‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ – Proust
I’m a writer because I was a reader first. I’ve been reading for my entire life and books are my greatest love. I’ve studied and worked in publishing for a few years now, and haven’t been able to read much for myself. I have read a great deal of authors’ manuscripts and edited manuscripts. I spent the last several months reading journalism, information, textbooks, and nonfiction regarding disability. It’s actually been ages since I’ve read something for myself, and simply for the joy of reading.
I came home from London in early 2014 with an entire new suitcase crammed full of books that I’d been gifted with while interning for Bloomsbury and Picador. Last week, I went through that gigantic pile of books and pulled out several titles I wanted to read through 2015. My goal is to finish my own manuscript, and I realized that I needed to strengthen my writing by reading more, and allowing myself the time and the space to once again see literature as a learning experience and a love.
I started with a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages: Meeting The English by Kate Clanchy. It’s gorgeously poetic and compulsively readable; I would have devoured the entire thing in one sitting had my sister not torn me away from it so we could go out for breakfast. I realized that, in not reading fiction, I had deprived myself of happiness and fulfillment that is as basic as the need for food, exercise, and sleep.
I have been fighting to finish a work of narrative nonfiction for five years. For the last several months, I was immersed in nonfiction and information, believing that it would better my writing because I was reading work similar in nature to the work I wished to write. In reading a work of fiction and realizing how fundamental it is to my own well-being, I realized that my writing will also improve if I read beyond my chosen genre and work that is comparable to the work I wish to write. I can’t just ‘think like my intended audience’ or focus only on comparable work. I have to be more open to dissimilar work – or a more omnivorous literary diet – in order to better my writing, broaden my perspective, and simply make me a happier person.
Crime writers have to be well-versed in their genre. They have to understand the tone, pacing, and narrative style specific to work that is classified as crime or thriller. It would also benefit them to read sci fi, narrative nonfiction, and literary fiction. It gives a depth of understanding that would be vastly limited if they stayed strictly within their own genres, and it is bound to bring forth new ideas and perspectives that they wouldn’t have otherwise known or experienced.
I don’t typically make resolutions each year, but I intend to read more for myself, to make more time to read, and to focus on fiction. I bought many works of fiction last year that I didn’t read because I had neither the time or the energy. I intend, this year, to read all of them. I will read Eleanor Catton, Sarah Waters, Dave Eggers, Tim Winton, Kent Haruf, Michael Cunningham, Charlotte Mendelson, David Foster Wallace, Liza Klaussmann, and Haruki Murakami. I will be a happier person and a better writer for it.