Omnivorous Reader

I have been accused of being an indiscriminate reader. While in graduate school, friends teased me about reading the Twilight books years earlier. I had read them because I wanted to see what my younger cousins were addicted to. I wanted to have a personal opinion about Twilight. They were quick reads. The same year I read Twilight I read War and Peace, Lolita, Generation X, Ulysses, and a hundred other books. This year, in all likely hood, I will have read 200 books.

I enjoy reading. I read while I walk. I read at the gym. I read at home. I read quickly. When I first met Jacob, he accused me of skipping pages, I read so fast. He would test me on the contents of each page, until he realized I was indeed reading that fast.

Reading to me is a necessity. The books I read vary on the situation. Sometimes I read a popular book out of curiosity and sometimes I finish a book I despise out of the hope that something in the last few pages will redeem it. Often at the library I will check out a book I know nothing about. Sometimes these books will be excellent, such as Surfacing by Margret Atwood or A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres. Some are flawed but entertaining, like Carry The One by Carol Anshaw. Some are so terrible, I hardly want to write there names here. But I will say that many of the terrible books got the best reviews from established critics. Some were even endorsed by authors I very much admire. The interesting thing about terrible books, is that sometimes they teach you an important lesson about what not to write about.

I like my reading to be varied, in part because you never know what will end up effecting you work. When I reluctantly read World War Z, I never expected it to change my poetry, but it did. Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin helped give me the energy and focus to continue writing at a critical moment. I had never even seen Steve Martin in a movie at that point. Because of my indiscriminate reading I have encountered many ideas I would never have had if left to my own devices. I feel like it also keeps my writing fresh. I don’t just read Auden, I read Susan Collins, David Grann, Raymond Chandler, and Greg Rucka.

Even though I am an indiscriminate reader, I am a critical one. When reading a book, even one that I am enjoying immensely, I always have an eye out for the weak chapters, the poorly constructed sentences, or the cliched scenes. The weak portions can teach you a great deal about writing. Also I will read books in there entirety that I do not enjoy, just so I will understand what went wrong. I enjoy doing this particularly when I have previously admired the author, also when I have the opportunity to vent the gory details of my frustration with. I think that the key to being an effective reading omnivore is to be a critical one.

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