Smugglers Ponderings

Smuggler’s Ponderings: On Reading Cycles

I often feel compelled to write these Ponderings posts. To me they are a useful tool to help me understand my reading habits and how these affect my reviewing and I believe this to be a good thing.

So. Lately I have been thinking about reading cycles.

As far as I can remember, my first real reading cycle started at 12. Up until then I can’t remember purposefully picking up books because they were written by a particular author or because of a trope or genre but I know that they were all children or YA books. But at 12, I picked up my first adult book, Poirot Loses a Client (or Dumb Witness) by Agatha Christie. I remember that moment very clearly: it was the summer holidays, I had broken my arm on the second day riding a bicycle (typical) and was stuck at home and I even remember hearing the kids playing outside. I was staying at my grandfather’s house while our flat was being renovated and my mother’s books were boxed and those boxes were in the room I was staying at. Bored out of my mind, having read all of my own books, I opened one of those boxes and picked up the first book I saw and never looked back.

Thus, the first reading cycle of my life were Crime novels, starting with Agatha Christie (I read all of them in a row), followed by Arthur Conan Doyle’s and a plethora of Brazilian writers too, some of them YA (like this series of AWESOME books by Pedro Bandeira in which these kids called themselves the “Karas” and investigate crimes and every time they had an emergency, they draw a K at the palm of their hands, OMG these books were so good) and whatever I could get my hands on.

After a while, I was sort of done with Crime and started reading other stuff, Classics mostly.

And then, a second reading cycle came at 14. It was also prompted by being bored at home, sick with pneumonia (again during school holidays) and having read everything that there was to read. My aunt had just presented me with this OLD encyclopaedia, a collection with like, 20 books or so and I started to flick through them and stopped every time I read an entry about Mythology. I was hooked. After that, I bought loads of stuff about mythology, from Greek and Roman to Egyptian, Celtic and Norse. This then started yet another reading cycle, where I read loads of books about Egyptology, Archaeology and History and that lasted for a long ass time, taking me all the way to University (first Archaeology but the course was cancelled on the first semester because of lack of students – no, seriously – and I had to move to Museums Studies and then finally, settled in History).

During my University years, I read non-fiction almost exclusively: not only the required reading but also tons of Philosophy and Psychology (loads of Jung stuff) . I refer to this phase of my life as the Non-Fiction reading cycle. I love my fiction and I don’t know how I managed to read so little of it during those years (it took me 7 years to finish University because I kept taking extra classes and doing extra work for teachers. WHAT, I loved to be a student) but I also loved all of the non-fiction I read.

That is not to say that when I am in the middle of what I consider to be a reading cycle I don’t read other stuff. I do. So for example, at 15, while reading all of those Archaeology books, I also had a Gothic phase (Wuthering Heights, I love you) and a Vampire phase (Anne Rice mostly) and a crappy Aliens Are Amongst Us phase (Erik Von Daniken anyone?).

Towards the end of Uni I stumbled onto The Lord of the Rings and this is effectively the beginning of my encounters with Speculative Fiction proper until I moved to England 7 years ago and all hell broke loose when I first walked into a Warterstones and saw how many SF/ Fantasy books there were.

And of course, it was a reading cycle that brought me to blogging. It was my Romance phase that made me find blogs, online friends and to want to start my own blog almost three years ago. In that first year of The Book Smugglers, I was completely enamoured with the Genre and read hundreds of Romance (with the occasional helping of UF and Fantasy on the side). But it came to an end, as during the second year of Book Smuggling, I started to read more Fantasy and then there comes YA and I have been on that reading cycle ever since (now with the occasional helping of Fantasy and Romance). I wonder what will come next.

The point of this post is: I love diversity. I love to find new stuff, to try new Genres, new books and new authors. But that also means that I am constantly on the move and I hardly ever re-read or have comfort reads for example and I get bored with reading tropes very easily.

I am not the same reader I was when I was 14; I am not the same reader I was one year ago; heck, I am not the same reader I was yesterday. I think that the best thing about books is how they change you even when they are not inspirational or self help or what have you. It’s because of the words and the ideas and the stories that my imagination is fuelled and I feel that I am always, always evolving as a reader and that obviously affects my reviewing too. Just like I am not the same reader I was three years ago when the blog started I am not the same reviewer either and that is reflected in the way I approach books and write about them here.

