now, follow or friend me on Goodreads. Whatever I publish, I'll let you know here.