As a writer, it’s quite important to read.
How long you spend reading should account for fifty per cent or more of your writerly time (according to many ‘how-to’ books). Let’s be honest, for most people, reading for an hour a day is not the priority it is for writers.
What you read is crucial in terms of building your current knowledge base and broadening your influences, but how you read may be more important than you think.
I read a lot on my Kindle, which has advantages and disadvantages. It seems every year there are ‘serious’ articles published, referring to the ‘scientific studies’ which prove Kindle screens are either the future of reading or vastly inferior to paper, depending on the publication.
My viewpoint is that the positives outweigh the negatives. The portability and variety an e-reader permits, mean that you will read more. I do. I’ve read around 50 books a year since I got it (not counting the physical ones). While Kindles may not be so good for facilitating deep reading and plot recall of literary books, they push me to finish short stories in one sitting or tear through a John Buchan spy thriller at breakneck speed.
While I’ve been ticking along with the very long but very brilliant Homicide by David Simon, tougher reads such as The Brothers Karazamov or seventeenth-century Philosophy books are beginning to clog up my e-library.
Computer or phone screens are worse. They lead me to skim read and take words more at face value. Think about the difference between reading a blog post (10 things you never knew about courgettes!), and how you consume and consider each word of a physical magazine article. There is nothing like turning the final page, whether for an article, a chapter or an entire book. I’d liken online reading to watching a film on a plane – it’s never quite as good. Then again, it is pretty amazing that you can watch films on a plane, or read online wherever you are, for free.
Variety certainly works well. On screen, I often head towards Reflex Fiction or Fictive dream for quality shorts. I’m currently still entangled with the journalistic brilliance of Homicide on the Kindle, and am whizzing through the Comma Press ‘reading the city’ series in paper (Tblisi, Rio and Tokyo complete).
Reading on all three formats means you can always cue up the next read for each. I’d love to read Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine, Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, and Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman next – but in which format? These books consist of short stories, creative non-fiction and a novel. For me, variety and volume is everything. How I choose to read may change from day to day, but I believe each medium has its merits.
However and whatever you read, I hope that after you finish, you take that little moment, a breath and a look toward the sky to consider what it all meant. That’s the moment us writers live for.