My reading life during graduate school suffered in many important ways. I felt no freedom, and I had to be really careful about how I approached my course reading. Because I had to specialize, I missed out on so many other areas and fields of literature that I just didn't have time to study. In other words, my reading was necessarily restricted, and you couldn't call it diverse at all. There was a time I really think I started "thinking in Victorian," as I called it. Sure, it got me through my dissertation and all, but it was all a little too much after a certain point!
In any case, I recently was reminded of this time during my life. A friend of mine is graduating, and she, too, is excited to finally read things she has put off for a long time. As we discussed her newly found freedom, I started thinking about all of the things I have read since graduation. As I ticked off the books on my list, I was a bit horrified to realize that my reading life has entered a new kind of rut. I decided right then and there to change my reading habits to include a more diverse selection of writers and subject matter.
Then, perhaps in some kind of crazy universe-inspired synchronicity, I started binge listening to several Book Riot podcasts, and there were lots of great episodes centered around the site's efforts to help readers make their reading selections more diverse. Their conversations challenged my reading habits and their recommendations drove me to run to the library and grab books by several "new-to-me" authors.
Book Riot's website and podcast have some great posts and episodes about diversity in the publishing world and how to make a conscious decision to read more authors of different backgrounds. You really should check out their FAQ and recommendations. I was pleased to find that one of their writers is Swapna Krishna, a blogger I had read for years, and she has some great ideas about diversifying your reading. (She still runs her blog, too.) Also, a quick Google search will also help you to find more diverse selections. There are several Goodreads and Amazon lists, and lots of librarians have put together amazing recommendation guides.
You can consider all kinds of aspects when it comes to diversifying your reading. You can choose to read more authors of different races than your own. Or, you can choose books by authors from different countries or genders or backgrounds. Also, you can diversify your reading by experimenting with books from different genres than you usually read--or even a different sub-genre.
*Whatever route you choose, you are sure to enrich
your reading and writing life by stepping out of the box.*
I place this in bold, because I really believe it is true. Diversifying your reading, of course, makes you a stronger reader and better observer of your world, but it also can be a great way to inspire you as a writer and a great way to energize your writing. I know that when I get stuck in a reading pattern--as much as I may love a particular author or genre--eventually my reading stops activating my imagination. But picking up a new book by an author with a totally different perspective than I am used to or a book in a genre I know nothing about really does wonders for my writing and energy level. I get excited about trying new things in my writing and exploring new topics.
So try something new every now and then! It has been a great experience for me, and I think it will be for you as well. And don't get discouraged if what you pick up the first time doesn't do the trick. Go to the library and check out several books at once. That way, if one just doesn't do it for you, you can always try something else. Being conscious about diversifying my reading has really made a big difference in just about every area of my life!
Susan Sierra is a historical and contemporary romance writer. She loves books and old letters, adores her dog and family, and has a deep and committed love affair with coffee. She spent time as an undergraduate studying (having fun) in Mexico, went on to work for a large regional magazine as a copyeditor, and then decided that she hadn’t tortured herself enough in life...so she went to graduate school. After many years, she walked away with a PhD and an unhealthy relationship with Charles Dickens. She hopes to complete her first full-length novel in 2015. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!