And I really like that.

What about you? Do you go through reading cycles as well? Do you try new stuff a lot or do you prefer to stick with what you know and like? As a reader of this blog, do you enjoy the diversity of Genres we cover?

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  • Marie
    November 9, 2010 at 4:37 am

    I have enough interests that staying within my comfort zone means reading fairly widely. I do go through reading cycles and these days I’m doing themes each month, to help me work through my stash and hopefully even clean some of it out. I’ve made a bunch of book lists and so far it’s working!

  • Amanda Isabel
    November 9, 2010 at 5:08 am

    I definitely read in cycles – Though, I would see it more as a floodgate; I read one of a genre, fall in love and then MUST read everything else int hat genre.

    That being said, I do have comfort reads, and I will go back, time and again to the same books, relive my favourite parts.

    Thanks for this! it’s made me think! 🙂

  • katiebabs
    November 9, 2010 at 5:25 am

    I’m in the cycle of, everything I read is disappointing me. This happens around this time every year.

    But I do think I’m more open to trying books I wouldn’t normally read. Just like when we are younger and we enjoy certain music and tv shows, that is the same with the books we read.

  • Ceilidh
    November 9, 2010 at 6:20 am

    I don’t read in cycles as much as I used to do in my youth – I went through a major crime phase when I was 14, mainly the Rebus novels. What with university and my job I just read to relax and it’s mostly YA because I want to write YA in the future and I review it.

  • Sandy Williams
    November 9, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Interesting post. I was going to say I don’t have reading cycles, but that’s not true. I think my first reading cycle was horse books back in late elementary school. My second cycle was in junior high and lasted until early college: science fiction. Science fiction eventually led into fantasy which led into urban fantasy in my late college years. Two years ago (about 3 years after college) I started my historical romance reading kick. I’m still in that stage today, though I will read the occasional fantasy/UF/sci-fi book.

    I don’t really see myself having another stage after this. I’m happy with hist rom/fantasy/UF/sci-fi. I could be wrong, though. It’ll be interesting to see.

  • Barbara
    November 9, 2010 at 7:13 am

    I do too. I have all sorts of things on my shelves, from bios of serial killers, history books, British mysteries, sci fi, romance of all sorts..goes on and on. I’ve developed mini-cycles now, where I’ll go into a funk and reread old books for a couple of weeks at a time because I just can’t find the interest to crack open the piles of new things I have.

    I really like UF and am starting to get into a little more fantasy again. It looks like there’s a lot of steampunk coming out, but it’s taking very talented authors to get me interested in that. Of all things, I’m getting back into those sort of old-fashioned little Harlequins I used to read 30 years ago. Who’d have thought?

  • redhead
    November 9, 2010 at 7:14 am

    is it still a “cycle” if it’s 99% speculative fiction?

    I remember going through my pulp phase, my Isaac Asimov and other classics phase, my cyberpunk phase, and now I’m kind of in a gritty epic fantasy mixed with Shojo manga phase. but i think it’s gonna be a while before I run out of epic fantasy and shojo.

  • Estara
    November 9, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Oh yea, first time in the UK and there’s loads of sf&f on the shelves, and then that orgasm of going downstairs in Forbidden Planet in London and finding 28!!!! top-to-bottom shelves of UK and US sf&f!

    For years during my summer university holidays I would work six weeks at a pretty well-paying factory job, only to spend it on three days in London to a) visit the museums b) go to a West End musical c) arrive with an empty suitcase and fill it up at Forbidden Planet with books (and some videos at HMV and some US comics at that comic shop directly across from the British Museum… if that is still there). All hail!

    Incidentally I’m happy to have discovered the US sf&f because they publish so many more female writers in the genre. However, I discovered P.C. Hodgell at the Waterstones in Bournemouth (my au-pair year) in that Chronicles of the Kencyrath UK cover. I wonder if the publisher knew that Pat Hodgell is a woman ^^.

    Re: Reading cycles – not so much different genres as different themes inside the genres I’ve always read: fantasy (occasional sf), romance, young adult. Very rarely a non-fiction book of particular interest.

  • Estara
    November 9, 2010 at 7:39 am

    reading redhead’s comment: yes the genres have opened up for me, too. I discovered anime and manga in university and am still buying those as well.

