In a conversation with Peter Hajinian and Kevin D. Hendricks last week, we got started on the topic of books and reading regularly. This summer, I’ve heard a lot of writing professionals stress the importance of continually reading and learning, and as a writing major, I’ve heard numerous times from my professors that you can’t be a good writer if you’re not a good reader. However, everyone I seem to talk to claims to be super busy (myself included). So, how do these people continually read if they’re as busy as they claim?
As Kevin and Peter were talking about how many books they’ve read thus far this year, it made me think about this quandary. (And since Kevin is the author of 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love with Reading, I figured he must know something on the subject.) I assumed they were talking about books like Developmental Editing or Strunk & White—good books, but I don’t know if I could read them all the time during the year.
They cleared it up rather quickly for me. When I asked Peter what he’d been reading, he listed off something by Herodotus, a book by a famous comedian (sorry Peter—I can’t remember the name of it!), and a book on ancient Assyria. Since Peter is a copywriter at an ad agency, it was pretty clear these books weren’t for work.
“Too many people suffer from ‘genre shame’,” Kevin told me. As a writing major, I understand that completely. I know I should be reading Don Quixote or Moby Dick, but I’d rather curl up with a good Agatha Christie.
Kevin’s response? “Screw it—read what you want.”
Peter added that while “the epiphanies” often come from reading nonfiction and that can be good, fiction can be just as helpful by reminding you how to get into someone else’s head. It also helps you pick up on nuances that make things funny, witty, or serious—or not.
If you’re like me, this should be really good news. Not only do I have a mandate to read from writers I admire, I can read the stuff I really like. Granted, that doesn’t mean I’m never going to read something like Groundswell again; however, it does make me feel better knowing that I can go back to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy without a guilt trip.