It's said over and over again... Writers read. But, just how true is it? We went to a group of published authors and asked them to get real about just how often they pick up a book and read (and how and when they do that).
How often do you actually read? (Not wish you read, or would like to have readers think you read, but actually, truly read.) How often do you read a book, as opposed to smaller options like newspapers or magazines?
Bill Craig: I still read 5-7 books a week while writing and being a father and single parent with custody and taking care of house and cooking and cleaning...
Selah Janel: All the time. Literally, all the time. I tend to read as a comfort thing, and there are times I have to pry myself away to make sure I'm working on everything I need to be. I don't know if I have a Faust complex or what, but the thought that there's just so much out there to learn and experience is endlessly fascinating to me. Plus, as an author, I think it's really arrogant to want people to read my work without knowing what has contributed to the genres I write in, and at least try to keep up with what's around me. Depending on the time of year, I probably read at least a book a week, probably on average of three to five if I'm not doing a ton else. I read seven this past weekend. Granted, I fly through graphic novels and things like that really fast, but I'm a dedicated reader.
Danielle Procter Piper: Whenever I have free time. I read far more than I watch TV. I keep several books in my vehicle to read and a small stack beside the bed. I've had up to 15 books laying around partially read at any given time and could pick one up and remember what page I left off on without using a placeholder of any kind. Lately I usually have only three or four waiting for me to finish reading, and that's not including comic books.
Tamara Lowery: Not counting news stories and social media posts, I don't read nearly as much as I used to. I take a writing break a couple of times each year, usually when the story just isn't flowing anyway, and dive into my TBR pile.
Elizabeth Donald: I read vast amounts every day, since my job as a reporter requires it. Mostly news articles, government reports, news analysis, etc. Once upon a time I read an analysis that showed humans are reading more than ever before, thanks to the internet. (How much of that means greater understanding of the world or just noise is open to interpretation.) I read much fewer books, unfortunately, due to the hours of the day. Fiction novels are my reading of choice, but it takes me a lot longer than it once did to get through a book, because I get sleepy pretty fast.
Amanda Niehaus-Hard: Fiction? I read some bit of fiction very day. I had a teacher tell me to read a short story a day, every day, and this has been my practice. At minimum, I read one short story. When I’m exhausted, I’ll pick a random story from the New Yorker archive and read that without trying to analyze it. I also try to listen to the weekly New Yorker fiction podcasts so I get a better sense of how language sounds read aloud. I read in and out of my genre, but I tend to read mostly literary fiction and horror.
I very rarely read novels anymore since I’m focused on short fiction, but when I do, I read more novels in the summer when the kids can play outside. Sometimes I’ll listen to popular fiction audio books while I’m working out. I’ll read story collections on weekends. I don’t really read newspapers or magazines other than the fiction in the major magazines, but I do enjoy reading creative nonfiction. I usually just get the Best American Essays and read one of those collections through over a few months.
Kevin Noel Olson: I'm fairly regular about reading. I usually have five books going at once, though I won't necessarily finish them all. Currently, two non-fiction books and one sizable anthology. I have read five Radium Age novellas this month off the internet.
Andrew Salmon: I read every day! Without fail! As I'm preparing a lot of historical series and novels, the bulk of my reading is research related. As anyone who knows me can attest, I LOVE to do research. Absolutely LOVE IT! But I still squeeze in novels, shorts s tories and comics for my "leisure" reading. I put that in quotes because no writer can read for pure leisure. Great fiction, or non-fiction, can spark an idea, remind you of something you wanted to revise in your own work, etc.
Kristi Morgan: I read every day. I take a book with me everywhere I go. When I have free time I read. I have tried ebooks but I dont like them. Not only do they tire my eyes out, I just like the smell of a real book. I used to go to bookstores and spend way too much money, and also buy used whenever I could but lately my books have all been sent to me free since I do reviews. It has been a while since I actually paid for a book.
