The internet is full of articles telling writers how to improve. But there are at least several more readers than writers out there, and better readers make better writers writing better books. So, here are some ways to improve your reading life. There may be a test.
Read something you wouldn’t normally read. At least once every couple of months, pick up a genre you’ve never tried, non-fiction on a subject you know nothing about, a novel that doesn’t look like your cup of tea. There could be an entire world of new books out there, waiting for you to love them.
Read more non-fiction. Discover something about science. Explore a random period of history. Pick up something you’ve no reason to care about yet. I want you in the pub, next week, telling people, ‘No, seriously, it’s a biography of this woman who was married to an Archbishop of Canterbury and she never actually did anything much but it’s really interesting!’
There is a special seat in heaven for the reader who spreads the word about a book she loves.
There is a special seat in hell for the reader who leaves a one-star review on Amazon because the book had a printing error or was delivered late. That seat is very pointy.
Annoyed at the price of a book? Please tell me all about it, in a properly edited 100,000-word manuscript. What, does that sound like months of hard work? Oh.
Give yourself proper time to read, not just ten pages on your commute and five pages while falling asleep. You wouldn’t try to watch The Wire in ten-minute snatches, hours apart, would you? Books need attention too.
If you fear that your friends/family/fellow commuters will judge you for your reading matter, you have three choices: read with your head high because they have no right to book-shame you; get better friends/family/fellow commuters; buy an e-reader. Do not stop reading.
The TV is tempting, the dirty laundry is massing, the to-do list is taking on independent life. On the other hand, the entire collective intelligence, insight and discoveries of the human race are spread out in front of you for the taking. Go on, five more pages.
Jean-Paul Sartre was a time traveller. He wrote Nausea, his great cry of existential agony, after visiting the 21st century and listening to the 500th argument about the relative merits of ebooks and print. Let it go.
Given the choice between the movie/TV tie-in cover and the real one, buy the real one. Have book pride.
Authors will keep writing, if you’ll just keep reading.
(This blog was inspired by this very gloomy article in The Guardian.)