My books of 2010 post has got me thinking about something: my reading habits. And, more importantly, how my reading habits have changed. I only had one fantasy novel on the list. Which might be odd, considering I want to be an, um, fantasy novelist.
Now there's a few reasons for this. One is simply that my reading tastes are much more diverse and eclectic than they once were. In that regard, the balance is necessarily going to change. When I was young I read mostly fantasy, with smatterings of other things. Now I read mostly other things, with smatterings of fantasy.
Now, I think that breadth of reading is good for me as a writer (and human being), even as a writer of fantasy. ***Which is not to say that it would necessarily be good for every writer of fantasy -- just for me, at the least.*** And part of it, too, is that I don't find as much fantasy as I would like that satisfies the complexity I desire in a story, and meets character, style and swordfight quotient needs. Which, of course, is part of the reason I write the kind of stories I write, because I feel there might be something missing, and that other readers might feel this lack as well.
Yet I've been thinking about something else, as well, and that has to do with the physical form of fantasy itself -- the series. Because a lot of the great fantasy writers (particularly in epic fantasy) work in series. And often pretty long series. And when I was young this was fine, because I was usually reading a whole bunch of series at once. I might be in the middle of ten or twenty at any one time. And new books in the different series would pop up fairly regularly, keeping me in reading material as I rotated endlessly through the different series. And if there was a lull, I could always search out a new series or author, or use that time to enjoy one of the smatterings, one of the non-fantasy books on my reading list.
But as the ratio started leaning more to the smatterings than to the fantasy, something else happened. It wasn't just a change in taste, but a change in the patterns of my reading. I was now separated from that cycle of endless series, interchanging and handing me off from book to book. And I now find it harder to keep up with series.
I find, now, that I start some good series, but divorced from that cycle of reading I don't wait for the next book, don't search it out when it arrives - even if I fully enjoyed the opening of the series. Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie... these guys are worth reading more of. But I'm out of that series loop.
It's a matter of habit, I suppose. Tracking series, targeting the new books when they come out, a matter of developing a fluid reading schedule. You kind of tie yourself in to a commitment: I'm going to read a bunch of books by this author, with installments coming over a few (possibly many) years. The reading life partly planned out long in advance...
I find this harder now. My choice of reading matter now is very... whimsical? Mercurial? I don't know what I'm going to read, usually, until I pick it off the shelf. A matter of feel, of tone, of trying to satisfy some sort of amorphous need I can't pidgeonhole let alone describe. It's an ephemeral path that connects my books, that links together my reading life.
And yet I miss series reading, too. That sense of engagement that comes with such a long narrative, the sense of familiarity and comfort.
One of my goals for the new year is to read more fantasy/speculative fiction. Yet I wonder if I can succeed? I'm curious to see how ingrained my reading habits have become. And if I'm successful, how will it affect those habits?
What about you, Fellow Sophisticates? Have your reading habits changed? What's your experience of series and reading commitments?