People often get into patterns of doing things. Sometimes a new pattern creeps up on us so subtly that we’re not even aware we’ve developed one. Sometimes we’re more deliberate about it. Patterns can weave themselves into any aspect of our lives, and for the book lover, that includes reading. If you’ve ever found yourself suddenly realising that the last several books you’ve read have been about the same topic, or take place in the same region, or treat the same theme, you know what I mean. Of course, everyone’s different about reading patterns, but it’s interesting to see how they affect our choices, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Some reading patterns start almost accidentally if I can put it that way. For instance, suppose a friend lends you a novel such as Vicki Delany’s In the Shadow of the Glacier, which introduces Trafalgar, British Columbia Constable Molly Smith. Now, suppose you enjoy that novel, so you pay a little more attention when you notice a review of Gail Bowen’s The Endless Knot, which also takes place in Canada. It’s in a very different province, but you liked the Delany, so…why not? Then you notice yourself reading other books with Canadian settings (e.g. Giles Blunt, Louise Penny or Anthony Bidulka). Before you really now what’s happened, you’ve developed a pattern of reading more Canadian crime fiction than you thought you had.
The same kind of thing happens sometimes when people read crime fiction that takes place in a given era. For example, you might read one of Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple novels that take place in the 1920’s. The era is absolutely fascinating, so perhaps that tempts you to read one of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels or perhaps Jeffrey Stone’s Play Him Again. Those novels also take place in the 1920’s. Before you’re even aware of it, you’ve started on a pattern of reading novels that take place in a particular time period.
We all have different sub-genres of crime fiction that particularly appeal to us and sometimes, we find that we’ve developed a pattern of mostly reading within one sub-genre. If you’ve ever tried one of Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe novels and loved it or one of Katherine Howell’s Ella Marconi novels and loved it, you may slowly find yourself reading more and more police procedurals. And because you haven’t thought about it or planned it, you’re not even really aware you’ve been reading a lot from that sub-genre.
After a while, most of us do notice that we’ve been reading a lot about one issue, or about one place/time, or in one sub-genre. Some people don’t mind that at all and there’s nothing wrong with that. Other people though decide to change their patterns or at least add in new ones.
That’s one reason why some patterns in reading are quite deliberate. Sometimes people deliberately develop patterns by choosing a reading challenge. There are dozens out there too, and a lot of them are not difficult to meet. I’ll just mention two. One is the Vintage Mystery Challenge, hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block . Readers who notice that they haven’t read a lot of classic, Golden Age or other vintage crime fiction may want to check out that challenge; there are lots of interesting categories and lots of possibilities for books. Another challenge is the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. You may decide for instance that you’d like to be more familiar with all sorts of fiction being written by the terrific ladies from Down Under. This challenge gives you the chance to try some of their work. The great thing about challenges is that they give the reader a focus for breaking out of patterns or trying new ones.
Some readers deliberately try a new pattern through reading blogs that focus on particular places, times, etc. For example, a look at Glenn Harper’s International Noir Fiction may convince you to add some noir to your reading diet. You may read Barbara Fister’s Scandinavian Crime Fiction blog and find some titles there that pique your interest. I know that terrific blogs like that have gotten me to take a look at my reading patterns and think about adjusting them.
There are plenty of readers too who keep notes on what they read and take a look at them periodically. Charts and graphs on what they read help them reflect and decide what they’re going to do about their patterns. You know who you are and I really respect that self-reflection.
Writers of course have another way of focusing deliberately on their reading patterns. The best writers are also voracious readers and are well aware of what other people in their sub-genre are doing. They keep up with the major authors and series in their sub-genre to help them improve what they do. I know that reading other authors’ work helps me.
These are just a few things I’ve discovered about reading patterns. What are your views? Do you notice yourself developing patterns without being aware of it? Do you plan your patterns? What gets you in the reading patterns you’ve developed? If you’re a writer, how do your reading and writing patterns affect each other?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Don McLean’s The Pattern is Broken.