Van Allen Plexico: I read all the time. Novels, nonfiction, articles, papers. All kinds-- SF, crime and detective, spy, history, politics, etc. Because I want to, not because I feel I'm "supposed" to. But I can't imagine any writer not reading a lot. It would be like being a chef without ever eating food. It's critical to having a solid grasp of how to string together words, phrases and sentences in attractive ways, as well as gaining and developing an intuitive sense of how a narrative is structured.
I keep a nonfiction book open on my desk at work (currently THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON: PASSAGE OF POWER by Robert Caro) and read it whenever I have a spare moment.
Ralph Angelo, Jr.: I read a half hour a day , 3 days a week as well as a few minutes each night. I use dto read a lot more a year or so back, but things have gotten complicated.
Bobby Nash: I read something every day. I don't get to read as much as I used to because if the responsibilities of being an adult and all that, but I read novels, comic books, and short stories on a fairly regular basis. I also read for work, but that uses a different part of the brain. I still enjoy getting lost in a good book.
M. B. Weston: I read a lot each day, but intermittently. Most of what I read is news articles.
Gordon Dymowski: I read every day - I've been trying in get into the habit of taking some quiet time to read. Usually, it's an hour to an hour and a half, and focused mainly on books. Newspapers and magazines are usually a once-a-week indulgence. (It also helps that my apartment is a ten minute walk from the local library, so even when I'm concentrating on work or research....I can grab time to scan the shelves and/or catch up on periodicals).
Ruth de Jauregui: Take a book to bed with me every night. Have one in my purse, so wherever I am, I can take in a few pages. I read a minimum of a book a week, and usually more. Plus reading articles and stuff online.
Jen Mulvihill: I probably get some reading done maybe 2 to 3 times a week about 20 minutes at least each time maybe more sometimes.
Terri Smiles: I average 2-3 articles on some topic per day, but also read fiction almost everyday. Sometimes the fiction is only 10 minutes or so, but I'm pretty consistent about reading some of a novel everyday.
Mark Bousquet: Ironically or conveniently, I talked about this a bit the other day on my blog. The idea that reading makes you a better writer is a good one, but at some level this idea relies on osmosis. That is, that just by reading more and more we'll gain knowledge about genre or story or characters. For me, it's not enough to just read. I have to go the next step and pull apart the thing I'm reading, and break it down scene by scene to see the nuts and bolts of how writers put their stories together. Then I gave an example of what I meant: http://themarkbousquet.com/2016/03/09/behind-the-typewriter-breaking-down-hinterland/
I write more than I read. I might read three books one week and then not finish the next one for a few weeks. I've usually got a fiction read and a non-fiction book going, but most of my reading time is taken up by research.
Nancy Hansen: I read for pleasure just about every day. I am primarily a novel or how-to book reader, though I will glance at a newspaper or magazine article that catches my eye.
Melissa Gilbert: I read at least a few pages of a book every day.
James Ray Tuck, Jr: I always have at least one book going at a time. Usually one print and one ebook. I also read 3-10 comic books a week (on Wednesday!) and usually about every 3rd or 4th book is a graphic novel. I read approx 60+ books a year. I buy approx 247 books a year. Not including comics, magazines, and graphic novels.
Darin Kennedy: I once read voraciously, but between writing, editing, appearances, eating, sleeping, seeing girlfriend/family/friends, and the 8-6 day job, reading has unfortunately been edged out. Trying to recalibrate to reincorporate reading back in, but for now, writing the new book has priority.
Alexandra Christian: I have had to force myself to find the time to read.
Where and how do you do most of your reading? Do you set aside time for a long read before bed, for example? Or do you snag the time available with an e-book while taking a kid to the dentist or on a break from a day job?
Ralph Angelo, Jr.: When I’m walking the treadmill at the gym. Most nights I read for a few minutes before bed as well.
Mark Bousquet: I don't set aside time for reading. If I'm reading a story I like, I find time to read it. When I was taking the train in to work, that was 1.5 hours, each way, that was largely devoted to reading, since the train was too bouncy to write.
