Lately I have been analyzing my own reading to see if I can improve my own reading life, and have started to notice a pattern. My reading, and in fact my desire to read, has distinct cycles: heavy reading, immersive reading, light reading, and then a break.
Phase 1: Heavy Reading
This usually comes after a break – it has been awhile since I have done much reading, and I really feel like I am up to a challenge. This is usually when I find one of those “30 Books to Read Before 30” lists, or “Most Under-Appreciated Books of the Year,” and I pick one (or five) that look both interesting and challenging – for example, I discovered La Rose during this phase, as well as my all-time favorite book The House at the Edge of Night. This phase inspires some of the most meaningful reading that I do. This is really when I push my own boundaries as a reader, and if I stretch it, I can usually knock out several books in this category before I move on to the next phase.
Phase 2: Immersive Reading
I usually transition to this phase about halfway through one of the Phase 1 books (and I usually do not end up finishing that book – but I think this has more to do with me than the book in question). I start longing for something that can sweep me away to a new world – a book that I never want to put down. This is usually when I jump into my old stand-bys: science fiction and fantasy. I have spent this phase immersed in some great fiction, including In the Shadow of Lakecrest and America’s First Daughter.
Phase 3: Light Reading
Once I have binged on good books for a few weeks, I find myself needing to wind down – I am out of stamina for heavier fiction and just want a quick, light read. Oftentimes, this phase leads me to some great young adult fiction (usually fantasy), as well as mysteries and crime novels. I usually don’t spend long in this phase – just one or two books before I need a total break from reading – but there is something comforting about this phase – this fiction is what I associate with lunch breaks in the park and summer afternoons. I have read some great books in this phase – notably The Haunting of Maddy Claire (read on our cruise to Mexico last year) and Caraval (my co-review with my sister this spring).
Phase 4: Break
By the time I get to the fourth phase, I have usually read 10-12 books in about a month and a half or so, and I find myself a little burnt out, so I take a few weeks without doing any reading before I am ready to jump back into a novel. This time can still be productive though – I usually spend my breaks doing things like working on my own writing, or listening to podcasts (usually true crime), or reading more to the kiddos. I used to feel more embarrassed about this time – as though I had suddenly “lost interest” in reading – but as I have gotten older, I have started to appreciate this time more for what it is: a time to recharge before tackling my next challenge.
I have to wonder – am I the only one that has cycles like this? Please feel free to share your own reading cycles in the comments!