Books, Fiction, Novel, Read, Reader, Reading, Writing

What’s wrong with my reading?

Recently, I’ve read several novel reviews that gushed about how the book had a powerful impact on the reader’s life. In a couple of cases, the reader said the reading experience actually changed their life. I can’t remember when that last happened to me. I want to know why.

Pierre Auguste Renoir -- The Reader

I don’t think it’s necessarily my reading choices. I’ve read some of those same books said to be so powerful. They just didn’t have an overwhelming effect on me. Am I too cynical? Am I too dense? I know it’s not that I’m so perfect I couldn’t use a good life-changing experience.

Might it be that I’ve forgotten how to read in such a focused way that I’m open to receive that experience?

I have a pile of books to read and a backlog on my Kindle. Those dwindled a bit when I went back to reading as I ate lunch. Reading in little chunks that way is probably not the best way to experience a novel, though it might work for short stories, essays, or poetry. Then I started writing again. Now I eat lunch while I try to catch up on email or check in on Twitter. That means little or no reading.

What would happen if I took a few days off and did nothing but read? The first thing I’d have to do is fight the urge to put down the book and write. I know that every perfect word choice or gorgeous metaphor I read would have me chomping at the writing bit.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about filling up on reading before I can write. This time, I’m writing well, the words are flowing, yet I feel I’m missing something by not reading. Strange.

Maybe I need to disappear for a while and completely, absolutely, totally, deeply immerse myself in a life-changing book—if I can find one.

What was the last book that had an impact on you? Why?

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39 thoughts on “What’s wrong with my reading?”

  1. I just finished reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I wouldn’t say that it changed my life, but it certainly impressed my writerly self. Egan is masterful with a pen (or keyboard as the case may be).


  2. Great thoughts in discussion brought on by your post. Imagine if we couldn’t get acess to all these various books and ideas. That’s how life changing the power of reading..and writng is. I ‘m taking notes for my next reading list!


  3. Books affect me differently depending on what’s going on in my life. It might or might not depend on the actual book or how well it’s written. That can be an important factor, though. I think it’s important to read and be open to change, but sometimes I think readers are just in too big of a hurry these days to let things really seep in. I just know that in college some books affected me more now than when I read them, or vice versa. The book I’m reading now – The Waves by Virginia Woolf – has really impacted me, and Davin’s short story collection has touched me, too. Hope you enjoy it when you get it. 🙂


    1. That’s true, Michelle, that the same book read at different points in your life can affect you in various ways. And I’m certain that my bite-size chunk reading is not doing most of these books justice. I’m reading today and tomorrow with more concentration. This morning, I read some in Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and despaired with envy that even in writing about writing, he wrote beautifully. But I was also inspired and that’s good. 🙂


  4. I think that as writers, we’ve pulled back the curtain and got a good look at the wizard. We know what it takes to craft strong characters and resonating stories. When I read something and notice short cuts that the authors takes, I get annoyed. I’m like you, I can’t say that a book has changed my life much. Two of my favorite books are Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (beautiful, beautiful writing) and The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (wonderfully crafted story). I think the reason for favoring these comes down to aspiration – I want to write as beautifully as Mitchell and craft a story like Davidson.

    Another great post – thanks Linda!


    1. As hard as I try, Kimberly, I can’t completely turn off the writer when I read. Sometimes I edit, sometimes I thrill, sometimes I’m in awe. I’m happy so many have listed books they love, so the rest of us can check them out. 🙂


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