Nancy Hansen: I have a Kindle Paperwhite and a Fire, so for recreational reading, I read in bed most of the time. I try and get to bed early enough so that I have time to finish a couple of chapters or a short story in an anthology. Most of the appointments I go to these days are my own, so the E-reader stays home. I might grab a magazine that interests me and page through it until I get called in. My day job is writing and editing, so other than research online or poring through the occasional reference book, my reading is limited to what's on the screen waiting to be worked on. I tend to use the Paperwhite Kindle as my main E-reader, and the Fire is my backup (they can be synced). I like the color capability of the Fire for anything with graphics. It's especially handy for things like cookbooks or the occasional craft & crochet book, where having a picture to look at explains a lot of what is going on.
Terri Smiles: I read articles at my desk. If its nonfiction that I'm reading as background or ideas for a novel, I tend to read it in bed at night. For novels, I have a great big recliner in my office and set aside one afternoon per week for reading fiction, and otherwise, just pick up a book and read some wherever I am.
Andrew Salmon: I read at home. I'm a night owl and read until I can't keep my eyes open. This applies to research reading as well as that "leisure" reading mentioned above.
Elizabeth Donald: I read each night when I go to bed. The night job keeps me awake a lot later, so I'm pretty tired by the time I go to sleep and it's hard to get far before I doze off. I also keep ebooks on my iPad for doctor's offices, closed sessions and other devoutly dull moments. The hardest part is finding books that have the "hole in the paper," as Stephen King calls it. I find as I get older, my tastes are pickier. It's not so easy for me to just disappear into a book and forget the world as it was when I was a kid. I used to read every book I started, but as I get older, I find time is too precious to waste on a book that isn't grabbing me.
Tamara Lowery: When I read, I usually do it during work breaks, just as I do most of my writing during those times. It is easier to tune out coworkers than the myriad distractions at home. The majority of my reading for pleasure is of authors I follow and books I've picked up at conventions.
Amanda Niehaus-Hard: The daily short story I read after my son is in bed. It’s my evening wind-down. Sometimes I can read during the day, but I tend to “binge” read on weekends or holidays, when I can get the family to leave me alone for an hour or two. I’ve tried reading while running or working out on cardio machines, but it’s usually easier to listen to audio books. I will use my tablet to read in bed sometimes, but I try not to do that because I end up staying up all night.
Jen Mulvihill: If I am reading it's at night in bed before I go to sleep. However, If I am smart enough to remember to get an audio book then I "read/listen" twice a day 5 days a week for 20 minutes. Basically between home and work. If I am on a roadtrip to a convention I will get 3 to to 30 hours reading time in depending on how far I have to drive.
Gordon Dymowski: Most of my reading takes place in transit - if I'm freelancing from an office downtown, or I'm heading out to appointments, I'm carrying around my e-reader. I also try to set aside an hour either early in the morning or (more likely) in the evening - reading is a great way to wind down and relax. And if I can grab some time in between work tasks....I'm reading.
Alexandra Christian: Now, I make it a point to read every night in the bathtub for about an hour (yes, I take long baths. DON'T JUDGE ME!!).
Kevin Noel Olson: I read most of my reading at home. In the early morning and right before bedtime.
Bobby Nash: I read on my lunch break, in the bathroom, or whenever I can snag some free time. I work it in where I can.
Van Allen Plexico: Any and all opportunities. I've read before going to bed every single night for as long as I can remember, since at least kindergarten. I cannot remember the last day I didn't read part of a fiction book at some point during the day, and I can probably count the total number of days in my life that I haven't read something at all during the day on one hand, since learning how to read. Unfortunately I usually fall asleep pretty quickly when reading before bed. But if a book really has my attention, I can stay awake longer with it, and I can find times to read it during the day.
Selah Janel: It depends on the genre. Some books are definite before bed books, and others I prefer to be more focused. Cozy mysteries and chick lit tend to be before bed, and things like nonfiction or action-heavy stuff is during the weekend or on a free evening. Granted, all bets are off if I've just come home from a library run. I try to keep smaller books at hand if I've got appointments, and I keep up with news articles and the like when I've got breaks throughout the day.
James Ray Tuck, Jr: I'm a dude. Books are flagged. And I read in bed at night when its ridiculous to still be awake so I am winding down.
