I LOVED hearing from you last week through the reader survey. You all are so fascinating.
I was trying hard not to peek at the survey responses before they were all in, and then I finally sat down with them on Tuesday morning, riding the Amtrak train from DC to NYC. Which meant I was giggling and nodding like a lunatic on the train, and also having way more fun than is allowed on Amtrak.
Your responses were witty and insightful and thoughtful. Thank you immensely for taking that time out of your day—I know how busy you are, and I don’t ever want to take your time lightly.
Speaking of which, Allison S. is the winner of the surprise $20 Amazon card that was tucked at the back of the survey! I didn’t want to bribe you all, but I did want to give you a thank you gift for giving me your time. So, Allison, I hope you buy yourself something perfect to read with the gift card! I’ll be contacting you via email to get it to you.
So, are you curious about who your fellow readers and writers are?
Here’s who you’ll find in our little cooks & books community:
We are readers, writers, and all-around book lovers. Books hold a special place in our hearts, and we want that place to keep getting bigger.
The biggest thing holding you back in your reading life?
Not enough time.
A whopping 68% of us want to find more time to read, but we’re juggling busy jobs, side projects, manuscripts, kids, housework, friends, and a million other things. At the same time, we’re trying to fend off distractions like TV, games, social media, movies, sleep, and other things that start siren-calling us during our limited free time.
A few responses that caught my eye and had me nodding (I changed names since this was an anonymous survey):
“My days are so full with work and domestic responsibilities, it is difficult to find any chunks of time to read. In the wintertime I get a good 45 minutes reading on the subway to and from work, but in summer I bike. Audiobooks while doing chores is as good as it gets for sustained interaction.” — Lauren
“Also, because I am an incredibly busy writer, mom, teacher, etc. I struggle to find the balance with it all. When I read a great book, it’s so easy for me to fall into it and neglect other responsibilities.” — Karen
“Giving myself permission to ‘just’ read. As a writer and life-long reader that seems completely ridiculous, but I recently realized that reading had become ‘allowed’ only at bedtime, viewed as something idle for which I couldn’t use ‘productive’ time. Shameful! 🙂 I have been working to correct that. So, the short answer is that I am my own biggest challenge in my reading life!” — Katherine
“I have a hard time finding time to read. Also, as I have gotten older I have a hard time concentrating- it always seems like my brain is wandering away from the page to to-do lists, worries, etc.” — Becky
“I have six kids and I’m a military wife. We just moved for the second time in one year. I have a son who is blind. I drive him to and from school. I’m a writer, who is editing book 4 to be released in September. I’ll be lucky to finish on time after another move. Ack! So many things… are you going to come do driving? I’ve always wanted a chauffeur.” — Caroline
Anybody looking for a summer job as a chauffeur for Caroline? She deserves her reading time!
After finding time to read, finding the next book worth reading was your biggest challenge, with many of you reporting that your TBR lists were becoming daunting and disorganized.
“Finding books that I truly love & relate to. I find perhaps one or two books a year (and I read a lot, believe me) that I can add to my list of favorites. Last year it was The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. The year before it was Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen. Frequently I find myself getting books from the library, only to send them back unread, just because I really couldn’t get into them. Be it because they ended up having strong language (and since I read historical fiction a lot, I find this surprising), or because they were just not gripping enough. I know there are books out there that are a perfect match for me… I wish I could find an easier way of finding them! I guess I need a book matchmaker. lol” — Natalie
“I’m trying to tackle the 1001 books to read before you die list. Some of the books are daunting (Moby Dick, anyone!). Sometimes, I’m just too tired to read or I’m distracted by computer games or TV. I have so many books here at home on the TBR pile and on my wishlists (Amazon, Barnes & Noble). I read pretty steadily, but sometimes it takes me longer to finish books than other people. Sometimes I just zip through a book. I’m all over the place!” — Carson
“Actually keeping track. I have lists in Evernote, on slips of paper in my purse, torn-out reviews from WSJ, on and on and on….sigh.” — Dana
Ladies or gents?
A whopping 96% of you are women. We’re hard-driving, busy women who are juggling full-time jobs, side hustles, kids, freelancing gigs, housework, parents—you name it.
Readers or writers or both?
17% of our group is pure readers—you love to read, read, read, with nothing else getting in the way.
56% of you love to read but also write, and you hope to make an income from your writing.
28% of you are already making some income from writing, whether it’s a full-time job, freelancing gigs, a blog, or something else. And you guys are a multi-talented bunch—we have editors, proofreaders, copywriters, copyeditors, marketing consultants, bloggers, and every other writerly job you can think of! Wow.
Why do you read?
I was especially interested in this question, since I think it reveals so much about us as people.
