10 Things Every Reader Should Do in 2017

Everywhere you look, there's someone trying to give authors advice. What to do, what not to do, how to behave, how to use social media, the best way to engage readers, etc. However, all of that only works if someone is reading your books. Simply put, there is no writer without readers. Sure, you can write your novels and get them published, but if no one's reading them, you might as well become best friends with that famous tree that keeps falling in the forest when there's no one around to hear it crash. With that in mind, and as a bizarre sort of thank you note for your time and support, this one goes out to you, fellow readers. Here are ten things every reader should do in 2017:

1. Read outside your comfort zone

Maybe you love hardcore horror and think that anything else will be too tame for you. Well, there's plenty of gritty crime fiction out there that is as dirty, violent, and gory as some of the best novels hardcore horror has to offer. Similarly, if you like fantasy, for example, it would be worth your time to look into bizarro fiction. The point is that the dividing lines between genres are getting blurrier by the day, and saying you don't read something because you don't think you'll like it is a very easy way of missing out on some outstanding work. When someone tells me they hate poetry, they're usually talking about the kind of poetry that is published in reviews that feature a bird or a cloud on the cover and have ties to MFA programs. To cure them, I read them a few poems by Justin Grimbol, who writes the most heartfelt poetry about things like butts and minivans. If all readers learned to challenge themselves that way, their reading horizons would expand, and that is always a good thing.

You can write your novels and get them published, but if no one's reading them, you might as well become best friends with that famous tree that keeps falling in the forest when there's no one around to hear it crash.

2. Read multiple books at once

I could tell you that reading more than one book at a time is a great way to enjoy a variety of genres, that it prevents you from becoming bored, or that you will probably end up reading more books that way. However, I will not tell you all that. Instead, I will tell you that I have spent a lot of time reading jargon-filled neurological studies and have boiled down the results for you here: reading multiple books simultaneously is like doing push ups for your brain. Having a jacked brain is a good thing. Get on it.

3. Leave reviews

Forget the mysterious world of Amazon algorithms; the point is that other readers like to know what folks who have read a book think about it. A single line will do. Authors love reviews, and they don't even have to be positive. I have read 1-star reviews on Amazon that have made me immediately purchase a book. The point is that a review on Amazon, Goodreads, your own blog, or wherever else is the best way to thank an author for a book you enjoyed or to insult them if you thought it was a waste of time. It'll only take a minute out of your day and it'll probably make an author's day, so do it.

4. Protect your eyes

Sure, it sounds silly. At least it sounded silly to me until I slashed my cornea. Your eyes are liquid-filled sacks open to the elements. We use them for reading and sometimes abuse them with hours of television, computer scree, and nore reading. That won't change, but at least stop scratching them once in a while and put some lubricating drops in there. Your eyes will thank you.

5. Share what you love and forget what you hate

Why focus on the negative all the time? I already know you hate Fifty Shades of Grey. That's cool. I haven't read it and I hate it, too! However, I'd rather tell you about some fantastic reads I've enjoyed recently. There's a lot of awful stuff out there, so try to focus on shining a light on that which you consider worthy of someone else's time and money.

6. Become an advocate

Sadly, a lot of people don't read. In the past, I judged these people. Now, I realize that life follows a different path for everyone and some individuals only need to be exposed to something in order to change their views. Talk to folks about what they like to watch on television, for example, and you'll quickly find a way to recommend some reading material. Feel free to use comics and graphic novels as gateway drugs. Sometimes excitement is contagious, and the more passionately you talk about books and reading, the higher the chances of helping someone take that first step and crack open a book. Give books away. Give books to people on their birthdays. Buy books for kids and teach them early on that reading is a way to live a million lives and go on a million adventures.

7. Accept once and for all that reading is reading

Is some literature better than others? That's a tricky question, but the answer can be simple: yes. That being said, reading is reading. I don't read YA, but I don't make fun of adults who do because they're enjoying themselves and, more importantly, they're reading. The same goes for fantasy and romance and horror and whatever else: people who love those genres are reading, and your opinion regarding their genre of choice is better left unspoken if it's negative because the bottom line is that they are part of your tribe despite their tastes.

8. Listen to John Waters

"If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't fuck them!" - John Waters

9. Read

Sounds dumb, right? Well, I know authors that spend more time talking about writing than writing, and I know readers who spend more time talking about reading than reading. Just read. Read on your sofa and in your bed, Keep a book with you at all times and read while waiting in offices and when stuck in traffic. Read on the toilet and any time you start flipping through Netflix and can't find anything to watch. Read as if your life depended on it because in a really dumb world, it kind of does.

10. Support indie lit

Read Stephen King and James Patterson is you want. That's fine. However, there is a lot of outstanding, unique, brave fiction and nonfiction you'll be missing out on of you only pick up books that appear on best-seller lists. Go out there and support indie presses and their authors because in indie lit lies the future of literature. Some of the most talented living authors are being published by indie presses, and the more attention they get, the more opportunities open up for them as well as for others. Need some recommendations? You know where to find me. Now go read.

Gabino Iglesias

Column by Gabino Iglesias

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. 

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smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. January 6, 2017 - 10:53am

Great article. I am trying to do all of these things most of the time. I especially appreciated your comment about leaving reviews. I have two authors in my life that I promised to review, and have just been too damn nervous to try to leave a review for them, that I might do more harm than good or something, or that just the process of reviewing on Amazon is something I have not tried to do. So I will overcome that phobia and begin to leave a comment here and there. As much as i love to have comments, you'd think I would get it! 

So thanks for all the ten things.... I'm working them all, with one problem, I have so many books going at once most of the time, it takes a long time to finish one. gsr