I've always been a prolific reader, the kind of person who can lose herself in a good story, or while away entire afternoons reading on the couch. I've noticed, however, that since I've been writing book reviews over the past year, I've become a better reader. What do I mean by "better", you ask? Well...
- I read everything with an eye out for clever turns of phrase, or passages that illuminate or encapsulate a setting or story. I mark these passages with sticky notes, or stop to write them down. I like to include them in my reviews when I can, because I think that this is the best way for a reader to get a sense of what the book is really like.
- As a corollary to the above, I'm a bit frustrated by audio books now (though I still think that they are a wonderful invention), because I'm always reading when I'm out walking, and I can't easily write down or mark a particular passage.
- I pay more attention to what I'm reading, and am less likely to skim through a book racing only to see what happens next.
- I lie in bed before I go to sleep thinking about the implications of what I've just read, trying to understand what's special about this book, so that I can convey that in my reviews. I frequently have to get up to jot things down (though my words are always less profound by the light of day than I thought they were at midnight).
- I'm more selective in my reading now, striving to read "better" books. This is partly because I want to read books about which there will be something noteworthy to say, and partly out of vanity. I'm fine with the people who visit my blog thinking that I'm a slightly quirky adult who reads children's books, but I don't want people thinking that I read garbage.
- Conversely, I'm also more likely to try something that's outside of my regular comfort zone, if I think it will give me a new and interesting perspective. For example, I've never been much of a picture book reader (well, since I was five), but after a year of reading other people's picture book reviews, I'm giving them more of a chance. And learning a lot.
- I am constantly on the lookout for ideas for my reviews, or for my blog, and I've learned that material can be found almost anywhere. I think that this perspective makes me look at the world, at the newspaper, at magazines, more closely.
The sad part of all of this is that as I read more carefully, as I take time to work on my blog and write reviews, I'm actually spending less time reading than I used to. Quality over quantity, sure. But it's still sad...
How about you, fellow bloggers? Has writing book reviews changed the way that you read?
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.