If it’s 8pm on a week night, you’ll probably find me in the bath, reading. If we’ve got a supplement from a weekend newspaper knocking about the house, or a copy of The Week, I’ll be reading that, though perhaps a more accurate verb would be consuming, practically eating it. I read every word. Even the bits that annoy me. Even the outlandish recipes that I know I’ll never cook.
Yet I find it so much harder to read fiction with such voracity. This bothers me. I’m an aspiring fiction writer, and I know I need to read as much as possible to continue to develop my craft. I’m a teacher, and I’m always telling my students to read, read, read. I started this blog in an effort to kick-start my own fiction reading… sadly, months on, I’ve really not read very much.
I suppose I am a bit ashamed of this. I have a house full of books, and I’m just not reading them.
And I love reading. I HAD A BOOK THEMED WEDDING, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE.
It requires a big commitment, though, doesn’t it? Not all good books are easy books to read, and I want to read the difficult ones. It requires energy. Space in your own head to live with the characters. I lack head space… mine is filled with predicted grades, spreadsheets, exam mark schemes. Oh, and Candy Crush Saga (even my hero JK Rowling admitted to playing minesweeper when she was writing Harry Potter in the 90s – and I bet she plays Candy Crush now… I bet she does).
At the moment, I’m reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (what a fabulous name indeed). I’m obviously not trying very hard to get over my John Green phase, as this book is very much of that ilk. It’s a very pleasant, easy read, hence why I’m moving through it pretty fast, and leaving my magazines with their silly recipes alone. It’s set in 1986, which is a cute twist on the emerging YA American high school genre. It’s all about the mix tapes (I was a teenager in the late 90s, and it was still all about the mix tapes). The politics of the school bus, and where you can and can’t sit, certainly rings true to my own secondary school experience. (I waited for years to get into the sixth form, just so I could sit on the back seat, and even then, I still wasn’t quite cool enough. Such is life.)
Am I copping out by reading another easy read? I want to write YA fiction, so it’s a legit thing – I’m not just a 28-year-old who yearns for the simplicity of teenage life before jobs, paying the rent and all that boring stuff. Ironically, I think my teenage self would be pretty disappointed. I remember thinking at school that I would, of course, read all the classics. ALL OF THEM. And the Booker Prize Long list, of course.
Am I being snobby? Probably. I’ll settle to be satisfied that I have head space for anything at all. I’m enjoying reading Eleanor and Park – and surely that’s the most important thing. Reading isn’t supposed to be all about self improvement now, is it?