Category Archives: Ebooks

An Editor Rediscovers the Joy of Reading

By Chris Zook

eReaderAs much as many of us would sooner forget 2016, I will always remember it as the year I rediscovered the joy of reading. That probably sounds odd coming from a professional editor. But before this year, reading was primarily a means for pursuing my joy of learning or something I did as part of my job; that is, not an activity I necessarily enjoyed for its own sake. I’ve, of course, loved many, many books over the years, particularly those that inspired me and helped me become a better person. And I’ve always enjoyed learning about language and grammar.

It wasn’t until February of last year, however, that I feel I became a reader (of fiction, in particular) and began anticipating my next free moment for reading—and not solely because whatever I happened to be reading was so binge-worthy. So, similar to what Katie Barry discussed in her recent blog post about joining a book club, I’ve expanded my reading horizons in ways that my work and marketability as an editor can only stand to benefit from.

How My Reading Habits Evolved

For most of my adult life, starting with graduate school, reading fiction seemed like an unproductive use of my time: when I read, the material needed to be educational in some way, be it for my academic studies, self-improvement, health, or professional development. If I wanted to be entertained, there were plenty of two-hour movies that would get the job done in much less time. Not to mention that constantly reading for school or work made me less inclined to want to spend any more time reading when I wasn’t “on the clock.”

The few times over the previous 25 years that I did read fiction, it was because I was interested in a particular book’s message or because I was in a situation where I couldn’t do anything else, like sitting on an airplane or train (pre-smartphone era, of course).

What changed? The process started a few years ago with book recommendations from a longtime author-client and mentor, who is a voracious reader. During our meetings, he would sometimes hand me a nonfiction book that read like an adventure story, such as Born to Run and Into Thin Air. When he started recommending novels he enjoyed “just for fun,” out of my respect for him as a knowledgeable reader, I decided to give them a shot.

After my client retired from writing three years ago, I was no longer in regular contact and getting his latest book recommendations. At that point, my concept of reading fiction mainly revolved around books tied to a favorite movie or TV series. And I still hadn’t developed a regular pleasure-reading habit. In fact, it took me the next two years to read the five-book A Song of Fire and Ice series (aka A Game of Thrones), thinking it was quite an accomplishment at the time. But once I had completed it, I was left wondering what to read next.

Two months later, I finally got around to visiting a favorite used bookstore (whose fiction section I had never bothered to look at). There, I discovered a number of new series in the science fiction/fantasy section, including three by an author whose books I had read quite a bit of when I was a teen. Thinking back on my teen years, I realized that was probably the last time I experienced the joy of reading for its own sake.

Due to the used bookstore’s incomplete inventory of some series, I quickly rediscovered a venerable institution that had dropped off my radar: the public library system. This opened up an even larger world for me—one filled with three decades’ worth of award-winning titles in my favorite genre, as well as recent literary fiction, classics I had never gotten around to, graphic novels, and a surprisingly expansive (and free!) collection of ebooks and audiobooks.

As I watch my Goodreads “To Read” shelf steadily grow, for the first time in my life, I feel like there isn’t enough time in the day for reading. And as an added bonus, whenever I sit down with a book, I know I’m developing myself professionally—to one day break into editing fiction, which I’ve only done on a very limited basis thus far, and mainly for friends. However, this kind of reading never feels like work, even when I’m looking up a word I don’t know or highlighting a typo, plot hole, or inconsistency in my e-reader. Ultimately, I may very well be in the process of reinventing myself (at least as an editor) by doing something I love—a common refrain of many of the self-improvement books I've read over the years.

My Book Club: Start-Up Basics and Personal Benefits

By Katie Barry

book-club-reading-cropEarlier this year a group of my neighbors and coworkers formed a book club. We weren’t entirely sure what a “book club” would mean for us; only one person had ever been in one. I read all the time, so I joined primarily as a way to get to know these women better (our group happens to be all women). I got much more out of it than I expected.

Here are some defining elements of our book club:

  • There are six of us. The group isn’t too big nor too small. We can all participate in conversations, but still enjoy breakout moments in smaller groupings.
  • The evening’s host picks the book. As not everyone likes to read in print format, we look for books that can accommodate everyone’s reading preference (e.g., Kindle and audiobook format).
  • We read both fiction and nonfiction. We didn’t set any guidelines beyond the host making the choice, but in the past six months, fiction choices have outpaced nonfiction by 2:1.
  • We meet at 6 p.m., with the evening’s host providing a main dish and beverages. The rest of the book club members fill in the blanks with appetizers, salads, desserts, and more drinks!
  • Our actual discussion time ranges from just a few minutes to longer periods for a more in-depth exploration of the characters and themes. Some months we talk more and some months we talk less depending upon how the book—and the evening—moves us.
  • We meet monthly, generally on a mid-month Monday.

What’s been fun for me is reading outside my norm. During the day, I edit nonfiction; think marketing collateral (e.g., advertisements, press releases, executive summaries), business (e.g., leadership, technical), and educational content. In the evenings, when I primarily read for pleasure, my taste tends toward mysteries and novels, with a good biography now and then. This book club has moved me beyond my comfort zone into novels and a memoir that I wouldn’t have selected—and I’m the better for it!

In case you need some inspiration for your reading or your book club’s next choice, here are my book club’s selections thus far:

  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
  • Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

I’ve always enjoyed reading, and as much as a cozy mystery is right up my alley and a variety of news magazines keep me engaged in the world, I’ve been in a reading rut. (It’s a quite enjoyable rut, but a rut nonetheless.) My book club partners expand my horizons, which I feel is improving my ability to read and synthesize information, making me a more versatile editor.

Ours is an informal group and suits us. But there are many other ways to approach running a book club. Some other common books club elements include the following:

  • Invite a guest who is somehow related to the book or topic. Take the discussion beyond the book itself.
  • Be prepared to disinvite a member who dominates choices or discussion. Mixing a number of personalities is a crap shoot—the first grouping won’t always be the best grouping.
  • Take turns so that each person is ensured time to have his or her say.
  • Meet outside a home—consider a library or church with meeting rooms.
  • Make use of book club question/discussion prompts provided by certain titles—check online if they aren’t included in the version at hand.

Have you been part of a book club? Do you find it’s changed your reading habits? Has it improved your writing and editing skills? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

 

Click the following links to read other blogs by Katie Barry: