Balancing My Personal Reading
Last December, I was called for jury duty. While being interviewed for the jury I had this exchange with one of the lawyers:
"So you're a children's book editor? I guess that means your reading tastes are picture books and other books for kids?"
"Not exactly... While I do read a lot of books for children, many of the books I read are horror or dark psychological thrillers, with occasional memoir thrown in for fun."
I got some strange looks.
This is a pretty common occurrence when I meet someone who doesn't work in the industry. The fact is that while I love reading great middle grade and YA, I long for the times I can sink my teeth into a great book that would be totally inappropriate for an 11 year old to read.
Two years ago I decided to keep track of all of the books I read in a massive spreadsheet. My own personal Goodreads library! I originally created it simply to have an easy (and private!) way to rate and remember the books I read each year. I sort books by age range, genre, ebook vs. traditional, free/galley, and personal ratings. As the spreadsheet grew, I started to notice trends and that would help me select the next book to read. I noticed that I tend to read in chunks. 5 adult thrillers, followed by 4 feel-good middle grade novels, etc.
Whenever I find myself in a reading slump, I take a look at the spreadsheet and look for a kind of book that differed from my most recently read books. If I'm feeling burnt out on psychological thrillers, I can look at my spreadsheet and see that it's been 10 books since I read a middle grade novel, so I try and find a book that fills that slot. I also keep a "to-read" list at the bottom of the spreadsheet to give me ideas for what to read next.
What does my spreadsheet for this year look like? I spend a lot of time reading comp titles for my books and reading to keep up with publishing trends. I try to read a good chunk of Newbery contenders each year. This summer I'm spending most of my free time reading the many books that have "This year's GONE GIRL" written somewhere in the cover copy (and there are a LOT! I'm currently recommending Reconstructing Amelia). Every now and then I throw in some non-fiction to mix it up. I'm a sucker for memoirs written by celebrity chefs. What can I say? I love the Food Network!
I love that my job allows me to read wonderful books for children and teens. They are some of the most well-written and enjoyable books I read, but I love when I can read something totally different to mix it up!
How do you handle reading slumps? Do you try to balance the age ranges and genres you read?