Have you noticed how your reading habits have changed over the years?
I don’t recall how old I was when my mother gave me my first Buddy Book or when she graduated me to the Hardy Boys. Could she have taken me to the local library and got me my own library card when I was only seven or eight? I know I was a reading junkie before I was ten.
Forty years ago I was the sort of reader that writers today set prayer flags for. Once a month I’d go into my favorite bookstore, Bell, Book, and Candle on Ashford Avenue in San Juan, and buy 20-25 books. I’d buy authors I recognized and other books in the same section. I read everything: action-adventure, sci-fi, historical novels, and mysteries. I’d buy novels, short story collections, and nonfiction. I’d buy bestsellers after they came out in paperback.
As hobbies and pastimes became passions, I would build a reference library for the topic. A year ago my library included over a 100 books on yacht design, yacht racing strategy, chess, bridge, and writing.
I’d read every word of every book of fiction. That has changed. In fact nothing about my bookish addiction is the same.
Today, I don’t buy as many books. I get books as pre-publication editions, and I buy books at library fund-raisers, and am given books during my travels by people who unload on me books destined for the library sale. I do buy books at author events, for twenty dollars, I get to feel like a patron of the arts.
Another change is that I read shorter pieces: blogs, news articles from newspapers, magazine features, op-ed pieces and book reviews. The sources available to us are legion. I start with Googlenews for headlines and top news stories. For features I go to ALDaily.com. Someone took notice of the initials and asked if I wrote it. LOL. AL is also short for Arts & Letters. I can easily wile away an evening hopscotching the main page of ALDaily.
Nor do I read everything I start. Since attending a workshop about how acquisition editors read manuscripts (taught by writer/editor/coach/publisher Charlotte Cook) I read books more critically.
Fiction writers must engage me early, introduce interesting characters, and bait me with a good story. And keep it up. That is, the author gives me a reason to start and reason to continue. The author has no more than three pages to set the hook, no more than ten to begin reeling me in, and another forty or so to net me. Much more often than not, I am gone like a missed flight before fifty pages.
Although I read fewer books, I enjoy everything I read much more.
Tomorrow the topic will be speedreading. I could teach you to double your reading speed, but do you want to?