How have your reading habits changed?

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

In the past few years, I’ve been drawn to books that I wouldn’t have been interested in when I was in my early-to-mid twenties. When I started as an agent with Books & Such, I was primarily interested in fiction and had a strong preference for YA books. I still enjoy reading YA stories and lots of other types of fiction, but I’ve found myself drawn more to nonfiction these days.

I love reading articles, and while I don’t follow a lot of blogs, I read and enjoy blog posts that friends share on Facebook or Twitter. I use my friends to screen the blogs for me because I could spend all day reading them. There are so many wonderful voices out there.

Many of the nonfiction books I pick up are Bible studies, mommy help books (I need all the help I can get!), and books about finding balance. I wear many hats, so I crave a solution on how to balance everything just right. Since I haven’t found the perfect solution in a book, I find solace in reading about others who are just doing the best they can–working hard each day.

My fiction reading has taken a turn toward the realistic. I still love a great fantasy, but I’m more likely to pick up a women’s fiction or a historical romance.

I think my preferences have changed because I’m in a different place in my life now than I was ten years ago and my needs that I want fulfilled through my reading are different because of it.

Have you had a similar experience? How have your reading habits changed over the last 5 -10 years?

Does what you’re reading affect what you are writing? Have your writing preferences changed as well?

If your reading/writing preferences haven’t evolved at all, why do you think that is?

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41 Comments

  • I used to read quite a bit of romances, but over time I’ve become drawn to classic literature. Austen, Anne Bronte, Gaskell, L. M. Montgomery, Alcott. Can’t get enough of it.

  • Lori Benton says:

    When I started seriously writing in my early-mid twenties, I was a fantasy reader (looking for another Lord of the Rings to capture my heart), and so that’s what I wrote. Time changed that for me too. Now I mostly read historical fiction, with a few contemporaries thrown in for variety. They could be women’s fiction, mysteries, YA, or CBA romance, or simply mainstream. I read a lot of nonfiction now for my writing research, historical and sometimes psychology.

    • I would dearly LOVE to read your earlier works!!
      The last book I read, for historical research, was a guide to Navajo herbal medicine. I was quite fascinated about (what I could to to people who annoy me) what I read. :)

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Thankfully we are allowed to read in more genres than we would want to write.

      I had no idea that you started out writing fantasy! That is so interesting!

  • Rachel, I have always leaned to nonfiction, especially when I was your age. I loved truth … anything related to God’s word … what could help me grow spiritually. Only when my daughter ran out of Cat Warrior books and I was finished with my own nonfiction book on surviving hardships (the Godly way) did I see it as a chance to branch out. My daughter needed something new to read, and I didn’t see anything good for her in the animal area she loves (she is 13, but loves animal stories)! So I have branched out to tween fiction … learning how to write there … but also discovering there are truths there, too. Truths intertwined in the non-truth. And I’ve found it fun to branch out to “anything can happen!” … not bound by truth. So a tree is possibly about to meet a tornado. Grin!

    By the way, I’m a far distance from Lifeway now … had a chance to recently get to a B&N, and everything in the teen section seemed so dark. Kid’s section … bright and beautiful, teen section … dark. I think there is a great need there. But would teen bright and beautiful be purchased?

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I agree with you about the need for more good teen reads. I don’t know if they would be purchased or not, but how can someone buy something that isn’t there? There might be interest, but the books aren’t available.

  • Interesting question -thanks for making me thing about it.

    I used to read a lot of Christian apologetics, from various authors, until I realized that I was just plowing over the same field in slightly different patterns.

    It wasn’t what I read that mattered – it was what I did with it. So I revisit C.S. Lewis occasionally, and call that part of my reading done.

    Otherwise, I read a lot of memoir and history. And good fiction!

    No balance books for me, unless someone can come up with an idea for balancing 26 dogs, writing, and reproducing parts for 70-year-old airplanes, all in the same day, every day.

    My writing has changed a little bit, but it’s more a maturing of style rather than a change in direction. Switching genres is not a great idea for a professional career, and I’m happy where I am.

  • Laura Frantz says:

    I read in the CBA and ABA as far as novels and always have but the bulk of my fiction consumption since publication are endorsements. My heart is really into the research of the historical I write otherwise. Currently I’m deep into the 18th-century reading diaries and letters of the time period. Rich and interesting and full of novel fodder:)

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post, Rachel.

    • Period specific research is critical in establishing the reader’s emotional connection to the story. In researching my work, I read Hampton Sides’ epic biography of Kit Carson, “Blood and Thunder”. Sides delves into the seemingly hypocritical and traitorous psyche of the 19th century military and civilian mindset, when one group was deemed as friendly, and another were labelled as disposable.

