Developing a Book Diet

Credit: Ex-Smith (via Flickr)

Credit: Ex-Smith (via Flickr)

I’ve discovered that I need lists and (some) rules in order to function.

I usually make a daily list of things I need to do, and also keep an ongoing list of things to do over the next few months—or at some point in my life. The lists are always growing, but they’ve been helpful as my schedule has become increasingly packed (Post-Its and Evernote are now my true loves). There’s something really gratifying about checking things off—sometimes I go back and write something else I did that day just so I can check it off.

The one list I find hardest to tackle, though, is my to-read list. And this is because I don’t really keep an official one. It would just always be incomplete. There are so many things I want to read, just based on my own interests or on recommendations from friends, librarians, podcasts, author interviews, book recommendation websites, and the multitude of other reader resources out there.

My current To-Read List is composed of the physical books sitting on my bookshelf and the books I’ve designated as “To-Read” on my Goodreads account. But even if this list were to be “complete,” it’s still difficult to decide what to read next.

Once I get past the existential angst it causes me, I wonder: Should I read that Best American Short Stories collection? Or how about A GAME OF THRONES and its sequels, or Donna Tartt’s new book so I can have timely discussions with people? Or maybe I should try a poetry collection, or that novel my former writing professor published, or that Malcolm Gladwell book on decision-making? Perhaps that Ernest Hemingway book my friend lent me, or that huge Amber Chronicles compilation my boyfriend bought and annotated for me, or that Stephen King book on horror stories I grabbed from the free bookshelf at Simon & Schuster two years ago? I have many more rhetorical questions about what to read next, but I’ll refrain from listing them all for you.

Upon figuring out that this is quite the reader dilemma, I came up with a book diet (a reading sequence) to rotate through and give myself some kind of direction. It’s based not on individual books themselves, but on genre (and other criteria). That way, I can slowly check off books on my list while also getting the well-rounded reading experience I crave.

Creating a reading sequence like this seems to be in line with some advice that George R.R. Martin has on his website for aspiring authors. On his FAQ page, he writes:

“The most important thing for any aspiring writer, I think, is to read! And not just the sort of thing you’re trying to write, be that fantasy, SF, comic books, whatever. You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones—what not to do).”

It certainly helps to know that even crappy books can teach reading writers important lessons, so it doesn’t feel like a waste of time if one ends up reading something they don’t like. Anyway, here’s my reading sequence I’ve come up with—the book diet I will try to follow from now on.

My Book Diet

  • Contemporary Novel
  • Short Story Collection
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror
  • Experimental
  • Nonfiction – On Writing (or an author biography)
  • Mook (a book made into a movie. My friend Alyssa, over at Mookology, coined the term)
  • Classic
  • Written by an Author I’ve Read
  • Nonfiction – General (anything not on writing/authors)
  • Poetry
  • Modern Classic
  • Written by a friend/teacher
  • YA
  • Literary Magazine

What’s your book diet? Please share your literary recipes. Am I missing anything? (Based on Martin’s suggestions,  should consider adding erotica to the list?)

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment

4 Comments

  1. Great idea! It appeals to my OCD tendencies. I, too, have an overwhelming number of books…in storage, in closets, on bookshelves. I’m usually reading five at a time. One in the car, one in line, two at home, one at work. I want to read every book in storage. Realistically? They’ll all sit there while I merrily check books out of the library. Having that deadline seems to spur me into action.

    But your list…that gives me some direction! I’d add YA books. There are some excellent authors writing young adult fiction.

    Like

    Reply
    • Hi Diane! I’m glad I appealed to your OCD tendencies (that’s essentially why I made this list for myself–I always try to be as organized as I can, but I’m also pretty lazy. I keep trying though). I think you are spot on with adding YA books to my list, especially in light of the recent YA discussion going on in the literary world after this Slate article was published against YA: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/06/against_ya_adults_should_be_embarrassed_to_read_children_s_books.html

      It’s clear that any story that has complex characters, along with mindfully written prose, is worth reading–and those types of stories can be found in any genre. I’ll definitely be adding YA to the mix. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Like

      Reply
  2. Reblogged this on My Wife Linda, her local business Tots' Tune Time and commented:
    Some recipes from my own book diet include humour & history and who better to provide them than Mr Bill Bryson. I start with a large slice of “Walk in the Woods” with nibbles from “Down Under” if I get peckish before my main meal of the day with “A History of Nearly Everything” in the evening.

    Like

    Reply
  3. Reblogged this on A Story – loneliness of a long distance pariah and commented:
    Some recipes from my own book diet include humour & history and who better to provide them than Mr Bill Bryson. I start with a large slice of “Walk in the Woods” with nibbles from “Down Under” if I get peckish before my main meal of the day with “A History of Nearly Everything” in the evening.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: