I’m back! I went on vacation (sorry—I forgot to tell everyone) and have been keeping my head down and focusing on work during the weeks surrounding my days off. I was also stuck in a bit of a reading rut. Nothing I chose to read was capturing my attention, which I’m sure some of you have experienced. Normally when a book I choose doesn’t capture my attention I move on to another. Problem solved. But this particular case of reading block wasn’t so easy to shake. It happened something like this:
A couple of weeks ago I started reading a galley of On the Rocks by Erin Duffy. It was easy, and a good commute read, but I didn’t like it and so I stopped. I think I picked up the book from the free book shelf at work (publishing perk!), so am not really bothered by my own disinterest.
After attempting (and giving up on) On the Rocks I tried my best to pick up where I had left off reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. This one is completely different from On the Rocks (Ozeki’s book has actual literary merit, for one), but it’s not a very good commute read. I kept losing my place and finding myself unable to focus on Ozeki’s writing. To the woman I saw reading this book on the subway one day, I commend you! I have set it aside for now. It might fare better during my long flight to England this November.
I also started reading copies of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, but neither worked out.
My frustration led me to begin rereading one of my favorite books: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I first read this book two years ago while living in England and immediately felt a connection to it. I still do, but I always feel guilty rereading books when I know I know there are so many books I have yet to read even for the first time.
While in the midst of rereading I Capture the Castle I stopped at Strand Book Store in NYC. For those of you unfamiliar, Strand is known for its 18 miles of books, spread out over multiple levels. I spent three hours browsing in Strand, and managed to come away with three books I was (and still am) excited about.
I debated for a while, but finally decided that, in order to get out of my reading drought, I just had to read one of the new exciting books that had just landed on my nightstand: Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, and Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.
And wouldn’t you know, that did the trick. I finished Reading Like a Writer on Monday. This one was quite unusual from my normal pile of books – it’s all about improving your writing by learning from the example of great writers who have come before you. It’s also about learning to slow your reading down and notice how writers employ a manner of techniques (word choice, sentence structure, paragraph breaks, dialogue, etc) in order to convey their stories. The book was really interesting, and I plan to write about it more soon. It has also inspired me to continue writing the novel I started one year ago.
After I finished Reading Like a Writer, I immediately delved into a book that I’ve been waiting to read for months. I actually had pre-ordered the book (through BN.com, thank you), but was in the midst of reading The Magician’s Land when it arrived and couldn’t quite bring myself to put that one on hold. So I lent the copy to my boyfriend, who held it hostage for a couple of weeks before finally returning it to me just before vacation.
The book in question is My Real Children by Jo Walton (which I have obsessed over since this post), and I read all 300-something pages of it in under 24 hours. It was not a difficult read, but I have some more thoughts on it that I’ll also write about in a review once I’ve had time to fully digest everything (I just finished the book thirty minutes ago, as I write this).
For me, this was not an unusual case of reading block, but rather a ritual I go through every few months, which is why my TBR pile never seems to get any smaller: sometimes the only way for me to get back into a good reading habit is to infuse my TBR with some new literary blood. I’ve never been one of those people (like Samantha) who can assign herself a pile of books and methodically make her way through them. I’m all over the place with my literary cravings, and can never predict what genre my mood will want next.
Plus, who doesn’t like picking out new books!