Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Balanced Reading Diet

                  assorted book lot

[I've peppered this post with the covers of some books I've read or been thinking about recently, sans commentary. Feel free to ask.]

You've just finished a book. It was fantastic. You cried a little. You called up a friend to talk about it. You lovingly shelved or regretfully returned it to the library. Now you look around your life and feel that gaping hole in your existence. You need something else to read.

What do you do? How do you decide what to read next?

                                         Beauty and the Clockwork Beast (Steampunk Proper Romance)

Who am I kidding? This never happens to me. One, I've always got multiple books in progress, so it's very rare for me to feel that gaping hole. Every once in a while I make myself finish everything I've got going before I start anything else, but even then, Two, I always know Exactly which book I want to start the minute the last one is done.

Which is why I'm writing this post.

I'm intentional to the point of neurotic about my reading diet. Let me show you.

              TBR = To Be Read, implies a list or a pile. Use: "It's on my TBR."

I have a massive TBR.

There are four ways books make my TBR:

1) Recommendations 

I'm careful with recommendations. People are so different. What deeply resonates with one person can rub another the wrong way. Individuals often recommend that which is uniquely their own taste, and that ends up being a hit or miss kind of thing. However, if I hear the words, "You would really like this book," from someone who gets me, then I will probably read it. If I hear the words, "You are reading this. This is not a suggestion," then I will read it. If I get the same recommendation from multiple people, I will probably read it. If I've been eyeing a book for a while, wondering if it's any good, and I get a recommendation from Literally Anyone, I will read it. At the end of the day, recommendations can push me out of my literary comfort zone, and that can be a really good thing, even if I don't end up loving the book.


2) Hype

If a book is being recommended all across Booktube, debated all over Twitter, featured on every Bookstagram from here to Russia, or inspiring Fanart on Pinterest, then I'm probably going to read it. Eventually. I'm often late to the game on hyped books, but I nearly always enjoy them. If a book is widely loved across millions of readers, then there's something to like about it. Or at least to think deeply about. Even if the writing isn't great (*cough* Veronica Roth) or the romance is cringy (*cough* Stephanie Meyer), there is always something the author captured, however clumsily, that in turn captured a ton of hearts, and to me, that's nearly always worth the experience.

                                            Image result for Twilight (Meyer novel)
3) Controversy

Controversy is like salt, I don't like too much of it in my reading diet, but some is good. It keeps my thought life from becoming bland. Reading controversial books gives me the chance to join in the conversations. It makes me think about that which I'm actively avoiding. That which I am just too self-centered to consider. That which I can't imagine and need someone to show me. And oftentimes after reading something from a wildly different point of view I still disagree, just with more compassion. And that's important.

4) It was Shiny

Sometimes I'm just cruising a bookstore or wandering a library or scrolling through Goodreads and I spot something. And then I buy it. Or borrow it. Or download it. First I'm "just looking around," then two seconds later I'm 100 pages into a book I had no idea I needed in my life. I love this. I love when I meet books like this. It shouldn't work out so consistently well, but it does.

                                             Image result for caraval

You CAN Judge A Book By Its Cover. The more an editor believes in a book's potential, the better the cover art and title will be. If you're drawn to a cover, there's often a good reason. Good cover art communicates the spirit of a story, so if you're really into the art, then that book is probably worth your time. Don't believe me? Walk into a bookstore and buy the book to which you're most visually attracted. Tell me you don't love it. I dare you.

Moving on. 

Once a book is on my TBR, it's just a matter of time and priority.

At any given time I like to have something going in each of the following categories:

1) 1-2 Physical Fiction Books. These are the books I read on my lunch break. That I read in bed. That I read while Jon plays video games. That I read while walking. That I read in the bath. You get the idea.

2) 1 Book on Kindle. I don't use an actual Kindle for this, just the app on my phone. I usually reserve this slot for extra-long books that are just too heavy to lug around. Aside from the sheer convenience, a book on Kindle is really great for when I want to read in bed, but Jon wants the light off because he's trying to sleep. Marriage is all about compromise, right?


3) 2-3 Audiobooks. One for the car, and one or two for everywhere else. Audiobooks are my bread and butter. I listen while I'm folding laundry. I listen at work. I listen when I'm doing yoga or cooking or walking or putting together a puzzle. Sometimes I struggle to pay enough attention, but generally speaking, it's a great way to get a lot of reading done while still completing other necessary tasks. Almost any book worth reading is available in audio format through your local library, Hoopla, Audible, and even Youtube.

4) 1 Book of Nonfiction, Short Stories, Essays, or Poetry just to break things up. I don't rush myself. I just take it slow and enjoy it over the course of a month or two.

Into each of these categories I am intentional about getting a good mix of the following:

1) Classics
Classics can be slow and linguistically difficult, but they are a million times worth it. I also love me a good retelling. There's nothing like a fairy tale or Austen novel repackaged for the modern age.

                                                Image result for east of eden

2) Fresh Titles in a Variety of Genres
Gotta stay up on what's up.

3) Children's Books
I will never ever be too old to read children's books. Children's books are everything.

                                            Image result for the composer is dead

5) Rereads
You have to make time to reread your favorite stories. It's important. No matter how thick my TBR gets, I will always find time to reread gems like The Lord of the Rings, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Inkheart trilogy, and, of course, the Gallagher Academy books.

6) Nonfiction
Never stop learning. I pick my nonfiction based on absolute whim. And why not?


7) Graphic Novels
I'm just getting into these. From manga to graphic retellings of classics there is so. much. out there. I love the marriage of visual art and story. It's also perfect when I want something I can finish in an hour or two.                             

8) Series
I find it really easy to start a series and then get distracted with other things, even if it's really good. I have to make myself keep circling back to a series until I finish. I love the breadth and depth of story that can exist within a series. It's a commitment, especially if it's more than four books, but I've found these massive stories become landmarks in my mental landscape, which is really important to me.

                                                 Image result for city of glass

After that, it's up to my mood on any given day.

This has been just a tiny look into my incredibly convoluted What-To-Read thought process. Coming up next:

Unfinished Business in My Reading Life

See you then!!!


  1. Hey friend!! So, two questions. Have you read Caraval or Beauty and the Clockwork Beast yet?

    Also, What Alice Forgot was a book I finished in I think 2 (maybe 3) days. Have you read it?

  2. Hellloooo Friend!! I have read Caraval! 5 stars. I loved the color and the mystery and the Feel. I have Read Clockwork Beast, slightly a guilty pleasure book, but 5 stars (the romance is a little silly, but I love the steampunk world and I love fairy tale retellings). And Yesss! I did real What Alice Forgot and that was like WOW. Highest five stars ever.

    1. I shall have to read Caraval then, for sure!! And I’m so glad you share my opinion of WAF ❤️❤️ So good!!