Sunday, June 3, 2012


NOTE: This is not another post about writing a book in a week.  I'm not that skilled/ambitious.  You can find Stefan Milicevic’s excellent post about that here.

A few months ago I moved.  It was only twenty miles away, but it upset the delicate balance of my life enough that I lost track of some of my more established routines.  The one that has had the biggest impact on my life was my book-a-week regimen.

I started the book-a-week deal after being told for the umpteenth time how I “need to read a lot if I wanted to be a writer.”  It was my New Year's resolution, and for the first few weeks I thought it was going to be a total flop, like my resolution to finally ride an upside down roller coaster.  (That's just not going to happen, people.  I was not mean to be flipped upside down in a plastic chair, a good seventy-five feet above a questionable greenish-black pool, probably full of other people's vomit and sun glasses.)
At first I went overboard with the reading thing.  I was so absorbed in reading that I stopped writing.  That was almost a physical pain, like I'd cut off my own hand.  So I stopped reading altogether, and that was just as bad.  I opted for middle ground after that.  I went to the store, bought a journal, and made a list.  Books I’d always wanted to read (A Wrinkle in Time, Persuasions, Ender’s Game, The Host) and some that I had practically no interest in at all (pretty much anything by Charles Dickens.)  I wrote out the rules on the inside cover of the journal to remind me what I was supposed to be doing.
The Rules:
  • No Re-reads.  If I've read it before, it doesn't count.
  • No skipping pages to get to the good parts.  (No skipping to the end, either.  Sigh.)
  • No banking books to skip weeks.  (I did make exceptions to this one when I went on vacation.)
  • No book snobbery.  Every genre is fair game, and in fact, encouraged.
  • Take lots of notes.
Then I went to it.  I collected my highlighters, got my books together, and picked a title off the list.  I gave myself a couple hours each day to get my reading in, usually at night after everyone else went to bed.  I approached it the way I would have if I were expected to write an essay on the book, keeping detailed notes in my journal (and in the margins of the books themselves, which is probably why my friends don’t ask to borrow books from me anymore.)

I read everything.  Classic literature.  Middle grade readers.  Young adult.  Steampunk.  Horror.  Romance.  Sci-fi.  Epic fantasy.  (Yes, even Charles Dickens.)  I traded back and forth through genres to keep things fresh.  I saved quotes.  I earmarked pages.  I cracked spines like a literary chiropractor.  I did my best to keep from breaking my own rules.  It was probably the best education I, as a writer, could have asked for.

And then came the move.  I lost track of my books.  It took a week to unpack them, and several more to figure out where to put them all.  My husband bought me a Kindle to help keep me on track, but it’s not easy to get back into something once you’re out of practice.  There’s a thousand excuses.  TV, Facebook, and I’ll be honest, playing video games with my son are probably my biggest distractions.  We’ve decided to take more trips to the park, which is better for both of us.  So I’m going for it.  I’m hitting the books hard.  Well, at least once a week.

I’m curious to know if anyone else out there has a book schedule they adhere to, and if so, what it entails.


  1. I haven't had a book schedule in a while, but shortly after graduating college, I went on a classics bent - reading all of the stories we didn't cover in high school. Hemingway, Dickens, Alice Walker, F. Scott Fitzgerald... Some I loved, some (Dickens, Fitzgerald) I strongly disliked.

    Ever since then, the only schedule I really follow is to try to read the occasional classic I didn't get to back then. I read Cannery Row while I was working the Gulf Oil Spill a few years ago, and a strange little book called In Watermelon Sugar while I was in training in Denver last year.

    What's been your favorite book so far that you didn't expect to love?

    1. I enjoyed The Host a lot more than I expected to, and Little Dorrit wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I also discovered that Lois Lowry (author of The Giver) wrote two follow-ups called Gathering Blue, and The Messenger. They are by far my favorite books I've read this year. (Anyone thinking of reading the books, make sure you read them in order!) Oh, and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. She single handedly usurped Jane Austin's place as number one period writer. That was a huge surprise!

  2. I don't have a book schedule...but I'm starting one tomorrow. This is such an excellent idea! I tend to binge (in the last two weeks I've read A Great and Terrible Beauty, Bitterblue, Red Glove, Black Heart and the Riddle Master of Hed trilogy (again) - a little overkill there).

    The idea of a journal is just genius. How do you like your kindle as far as notes and highlighting goes?

    Oh, and I love the North and South movie on Netflix. Guess I'll have to check out the book. Thanks for the great post.

    1. I'll admit, I'm a Kindle fan. (I wasn't always, but I've come around.) The highlight feature is great. You can take notes, too, though I still like to use my journal for that. It automatically saves your page, and updates on other devices (like your computer or your phone) which is pretty handy. A warning: the Kindle Fire's screen is really bright. My husband hates this feature because I like to read in bed at night, though I'm pretty sure my optometrist loves it.

  3. Great post, and great idea to make reading goals/schedules.

    I'm a feast or famine type reader. I read a lot for a few weeks, then I take a break (because I've neglected house and kids too much during my reading bender), then I get excited to read a new book and it all starts up again. It is really inconsistent.

    @Susan, I have Red Glove in my TBR pile. How was it? I loved White Cat.

    1. Red Glove, and the next in the series, Black Heart were great. Holly Black does such an excellent job with character growth (ALL of those characters - what an ensemble!). I read somewhere it hasn't been as popular with YA readers, and I'm not sure why not (male protag when most of her stuff is more paranormal romance?) - it's my favorite of her things that I've read.

  4. I don't keep a book reading schedule, because no one (husband) needs any evidence of how many books I read. Also reading is rebelling for me, so if I schedule it, it takes the rebelliousness out of it.

    This sounds like a good idea though to keep my reading at a moderation. I can either write or read, I can't do both at the same time.

    Anyway, great post!

    1. What do you mean you can't read and write at the same time? Are you implying that you can only do one thing at a time like us mere mortals? You are destroying my superwoman image of you. :)

  5. I haven't thought to keep a schedule. The closest I come to it is that I add books occasionally to my to-read list at Goodreads. I kind of read on a whim. I read if I find something tempting at the library, or a blog mentions an intriguing book, or I just see a book I want to buy. I probably should make a schedule because then I might actually fit in more of the books I really want to read and not be so impulsive.

  6. I used to try (and fail) to keep my reading to one book a week. Now I'm lucky if I read a book a month, and I can hardly believe it. I've got no idea what happened, but I plan to fix it this summer. I love this idea. Great post!


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