M. B. Weston: I use my iPhone and check out articles throughout the day.
Melissa Gilbert: I read for 30-60 minutes in bed and 15-20 minutes in the school pickup line and whenever I have a spare few minutes.
Danielle Procter Piper: I do most of my reading before work in my vehicle, before the morning meeting begins, between lunch and our afternoon meeting, then again at the end of the day before I clock out if I have a spare minute or two. If I'm partnered with someone during work, I'll read while they use the bathroom or enter a store to get a drink or snack, or while they've gone to drop off paperwork and pick up more. I also try to read at least one chapter of a book before bed every night.
What percentage of your reading is printed books? What percentage is using digital formats? Do find having options like digital give you more opportunities to indulge in reading?
Mark Bousquet: Almost all my reading is digital these days. I love the convenience of the Kindle and as much as I miss that old paper smell, the clean white screen and readable type more than makes up for it.
Gordon Dymowski: Since I live near a library (and can get books via interlibrary loan), I would say that half of my reading is printed, half is ebook. (Research finds that many people who are heavy readers tend to split between the two media). I like e-books - they're available, easy to use, and take up much less space than traditional printed books (For those who claim that it's "just not like" traditional paper books, the right tablet - mine is an Android Nextbook - plus the right cover can come *really* darn close). I also find that I can get free ebooks (thanks, Manybooks.net!) and cheaper out-of-print options that allow me to expand my reading options without breaking the bank. It's also nice to be able to have a ton of books in one place, and that if one e-book is boring, I can switch to another with a swipe of the finger.
Melissa Gilbert: I generally read on my kindle because it's easier reading at night with the lights off. And it's portable the next day on my phone. I read paper books for a lot of my work stuff. Fun reading is almost entirely digital.
(And for those who prefer "real, printed books"....yes, I read those, too. I'm not so snobbish as to deny the power of technology, but I am snobbish about the fact that I enjoy reading. In the evenings, I prefer to be totally unplugged, so I'll be reading from a traditional book).
Nancy Hansen: I'd read a lot more print books if I could actually make out the pale, thin, & small fonts. My eyesight is very poor and not correctable at this point, so I struggle with print books, magazines, and newspapers. I do better with an electronic device where I can adjust things to suit me. Plus, five years ago we downsized to a smaller home, so I don't have much storage room for books anymore. I love print books and always have, but they're heavy and take up a lot of space, so the lion's share of my recent purchases have been E-copies. I'm reading a lot more often these days than I was 10 years ago because of the E-readers. My Paperwhite is lightweight and backlit. I can adjust the brightness and the font size on it, and read without my glasses on, and it's very easy on my tired eyes. It's also limited for what you can do online, so there's little temptation to surf. Depending on what you buy, E-books can be a lot less expensive (or even free), which allows me to expand my library to things I might not consider buying in a paper format because of the price or the storage size. Generally speaking, nobody can yank out my bookmark, so that I lose my place and have to hunt for what page I left off on. Yeah, I'm a happy E-reader.
James Ray Tuck, Jr: I read about 2 print to 1 ebook, not including comics, magazines, and graphic novels as they are almost exclusively print and would skew the numbers. My ebook reading at night is short, hitting the sack reading.
Alexandra Christian: I rarely read magazines unless there's one lying around and I'm bored. I do a lot of digital reading for work, so probably about 40 percent is digital format.
Bobby Nash: Most of my reading for pleasure is printed books. This is mainly because the bulk of my reading/writing for work purposes is digital so even when I read an ebook for fun, my brain slips into editor mode out of habit. I don't have a problem with ebooks, but I prefer paper.
M. B. Weston: Probably 99 percent digital, but if I read fiction, it is a flesh and blood book.
Jennifer Nahrstadt: I read all the time, and I read printed books that I get on loan from my local library. I have one with me in the car and look forward to evening so that I can settle in with a good book. We have no television, and I don't miss it one bit.
Ralph Angelo, Jr.: Mostly kindle books, by far. Occasionally I’ll read a paperback. But for the most par, and I mean by a vast difference, I’m reading on the Kindle.
