Science fiction and fantasy

The Book Of Ultimate Truths

The Crystal Cave

Reading Is Not A Race

1st January 2014

So, early January. It's that time of year when tradition, left-over drunkenness, and too much cake compels most of us to form New Year's resolutions. There's precisely no worse time than the dark days of winter to be making plans to be better, fitter, more productive, and somehow find 26 hours in a day, every day from now on.

In 2013 I took part in one of those reading challenges on Goodreads, aiming to finish 80 books over the year. For me that's not a huge goal, since it was more or less the amount I read in 2012. But I still managed to abandon it in November, just over half complete, and there were a couple of reasons for this. The first, I realised that there's no time to read extensively and write extensively. One or the other is possible, but trying to do both leaves no room for anything else, unfortunately. It's a shame, but something has to give.

The other reason is, it's not as much fun to read to any kind of deadline. Fiction is supposed to be fun, not some chore we feel bad about, or some status game we use to establish dominance in the literary hierarchy. So this year there will be no specific goals.

Fifty pages of freedom

If a resolution is worth doing, why wait until the beginning of January? One I started in early December was reading the first fifty pages of a lot of books, and not necessarily going any further. Instead of starting a book with the expectation that I would finish it, I was starting with the expectation that I wouldn't, and if I hadn't been persuaded to change my mind fifty pages in then I'd move on to the next book. This was something of a housekeeping exercise, both mentally and literally. Fifty pages is long enough to appreciate the style of a novel, and to get a good idea of where it's going and what it's about, and if I get to that point without knowing what it's about, that's also a reason for me to abandon it.

This is why I didn't post any reviews in December (I don't review books I don't finish). I did, however, discover a liking for the work of Robert Rankin and Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave, which I wouldn't have got round to without this otherwise ruthless attitude. So it's turned out to be a way to discover a lot more about what I like and don't like in literature, and it's an exercise I'll be repeating in future.

Vague plans

I do have some vague plans for my reading in 2014. I want to get round to more mid-list authors, and writers I've not read before. However, I'm not taking on any concrete reading challenges. I want to focus on the joy of reading slowly, and give myself the chance to make new discoveries.

When it comes to writing challenges, that's another matter: in the coming year I'll be editing a couple of novels, including a sequel to The Secret Eater.


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