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?


5 Responses to Balancing My Personal Reading

  1. Caitlin Vanasse Aug 2 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    I totally agree about switching up the general category of what you’re reading when you feel you’re in a slump. Recently I found I was dragging myself through a YA fantasy book so I put it on hold and read a non-fiction book to sort of re-charge. Now I’m picking the first book back up and already it’s going much better.

    I also find that reading those books my trusted book-friends have been shoving on me is a good way to jump-start when I’m feeling burned out. Sometimes for whatever reason I won’t feel like picking a particular book up on my own but then someone will ask me to trust them and just read it. 89% of the time I’m seriously rewarded for this and going in with few expectations can make the book’s reward even better.

    • thejordache Aug 2 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      I love reading books recommended by my friends who really know my tastes. It gets me excited before I’ve even read a page. I always turn to my friends when I find myself in a reading slump.

      • Cailtin Vanasse Aug 2 2013 at 5:06 pm #

        Definitely, plus I’m terrible at describing books in an exciting way so if I listen to their recommendations they’re more likely to listen to mine even if I don’t articulate them well. Plus, built in people to discuss/agonize over books with. Bookish friends are the best.

  2. Lauren Aug 4 2013 at 11:08 am #

    I keep a personal list, too! Though not nearly as detailed, I’ve kept a journal of every book i’ve read since 2005. It just lists the title and author, but, like you, I like going back and seeing how long it’s been since I’ve read an adult book, a YA book, a mystery,etc. It’ll help me recharge, and not get burnt out on reading the same topic or category or genre.

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