Darin Kennedy: When I do read, I prefer paper books, though I've done ebook and audiobook and enjoy those as well.
Terri Smiles: I read about two-thirds digital and 1/3 print. I prefer print, but I have been so disappointed with the last few traditional press novels I've read that I can't justify buying them unless they are free or deeply discounted - which typically means digital. I'm more inclined to buy books by indie authors in print. And, of course, it's easy to have digital books at my fingertips.Elizabeth Donald: I am reading fewer and fewer printed books, simply because the iPad is usually with me and, to be honest, it gives off its own light at night. It's funny how little things influence it; my bedside lamp is on the fritz, so I read more on the iPad because I won't have to get up to turn off the overhead light when I get sleepy. smile emoticon The iPad is wonderfully convenient, allowing me to have dozens of books at any particular time, so it definitely makes it easier to read whenever I want.
Van Allen Plexico: I've been able to read maybe three full novels on Kindle ever. Virtually everything I read is in print. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks. Particularly nonfiction audiobooks.
I think it is absolutely critical and vital for a writer who wants to be truly professional and who wants to create writing that in any way touches on "artistic" to absorb as much and as many kinds of writing as possible.
Danielle Procter Piper: Probably 95 percent of what I read is hand-held books. Most of them come from thrift shops, rarely do I pay for anything new. The only time I'm reading anything digital is when I peruse fanfiction maybe once every few months and read maybe half a dozen short stories. I do not own an ereader, although I have a Kindle app on my home computer. Once the average prices of eBooks went up, I stopped buying them.
Amanda Niehaus-Hard: Almost 95% of my reading is books. I have an old Kindle so I can read outside in bright light and a tablet with about a bazillion ebooks on it but I very rarely actually read a whole book on the tablet. If I don’t see the book sitting there on my desk I forget it exists. Having the kindle was wonderful when I first had the baby because I only needed one hand to read it, but I’m less interested in e-readers now.
Sometimes I’m really surprised by how many young writers tell me they don’t really read. To me, reading is the first step to learning how to write. I subscribe to the osmosis theory, which states that by reading, over and over again, excellent literature, at least some of that excellence will rub off. I know that if I’m struggling with some technical aspect, I can always find an answer to my problem in the Norton anthologies or any of Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror anthologies. To me, a writer who doesn’t read is like a musician who never practices scales. It’s just mind-boggling to me.
Kevin Noel Olson: Ninety-five percent or more of the material I read is in physical books and magazines, if I were to guess conservatively. I do read a lot off the internet, yet mostly short articles. I still haven't found a comfort zone with reading from a computer screen, and have no reading device. For the greater part, I only read from the internet if the material isn't available in a reasonably-priced, physical format.
Jen Mulvihill: So I have printed, Kindle and audio. Usually if I have purchased an autographed book I buy it on Kindle so I don't mess the book up.
Tamara Lowery: I haven't touched my poor Kindle in over a year, other than today to make sure the software upgrade is done so I can use it when I'm ready to. I've got about half as many books on it as I do dead tree versions on the floor surrounding my full bookcase.
Selah Janel: Probably 95 percent printed, I'd guess. I prefer it,it's what I grew up with, I find it more relaxing to look at a page than a screen. I do use my laptop and I have an ereader for comics I review, mainly because I only get those as files, and I've sprung for some e-book only titles I've really wanted. I think while digital may give more opportunities, I also still am really attached to the physical process of finding a book at a library, going to the new stacks and getting something because I like the look of it, then giving it a try, having the heft in my hand and physically flicking through the pages. I find myself more engage with print, and while I think e-readers are awesome for travel, for the experience alone I'm pro-print.
Andrew Salmon: Although I'm a big fan and reader of ebooks, the bulk of my reading is still the good ol' fashioned printed book. This is partly due to getting so much research material out of the library but also because the printed book is still my preferred method of reading. That said, I've read dozens of ebooks and have hundreds more on my tablet. It comes down to time in the end with all the research I have to do. I love both formats even if the scale is heavily weighted to one side.