How would you describe your reading habits? When do you read? In the morning, at lunch, or during your evening commute? Are there times of the year or week when you read more or read less? Do you read certain types of books at certain times of the year? These are some the questions I’ve been asking myself lately.
Each December I review that year’s worth of reading. I set resolutions and goals at the beginning of the year and review how I did at end. In reviewing the past year’s reading I look at both what and who I read and didn’t read. Part of this assessment helps me to plan for the upcoming year. It is a little early but I am already thinking about this year’s reading. This early reflection is prompted in part by the feeling that this year something was off. In trying to figure out why I began to think my reading habits. In reviewing what I’ve read over the last few years I found that my reading habits follow a certain pattern.
Even though my school days are long over (and even when I didn’t work at a university) I continue to divide the year into three parts: a winter-spring season that runs from January to mid-May, summer, and then a fall-winter season that runs from September through December. In reviewing this and past years of reading, one of the first reading habits that stood out was how my reading follows a monthly and seasonal pattern.
January always starts with a bang. As I said I like to make resolutions. These resolutions take the form of challenges like the Book Riot Challenge, general goals like to read more diversely, and specific goals like to read at least two books originally published in a language other than English. Because I’m nerdy, organized, and like pretty colors I put all my resolutions in writing in charts with different colors for different goals. I research possible books to fit the various challenge and goal categories, and then wait for the new year to hurry up and begin. This past January was no different from years past. By the end of the month I had read and reviewed seven books.
February has a theme and not surprisingly that theme is love. Romance and erotica titles tend to be high on my list that month. As to reading pace, it is usually remains pretty robust throughout the second month of the year. By March my reading starts to slow down to a more comfortable, steady pace of 2-3 books every two weeks or so. This pace usually lasts through May. During this period is also when I worry less about my resolutions. The resolutions are not forgotten completely but built into the system is time to read whatever looks good regardless of whether it fits into a challenge or goal category. With more than half the year left there is still time to catch up after all.
According to popular media and bookstore displays summer is the time for “beach reads.” I’m not entirely sure what a beach read is but sense it is meant to refer to something light or fast-paced. Summer reading for me however, means big books. With vacations and an overall slower work schedule, there is more free time for that 800-page tome waiting patiently in the unread pile.
As summer ends I imagine staring down to the end of the year like it is a straightaway of a track and think about what I can realistically get done by December 31st. January was the time for lofty goals. September is the time to buckle down.
November is usually a slow reading month due to National Novel Writing Month. Things pick up in December as I try to finish up the year’s resolutions. December is also another themed month and theme is murder! It may be the happiest time of year, full of cheer and mistletoe but for me the shorter days and cold dark nights are the perfect time and setting for something dark and twisty.
Dealing with a Reading Slowdown
Things started to go off the rails around May when I hit a slowdown and just never sped back up. I call it a slowdown and not a slump because I never stopped reading completely, everything just took longer. Books I would normally finish in a week or less took two weeks or more. Occasionally there were bursts of reading energy. There were some books I really couldn’t bear to put down. Most though, even if I was enjoying the book, I was able to put it down and took my time before picking them up again.
Some of the reasons for the slowdown are obvious and not entirely unexpected. I spent a couple months looking for a new job and then started a new job. I started writing more. But there has to be more to it than that – I’m not writing that much more. I’ve been at my current job for three months now and my reading has yet to get back to normal. It is extremely frustrating. There are so many books waiting to be read in my unread pile but I can’t seem to get to them. As for my resolutions, of the seven I’ve made I have finished one so far and will likely finish two others. The rest I’m not so sure about.
Who, What, When
In terms of when I read, the new job led to a shift in my reading time from the evening to the morning. In years past I read a bit in the morning but mostly in the evening. Now that I take public transportation instead of driving I read more in the morning and very little in the evening. That may be one reason for the reading slowdown. Although my reading starts earlier in the day it is now limited by the length of my commute.
At various points during the year I tried to end the reading slowdown by reading shorter books. One consequence of this is that I read more comics this year than in years past. Unfortunately reading shorter books did not have the desired result. Still I discovered some great comics.
I’m still not sure why this year I read so slowly, just that it feels like this year I spent a lot of time thinking about reading rather than actually reading. The year wasn’t a total loss. Although I will likely not hit my all the categories of my reading diversity goal for example, I did hit about half of them. That means my reading horizons expanded a little.
What are your reading habits? Have they changed over the years? And how do you deal with a reading slowdown? I’d love to know your thoughts.