  • April (Books&Wine)
    November 9, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I absolutely do this all the time. Sometimes I am hardcore paranormal and want to read nothing but those books, then I think oh man I want something that makes me think, so I read nothing but dystopia, then I want something to send me into flights of fancy so I read nothing but fantasy.

    Seriously, this is like reading the story of my life, lol.

  • Marie
    November 9, 2010 at 8:28 am

    I totally have genre phases. While I generally read urban fantasy and fantasy, sometimes I just need to get something different, like romantic comedies, anthologies, or nonfiction.

  • Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading
    November 9, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Love your memory of finding the book at your grandfathers. My reading circles started for me about the same time. My father gave me a copy of Emerson’s essays and I was hooked. I read tons of non-fiction, trying to find myself in middle school hell. Then I moved on to mysteries. Now I don’t stick to cycles so much, but that is only because of my blog. Agreeing to read books forces me to read a lot of different genres all the time. Reading cycles are great, comforting.

    I feel a mystery cycle coming on soon 😀

  • Amy @ My Friend Amy
    November 9, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Yes I do! Which is why collecting massive amounts of books makes no sense, my reading sensibilities and tastes are likely to change a little each day, or as Nicole tells me…we are always evolving.

    I like what you say about how books change us though, I can still remember with fondness and love the books from each cycle–they were all significant to me in some way, whether for setting my imagination on fire, introducing new ideas, or simply making me so happy such an imaginary world existed.

  • Ali
    November 9, 2010 at 9:00 am

    I do have cycles, with my current one being contemporary YA or fiction. That’s not to say I don’t read other genres and, in fact, my current read is SF.

    Like you, I read a huge amount of crime when I was 12 or so. This lasted years as there are so many fantastic Scottish crime authors with large back catalogues. I still read most of their new books even now. Crime thrillers set outside Scotland hold little interest and I sickened myself of Patricia Cornwell and the like very quickly.

  • Charlotte
    November 9, 2010 at 9:32 am

    I also started with mysteries – Nancy Drew at first. A few year later I switched to fantasy, then added SF. That’s all I read for a decade or so, until getting sucked into UF/PR. I never have been able to get into reading nonfiction.

  • Meghan
    November 9, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I generally have always like pretty much the same genres, but I definitely cycle through them like you do. Especially when I was younger, I went through marked phases of romance, fantasy, and historical fiction. The first one I can remember was romance, then fantasy, then historical fiction. These days I am more inclined to switch between genres and read them all at times, but often I notice when I’m doing a wrap-up post that my inclinations are switching around. I went off historical fiction earlier this year and right now I’m in a proper non-fiction phase. I’m also REALLY not into YA or romance at the moment, which is peculiar as I have loved plenty of YA and romance!

  • Renay
    November 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    My reading cycles flop back and forth between books and fanfiction, but never seem to hang on one genre (although I tend to think that most fanfic I read is speculative since the fandoms are SF/F or sources that lend themselves well to it). I haven’t read a book since July, so this is my longest flip to fanfiction in a couple of years. *misses books*

  • Sarah D. F.
    November 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I have reading cycles, but they are shorter than the ones you are describing. I will go a few months or less at a time reading certain types (romance, fantasy, urban fantasy/paranormal, romance, classics). I will read anything in that type until I am sick of it and move on to another type.

    I don’t always go in cycles though. Especially when something new is coming out by an author I always read.

  • Danielle
    November 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I used to looove Pedro Bandeira… A marca de Uma Lágrima was THE book of my teen years…agatha christie, sidney sheldon, oh well, I used to read anything, really. Actually, still do. :mrgreen:

  • Caitrin
    November 9, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    For sure. This year has been a big urban fantasy/paranormal romance kick after I read the first Sookie Stackhouse novel. I usually read a good smattering of different genres but find I read much more of whatever my current cycle is.

  • Chachic
    November 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I go through reading cycles all of the time. When I was younger, I went through a Newbery phase. Lately, my tastes have been more erratic. There are times when I feel like reading one genre and then when I get fed up with that, I need to mix it up with another genre.

