The biggest pet peeve I have with myself is how I don’t read widely enough. What I mean is, I don’t read across genres. I stick to the same kinds of books. At the end of each year, I look at the list of books I’ve read and I realize it’s two-thirds speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror and so on.
Now, if I could, I would read speculative fiction exclusively. It’s like eating nothing but dessert all the time. That’s not healthy. So, in an attempt to be more well-rounded, to be better educated, to read more widely, I used an Excel spreadsheet to get my 2016 reading plan started.
Here’s what I did:
Across the top of the spreadsheet, I listed different genres of books I want to touch upon throughout the year. Here is my list: General Literature/Best Sellers; textbooks; Science Fiction; Fantasy; Biography; Classics; Poetry; Drama; Graphic Novels; Short Story Anthology; Spiritual; History; Art; Writing Instruction; British Literature Middle Ages; British Literature Renaissance. These are the areas I want to read in this year; your list may be different.
Next, I take all the books I have on “TO READ” lists — and I have several different ones, both digital and hard copy — and consolidate them on the spreadsheet. Each book goes into one of the categories. A particular book might fit into more than one column, but you decide which genre you want to put it under.
Next, I select a book, read it, then go to the next column and pick a book in a different genre and read it, and so on, and so on. I read about 30-40 books a year, so this will ensure I go through the cycle about two times. The idea is to not read two books in the same column until you have read one from all the other columns.
As a result, by the end of the year, I am a more well-rounded reader.
Pros, Cons and Tips for this method:
- Tip: I add books throughout the year as I hear about them.
- Tip: Of course, I’m not going to be able to read every book on the list in one year. I can just use this as a running list so I also have suggestions for something to read.
- Tip: I don’t necessarily read the book at the top of the column. I just pick a book in a column that strikes my fancy at that moment.
- Tip: No need to be legalistic about using this spreadsheet. I will probably cheat and read an extra science fiction or fantasy novel here and there.
- Pro: I end up reading a better balance of fiction and non-fiction books.
- Pro: My mind is expanded by reading book I keep putting off to read.
- Pro: By reading more widely, I become a better writer.
- Con: If you like to just read for pleasure and not worry about reading across the genres, then this method would probably feel too constricting.
- Con: You only get to read your favorite genres when they come around. But, as I mentioned earlier, I will probably cheat a little.
It’s simple. It’s effective.