You know the old USDA Food Guide Pyramid, the shape that specified the amounts of grains, vegetables, and oils Americans should consume daily? I’ve been wondering if we can adapt a similar concept for reading–at least for those of us who like to consciously plan our reading, or maybe just the next book or two. (Spontaneous reading pantsers, you can start your eye rolling now.)
Much like the food types on the food guide pyramid, our reading life is filled with particular genres. Maybe you devour all romance. Maybe you consume mostly literary fiction, with a dash of nonfiction and the occasional mystery. Maybe you nosh on all sorts of genres, from steampunk noir to erotica to comedy to erotic steampunk noir comedy.
Our book diet reflects what we are drawn to, what we enjoy, maybe what others are reading, and also what we feel is important. Sometimes those impulses are in sync, and sometimes it’s a balancing act to get all the types of stories our mind wants and needs.
What is your current book diet? How ideally would you want it to look?
For those of us who write, I believe it can be additionally useful to consciously plan our reading in terms of what we are writing and how we want to develop as a writer. If you’re a horror writer, for instance, you’ll likely want to devote a fairly big chunk of the pie to reading other horror. But maybe not all. Maybe you want a third of your reading to be literary, because your own writing benefits from reading lovely language.
I know my own drafts have been helped by gorging on romance this year, particularly romantic comedy since this is what I write. It’s been enormously beneficial to see how other authors introduce appealing heroes and relatable heroines, amp up sexual tension, and structure their stories.
Writers need to consider what kind of book fuel will help us grow the ways we want–because, for better or worse, we are likely absorbing the language, forms, character types, and plot devices from what we read.
So choose your pie, and choose wisely. But above all else, enjoy every last bite.