      I find is fascinating that in reading two books, The Colonel’s Lady, and Courting Morrow Little, the author has the reader empathizing with the British in one book, and the Colonial rebels in another. And in both books, the writer’s grasp of history, and evidence and depth of research, makes the reader all the more emotionally connected to the characters, the cause and the colours red and blue.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Many authors seem to really enjoy the research aspect of writing–whether they write fiction or nonfiction.

      I like that you read books from both CBA and ABA. I think that’s important so we can see the overlap and the differences in the books.

  • Angela Mills says:

    When I was 12, my favorite book was Gone With the Wind. I have always enjoyed classics, and easy reads, and chick-lit, and historical fiction, and YA novels. Maybe my tastes haven’t changed because they’ve always been so varied. The only thing I’ve never gotten into is sci-fi, so I should give that a chance!

    I, too, love nonfiction. I have only read the sample so far, but you might enjoy “Balancing it all,” by Candace Cameron Bure :)

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    Yes, my reading preferences change with my life too. I’ve always read a lot of non-fiction and still do, but my fiction reading is all over the place. Like lately I’ve been reading memoirs, mysteries, and ABA contemporary romances. About fifteen years ago, I started reading classics, too, and I still read one or two a year.

    Oh, I read a terrific book a few years ago (thanks, Sarah Sundin!!) called Making Work at Home Work by Mary M. Byers. It’s a goodie!

  • Hmmm…writing has changed my reading habits. I grew up on animal books, fiction and non-fiction. Then read a lot of Christian Romances and Historical Fiction. Lori Wick and Brock and Bodie Thoene. I took a writing class on how to write for children and they asked us to pick an age group and I picked teens because you could get away with more description. So I started reading YA, which I never really had before…and I loved it. That was twelve years ago and I still love YA. It is so fun and fast paced and can have depth and reality as well as fantasy and dreams. I love it! I also read some adult books from the CBA, and non-fiction about writing and research (historical stuff) but most of my reading is secular YA.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Interesting! I love how your writing influenced your reading. That one class changed your reading preferences long term. Wow.

      • I know, isn’t it weird. But I’m so so glad that I discovered YA even though I was 24 before I did. I absolutely love the wonderful books that have come into my life because of it.

  • What a neat post for a Friday, Rachel. My habits have definitely changed. Before I started blogging in 2007, I read mostly nonfiction about the Civil War and Lincoln. I still read some of those, but I’ve read mostly fiction for years. When I decided to write for children and my children were younger, I wrote and read a lot of picture books. While picture books are much easier to review, I’m trying to read more middle grade books now because I’m writing for that market right.

    I still, however, tend to stick with the same favorite genres: mystery, thriller, true crime, historical fiction and nonfiction. I don’t mind the occasional dystopian novel and I might read fantasy once or twice a year, but I stick with what I enjoy most.

    Hope you have a great weekend.

    • Cheryl, I’m glad you brought up picture books. Many of the picture books my daughter and I used to read possessed power in their simplicity, at times bringing me to tears.
      They can be nostalgic or poignant, but more often than not, full of morals that we want to highlight for our kids. I’ve find that they can incite thought provoking conversations that maybe would not have come up otherwise.

      Who of you remembers Little Bear, Peter Rabbit, Rosie & Michael, Harry the dirty dog, Max and his wild things, and the Nightmare’s in the closet?
      Unforgettable images and characters.
      Exactly what we want to write.

      • Jenni … I think that was one of the sweetest changes of motherhood … I could watch all the sweet shows and read all the sweet books for kids … and had a great excuse! Little Bear will always be a favorite of mine! Dr. Seuss … Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You? Adorable.

    • Where The Wild Things Are! Maurice Sendak was brilliant.
      When I was little, we lived, umm, well, in a housing project. Yes, it was nasty. But libraries were free!! I remember looking for that gold medallion on kid’s books and would dance inside whenever I saw one, then I’d pull the book of the shelf.
      We always took out our weekly limit and read them all, over and over.
      Love, love, LOVE those who reach out to lonely little kids and fill their worlds with beauty.

  • I used to read ALOT more, mostly fiction and biographies. None of that self-help stuff, as God already bottled perfection and her name is…

    Hmmm, I seem to have forgotten …

    Anyway, I read my favourites, craft books and work I’m either critting, editing or editing. Or editing.

    I LOVE biographies and autobiographies, especially ones set during wartime.

    I also love reading my autograph. I’ve been practicing, ya know.
    HAHAHA. Not.

    • Bottled perfection. You make me chuckle, and occasionally roll my eyes. :-)

      I echo your repetitive comment about editing.