39% of our group reads to be entertained by new characters and settings or to escape into the world of a book.
The two runners-up were reading to learn more about yourself and the world (18%) , and reading to feel inspired and motivated to face challenges (15%).
But a whole 28% of you wrote-in answers. (It’s almost like you guys are creative or something…ha!) All of the write-in answers gave a hearty “all of the above” cry! I know, I know, it’s hard to pick. I think I’d fall right in with you, all-of-the-above crowd.
Fiction vs. nonfiction?
A big group went fiction all the way (54%), with “both” as a write-in option (30%), outweighing even the pure nonfictionites (17%).
Many of us also read different genres in different seasons of our lives, cycling back from fiction to nonfiction and often juggling both at once.
Spending on books + learning?
And how much are we laying out each year to feed our book habits, including what we’re spending on conferences, courses, or other forms of learning?
That’s a lot of books! Authors the world over thank you. 🙂
Top three comments that made me laugh?
“My biggest challenge is having to do life. Yes, life. All of it! I’d much rather be reading, but I need to work to be able to fund my reading nook, reading sustenance, and rest-up-to-read-more spot.”
You, ma’am, are my people. Books > life, every time.
“Setting time aside to read, and then NOT following asleep. I love to read but if I’m not in an ‘active’ position like sitting in a chair with fresh air around me, then I get sleepy and doze off… stinks.”
YES. It’s so hard not to fall asleep reading when you’re all cozy in bed after a long day. I feel you. It does stink.
And a clink of the glass to the person who answered the “What’s the greatest challenge in your reading life right now?” question with simply:
“I wish someone would pay me to read.”
And let’s all send positive vibes to:
John (named changed), who wrote:
“I’m currently going through the ‘novel on submission’ anxiety. Love my agent, but the ‘editor loves it but it died at acquisition’ flavor of rejection is a unique blend of pep-talk with vigorous kick to the crotch. As a result, most of my current reading is geared to help me escape the reality of the waiting game.”
I feel your pain! Those rejections really are a unique blend of awful. Agents hate them, too. Hang in there, and remember, patience + persistence = you are unstoppable.
Thank you all so much for participating–I hope you enjoyed the inside look at the reading lives of others as much as I did! And stay tuned to the blog for more fun conversations about what to read, how to write, and how to fit all of that reading + writing into our busy lives.
What I’m Reading This Week
Reading Aloud With Others is More Important Than You Think (Abigail Williams on LitHub): This piece examines how reading aloud can help us put books at the center of our family lives, instead of letting those people we love squeeze those books we love out of our days. And yes, your kiddos might not listen if they’re cranky/tired/hungry/being kids, but a few minutes of a soothing voice and a great story can sometimes pull us outside of ourselves enough to reset our rattled brains. If nothing else, try reading aloud with your partner–it’s a great way to feel close and start great conversations.
Building an Email List for Your Book: Two Effective Tactics to Try Now (Emily Wenstrom for The Write Life): We hear this all the time from publishers (and, well, everyone): an email list is the best way to sell anything. Period. Here are two ways fiction writers can start building theirs.
Library Carts I Will Own When I Win the Lottery (Ashley Holstrom for BookRiot): “You know when you’re bored and you aimlessly type ‘book storage ideas’ into the Google search bar and then you’re 16 pages deep into pictures of gorgeous home libraries and public libraries and just all the libraries ever?” Why, yes, I know exactly what you mean. Go on…
How to Give and Receive Constructive Feedback as a Writer (Kimberly Coyle for The Write Life): Say it with me: you 👏🏻 can👏🏻 only 👏🏻 help 👏🏻 if you 👏🏻 don’t 👏🏻 hurt. Don’t hurt people when they show you the most vulnerable part of themselves: their art. Learning to criticize constructively is a skill that has to be developed, just like any other, and we owe that to our fellow creatives, just as others have learned it so that they can help us.
What We’re Eating This Week
Oh, boy. If I must tell it…
Monday: Shockingly, something semi-respectable! Cold sesame noodles with soy-glazed brussels, which we ate on the terrace of our building because the noodles were cold and I didn’t have to freak out about them overcooking, drying out, or getting cold in the time it took us to get upstairs. Let’s file this particular quirk under Fabricated Problems.
Tuesday: Rice, beans, steak/pork (long story), none of which I cooked and all of which my Yaya made. Then she gave me a haircut, because I have no patience for schlepping to the salon to be small-talked by the hairdresser when, clearly, I’m just trying to read. (Let’s file this one under Bibliophile Problems.)
Wednesday: ??? Panic and plunder.
Thursday: ????????????? If only question marks were edible.
Friday: I have so much chill that I’ll just figure it out when the day gets here. Just kidding! I’m probably dead of starvation.