Let’s talk about: Reading habits

I think I’ve talked a little bit about what a voracious reader I used to be. Growing up within walking distance of the library with a best friend who read just as much as me was… dangerous, to say the least.  We’d make weekly treks to the library and walk away with five or ten books that we’d devour and then analyze.  This went on and on for years, especially during the summer, but also to a lesser extent during the school year.

I can’t say enough about the library I grew up with.  Not only were they incredibly focused on keeping their catalog up-to-date, but they were part of a much larger library system that would order you any book you liked and have it within a few days.  I’ve yet, in all my moves, to find a library that’s this accommodating.  It certainly encouraged my love of reading.

Then I started college.  And… yikes.

I know I’ve talked about my reading habits in college.  As a lifelong reader who regularly finished a book a night, I didn’t see what the trouble would be with taking twelve credits for my major plus a lit class or two on the side.  “Two weeks to read ONE book?! “Six books in an entire semester? Easy.” Oh, little did I know.  With the wrong kind of professor, lit classes have a way of making reading an absolute chore.  Even with the right professor, it’s easier to slack off on your nightly reading than it is to slack off on your chemistry homework.  Reading largely fell by the wayside when I was in college.

And then I graduated.  And I slowly started to pick up books again.  My first year out of college, I read 31 books.  Reading those 31 books – just for the sheer pleasure of it – reminded me of my love for reading, and the next year, I read 100.  Fast forward to the present, and I’m reading more than ever.

But what exactly are my reading habits now?  I posted last week about how reading challenges help me stay on track, but that doesn’t really tell you anything about how I read.  I’ve tried reading a lot of different ways since starting this blog, but I think I’ve finally found the way that works best for me.

I only think about books one month at a time.  I do this on the monthly page count draft.  I make a list of ten or so books that I want to read in that month – ARCs, library books, books that have been hanging out on my TBR, new releases – and cross them out.  As I finish them, I remove the crosses, bold the titles, and add the star ratings.  Sometimes I need to adjust when new ARCs show up or my library unexpectedly purchases a book I recommended months ago, but all in all, this keeps me pretty well on track.

I take notes in a draft of the review as I’m reading. Depending on how much I like the book, I might fly through huge sections of the book, stopping only every couple hours to jot down an opinion, important plot point, or quote.  If I’m liking the book less – Toni Aleo’s Boarded By Love is a good example of this – I’ll keep my computer open next to me and write a very long, stream of consciousness-type review that encompasses everything I’ve noticed about the book.  This, of course, gets edited down into something more coherent before posting.

I talk to myself. It might be while I’m stuck in traffic or while I’m in the shower (it’s never around other people), but I have conversations with myself about the books I’m reading.  This takes me back to the time when my childhood best friend and I would have conversations about the plot and characters of our favorite books.  I try to think about what I would say if someone asked me about the book I’m currently reading – it helps me sort out my feelings about the characters, the major events of the plot, and the writing style.  A lot of this ends up in my eventual review.

I try to write the review as soon as possible.  I find that this is a lot more efficient than the way I used to do it, which was to read as much as possible and then dedicate an entire day or two to writing reviews.  I think I can actually read more now because writing the review takes a lot less time when everything is still fresh in my mind.  I don’t find myself having to go back through Kindle highlights or re-reading the plot summary on Goodreads before I can think, oh, that’s right, that’s what happened. Writing the review also helps clear out the story from my mind, and I find that I’m more able to focus on a new book after I’ve checked the last book off my mental to-do list.

Finally, I keep my TBR as up-to-date as possible.  I should have made a TBR page years ago.  It didn’t take very long to set up, and it organizes my reading so much better than Goodreads ever did.  It’s got three simple filters: priority, type, and genre.  Top priority is ARCs and library books.  Medium priority is books I’ve purchased or been lent that don’t have a time crunch.  Low priority is usually Kindle freebies that sound interesting but that I’m in no hurry to read.  When I’m trying to figure out what to read next, I can hop over to my TBR page and set some filters. It practically chooses the next book for me.

How do you read? Do you plan out your reading schedule in meticulous detail, or do you prefer to go with the flow, reading whatever you feel like at the moment?