  • Arhcadia
    November 9, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    what a great post! made me think back on my own reading cycles — they have been many and varied from agatha christie/sherlock holmes in grade school to a phase of all indian and south asian authors in university. But what I realized is that, throughout it all, there has been an ongoing fantasy thread (with a brief dip into Asimov scifi) – Susan Cooper and Tolkien in grade school led to the Dragonlance books and the David Eddings series in early high school. Then, later in high school, my best friend and i discovered Tanya Huff and Charles de Lint (and Emma Bull) who wrote fantastic traditional fantasy but were also some of the earliest to bridge into “urban fantasy”, which eventually led me to the fantastic world of YA, which just seems to keep getting better!

  • JenM
    November 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I’m definitely a cycle reader. My cycles included the Agatha Christie phase (at one time I had 50 of them lined up behind my bedroom door), and the archeology/mythology phase when I was a young teenager, moving into historical fiction for awhile, then straight SF with tiny dabblings in fantasy (LOTR mainly) as an older teen. Then came my romance phase. That one hit hard and lasted about 15 years. Then I stopped reading romance altogether and switched almost entirely to non-fiction, then moved on to literary fiction and chick-lit and now I’m firmly into UF and (surprise) back to romance. I have a feeling I’ll be moving back into non-fiction fairly soon – I’ve been feeling a slight itch in that direction.

  • Gillian
    November 9, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    I too read in cycles, but my cycles don’t last as long as yours. I guess I’d call it ‘phases’ instead for me.

    At school, I was more into contemporary children’s/YA fiction (or what passed for YA in those days. It’s soooo much better now!). Uni was an exercise in epic (high) fantasy. By the end of my degree, I was so sick and tired of having to read at least three tomes to get to the end of the story! Then I discovered chick-lit, with occasional dabblings back into fantasy. Two years ago, I fell into UF/PNR. Throughout these ‘phases’, I’ve added some non-fiction as my hobbies dictated but mostly leaning toward history.

    This year, I started mixing it up a bit more – read a couple of month’s worth of one type of book then throw in another book just to break it up. Read a heap of dark UF, then read a chick-lit to lighten the mood. Read a stack of YA, then tackle something more grown-up. Right now, I’m on a sci-fi kick and I have no idea what I’ll read when I get tired of that!

  • orannia
    November 10, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Although I think I’m in a fantasy cycle ATM (as that’s the genre I seem to be reading the most of) I definitely mix it up – I change genres almost every book just to keep things fresh. Saying that, I haven’t read a historical romance for ages, and that’s next up. And I’m completely off YA…

    I think when I was younger the cycles lasted longer….now they are very short!

  • Calamity Jane
    November 10, 2010 at 10:15 am

    At 27 I can also count some reading cycles:
    Started reading YA group mystery/adventures when I was 12 (The Five and some other) along with books like The Little Prince. I also went trough a mythology phase, where I read lots of Greek and Roman myth books.
    Then at around 14 I changed to more spiritual stuff…I guess I was looking for my own God. I read a lot about paganism, witchcraft, esp, after life experiences, etc.
    Around 15/16 I read the Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon” and Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” , starting my life long romance with genre fiction.
    A couple of years later I started reading Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles and some horror authors like Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft.
    The last cycle started 2 years back more or less when I discovered urban fantasy and paranormal romance and I’ve been building a little library with that genre.

    Other than that I also love reading comics, which I’ve been doing on and off since I was 12 (it’s my go to reading material when I’m tired of books)and I also read some Sci-Fi, although not as much as fantasy. 😀

  • Kate
    November 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I had an insightful comment to make about how I, too, read in distinct cycles…and then you had to go and mention Von Daniken, and now I just have to go and froth in a corner for a little while.

  • Julie
    November 11, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I go through reading cycles, too. My first was Nancy Drew when I was growing up. I read The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories and The Nancy Drew Files all the way up to my teen years. As a teen, I found romance novels. I mainly read historical and regency, but my favorite was gothic romance. I then moved on to actually not reading at all. I go through phases of this too. My next cycle was mystery novels in the cozy deptartment with amateur sleuths — so in some ways I was going back to my Nancy Drew days. My most recent phase has been YA and Children’s books. I don’t remember how I started reading them — it might have been Harry Potter. But it got me into blogging. I go through cycles with YA too. Be it fantasy, contemporary, romance, dystopian….Maybe we go through these reading cycles because we get bored or want to move on to the next big thing or trend. I wonder what my next reading cycle will be? 🙂 BTW, my writing goes through cycles, too.

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