RTW: Read to Succeed

From YA Highway:

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question to write about on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topicAbout how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or less?

At various stages of life, I've recorded lists of books I've read in journals and notebooks.  Now Goodreads makes it so easy to keep track of what I've read and what I'd like to read, and I LOVE to see what others are reading, too, especially other writerly types.

I read between 50 and 75 books a year, I'd guess, mainly YA in recent years.  That's a pretty comfortable number for me.  Between work and parenting and writing and volunteering and watching football, I don't think I'd be able to do much more than that.  

But here's the deal: I must read.  As much as possible. Reading makes me a better writer.  Here's what I read:
  • Really, really great fiction - Mind-blowing, awesome stuff
  • Really awful fiction  (what not to do....)
  • In-between fiction
  • Serious literature
  • Fluff
  • Short stories
  • Non-fiction
  • Poetry
  • Plays
  • Picture books, chapter books, etc - Out loud to my kids
  • Blogs, online newspapers, magazines, etc 
  • Books about writing - even if you think you don't need them, you do
  • Manuscripts - as a critique partner and a beta reader 
All of these things offer lessons in craft and language and a million other things.  I read as a writer.  I can't help it.  

I believe that if I want to be successful as a writer, I've got to read as much as I possibly can.

 This postcard came in the mail from the Loft Literary Center several years ago and I taped it up at my desk.  Best advice ever.

How many books do you read each year?

Monday, 6:30 am


  1. I never counted to see how many books I read, but it's a good amount. Considering I'm an editor, I read a ton of manuscripts each year, but I'm constantly reading published books too. My husband laughs at me because I read for clients and for my own books all day long and then at night I crack open a novel. ;)

  2. That postcard is perfect...the two most important rules of writing: write and read.

  3. That sounds like a comfortable number for me, too, in my new train-less life. I like your list a lot--the last two are newly on my list, and I'm really excited about them. After a lifetime of counting "reader" as one of my main identities, adding "writer" feels pretty good. (When I was teaching, I tried to give my students the gift of those identities. I frequently used the sentence, "You're a reader, so you'll do great at XYZ." I remember my own teachers telling me similar things about myself that I hadn't ever really thought about--it always felt good, and added to my sense of who I was in ways that were frequently self-fulfilling.)

  4. I love your list of things you read. The online era is really wonderful because it offers writers so many possibilities to learn from each other. I learn new things from others' blogs ever week, and I'm so grateful for the camaraderie. :-)

  5. I read mostly literary and YA fiction, and I'm reading a lot of great indie fiction.

  6. I couldn't agree with you more. Over the last three years, I found my writing most productive during and just after I've had a mad reading bash. I'm inspired, and I've learned more about the craft. Reading others' work is like a shot of adrenalin to my writing heart.

  7. I keep track on Goodreads, and this year I've read a lot of books (30 or more). However, when I'm reading a book that means I'm not writing. I can't do both at the same time. (I can't really walk and chew gum at the same time either. Hahha.)

  8. I just finished my 75th book of the year, which means that I met my Goodreads Reading Challenge. Yay! I read for all of the same reasons that you do. And then there's the fact that the lives in the books I read are ever so much more interesting than my own! :)

  9. I agree 100% about writing being largely improved by extensive reading. It expands your vocabulary, your knowledge of genre tools, how to put sentences together creatively. It just rounds out your talent by reading other very talented peoples work.

  10. I love the diversity in things that you read. I've never been one to turn my nose up or down at anything. Who knows what kind of unexpected surprises you might get? I did a lot of writing this year, so I read less, but I still consider it a very important part of my development as a writer.

  11. Reading a variety of books is so helpful; I agree, even reading "bad" books can be helpful if you pinpoint the weaknesses and work on not making the same mistakes in your own writing. I try to keep reading a variety of books but sometimes it's hard to get out of what I want to read :)


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