Nobody has more fun reading than a writer does

I’d say the number one pleasure of a writing career is that you’re allowed to read whatever you want and however you want.

This is a freedom that theoretically exists for every educated person with access to a good library system, but in truth most people are fettered. If your profession involves reading books, whether you’re a critic, professor, publishing industry professional, or teacher, then reading is work. Moreover, all reading-related professions come with specific reading modalities. You need to read like a critic, read like an editor, or read like a teacher.

And if you don’t work with books at all, then you have the opposite feeling: the sense that all your reading is somehow wasteful or unproductive.

Writers have it the best. The secret to being a writer is you don’t need to read books. There are LOTS of writers who never read anything. They used to read, sure, back when they were in their twenties, but ever since they started working professionally, they’ve lost their taste for it. Continually reading other peoples’ work is not a necessary part of a writing career. If you put in ten or fifteen years of reading, then that’s probably good enough.

But of course, most writers do read widely. And the really fun thing is you can read whatever you want, however you want. When I read I don’t need to take margin notes or do close reading or even remember the plot. I can read purely for enjoyment, just like someone who’s not in the biz. But my reading also carries a sense of purpose. It’s incredible.

I say this because I have a list of about 1800 books that I’ve read since 2009, and right now I’m going through and adding ISBN numbers to the list so that it can be readily imported into Goodreads and other book recommendation engines. And in the process, I’m remembering so much about all these books that I’ve read! Like that fall when I read all the classic noir authors (Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, James Cain, David Goodis, etc). Or the summer I read all the German authors. Or when I first encountered Gone Girl or A Simple Plan or Jo Walton’s Farthing. Just so many memories. It’s astonishing how long ago some of these experiences were. I’ve only read some of these books one time in my life, but they’re still so fresh in my memory.

It just really makes me happy. And this is only ten years of reading! Actually I’m only up to 2013 in my reading, so right now it’s only four years of reading! Knowledge really is a form of riches that you build up over time.

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