      Haven’t we all been practicing our autograph since childhood? Well, I have anyway. First, with scented pens in my journal, and now on boring things like bills, and napkins while on hold with insurance.

    • Be thankful you can sign your autograph! When we talked about controversial debates on FB, etc the other day, I thought that the thing I see debated most today is whether or not to teach kids cursive. Apparently, it isn’t taught in school anymore … and it’s a huge debate because of computers. I’m thankful I can sign my name and at my daughter’s last visit with her oncologist, she had to sign a form for the first time (because she turned 13) … I was so thankful she knew how!

  • I read everything “out loud” and “slower than normal” these days . . . that way my dog Dinozzo can keep up with the story. He’s only a pup and just learning to understand her adopted native language.

  • I started as a big non-fic girl. Even in elementary school. Now I LABOR through non-fiction!!! Life is filled with reality, I need an escape! I liked spec-fic when I was in my twenties and thirties–all that speculating about the future. But then you get a little older … and there isn’t as much to speculate about :o). Still, a good one will intrigue me. Loved the Hunger Games trilogy and am looking forward to the upcoming “A Time to Die.” However, a good contemporary romance is where I am today. Just want to be swept away by a little loooovvvve–sigh :o)!

  • Since my mid-twenties, I’ve read more non-fiction and I always try to read one alongside whatever novel I’m reading. In the last five years, I fell in love with historical romances. So glad I talked myself into reading one. I’m hooked! Have a great weekend. :)

  • Great question, Rachel. I used to read more fantasy and mysteries. Now I find I read more heartwarming romance, women’s fiction, and YA, partly because that’s closer to what I write. And like you, I pick up a lot of useful articles from my social media friends. I think it is natural to read different things at different times in your life.

  • I’ve never been one for YA. And I’m really not one for YA now with the prevalence of first person. Really don’t like first person.

    95% of what I read is romance. I’ve spent the last year exploring paranormal and am getting ready to dive into some of the ABA military romantic suspense.

    I’m bored with Christian fiction and it’s lack of realism. Haven’t read one in close to a year, and don’t see it changing any time soon. I’m also not writing it anymore.

  • What a great question! I was a serious, much-older than-I-should-have-been, adolescent. I read a lot of Elizabeth Elliot and Christian fiction/romance back then. Somehow I missed out on many of the classics in school. I’ve enjoyed reading Austen, Wuthering Heights, and a number of other classics. I’ve also delved into YA over the past few years and memoir. I read more widely in my late 30′s than I ever did before.

  • Sherry Kyle says:

    Rachel, like you I’ve always enjoyed reading women’s fiction and historical romance. Currently, I have a stack of contemporary women’s fiction that I’m devouring for a workshop I’m teaching in February.

  • Linda Jewell says:

    Hi Rachel, Even as a child, I read a lot of both fiction and nonfiction. I think our reading tastes change over the years. Like Jessica, I somehow missed reading many of classics when I was younger. Since 2000 I’ve been intentional about reading the classics. Each year I prepare a list of books I want to read in different categories: Classics, military and home-front support, Christian, and contemporary. I may not read them all, or I may add other books recommended throughout the year, but by having a plan I read more books that satisfy me.

    These days I’m also less tolerant of books with weak plots or that are poorly edited. I’ve even thrown a few books in the trash because I wouldn’t inflict them on my reading friends.

    Reading does affect my writing. For example, after I first heard about “point of view” in a writers workshop, I began to notice both good and bad examples of POV in the fiction I read. Hopefully my craft of writing is better as a result of reading with a writer’s eye and then writing, writing, writing.

  • I’m starting to read more variety, including classics I wouldn’t have touched some years ago. I’m loving getting to know the worlds and they’re not as stuff as I thought they’d be. I’m pushing myself to read more. I’m reading more non-fiction as well. I loved “my dream of heaven,” by Rebecca Rugter Springer.

  • What a thought-provoking post, Rachel! Hmmm…I still love Agatha Christie mysteries as much as I did as a teen. However, at this stage in my life, I can read those classics I was assigned in college and get a WHOLE lot more out of them, just from having lived a little longer (Silas Marner, for example). I actually enjoy some dystopian YA these days, but I do prefer more realistic fiction. I LOVE LOVE LOVE married main characters (most people reading this know that about me!) and I have recently discovered author Sarah Jio, who tends to use them AND weave an amazing story.

    As far as writing, while I love my Vikings and will definitely complete my two-book series, I can’t wait to get back into contemp. writing. I’m hoping to release my own contemp mystery this year. I think my voice veers contemp, even when I’m writing histfic, which might also explain why I tend to write first-person. But I definitely write married main characters b/c that’s what interests me most, and what I don’t see a lot of. Hoping to fill that gap a bit.

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