You Need to do A Reading Study

Have you ever done a reading study? Recently, I listened to the Mysterious Goings On podcast that featured the Constant Reader and his journey re-reading Stephen King’s bibliography. The idea intrigued me. I’ve often re-read books I’ve enjoyed. Some of them many times. And of course, I’ve read complete series. But I don’t recall ever reading a single author’s entire catalog. The voice in my head said, you need to do a reading study.

Line Drawing of a Girl Reading Book while sitting on a stack of books probably by the same author, You Need to do a Reading study, too.

What is a Reading Study?

That’s the fun part. You get to design your own. How? There are no rules. But here are some questions and suggestions to help you get started.

What’s Your Purpose?

For the Constant Reader, his deep love of Stephen King’s books motivated him. Which author do you read most often? Or choose an author you’ve never read before.

If you’re a writer, you may want to figure out how an author created the world, or the characters, or how the writer makes us readers believe it all. Many things go into writing a powerful story. Perhaps you want to read an author with a unique writing style. Or a strong voice. 

But what if you’re a reader and not a writer? What would be your purpose? 

Thing is, as a grownup, you get to choose. You may read for pure enjoyment. Maybe you want to learn about writing stories. You can challenge yourself with a new-to-you author. Or a different genre. Re-reading a series you read as a child can be enlightening. You’ll see the story with fresh eyes. Will it still delight you? (Read my take on one of my childhood favorites.)

Your Author Choice

Photograph of a bookstore's bookshelf filled with crime fiction books, you need to to do a reading study--which author or books will you choose?

Will you choose an author who writes in only one genre? Or is an author who writes in multiple genres more to your taste? Male or Female? An award-winner of an unknown? Do you want to read full-length novels or short stories or both? Perhaps you want to explore a different culture from your own.

Instead of doing a single author, do a single subject like I did in my Going to Mars Word-by-Word series. The books were written by different authors during different decades but all of them involved going to or living on Mars.

Choose Your Method

Are you going to only read ebooks? Will you start with the author’s oldest book and work forward in time? There are no rules. You can choose to read the books in a random order.

Record Your Reactions

No, you don’t have to do a book report. You don’t have to do anything at all. But writing a few notes about the book may help you enjoy the process more and remember it better.

You can follow a format like I did in my Going to Mars: Word-by-Word series of posts or my Story Time Reviews posts. Or the spreadsheet photographed below.

A screenshot of a spreadsheet for a reading study with columns for date read, title, copyright date, genre, characters, setting, story problem, and reactions to the beginning the ending, a star rating, and a column for additional comments or connections between books.

Write about what you liked or didn’t like. List the characters or write a summary of the book. What you record depends in part on your purpose for reading the books.

One thing to consider recording is your immediate reaction to the first lines or pages of the story. And then, your immediate reaction to the end of the story.

It might be fun to rate the books as the Constant Reader does in the podcast. (He chooses his top ten favorite books by Stephen King.) 

It’s entirely up to you.

Make if Fun

girl reading by flashlight under a blanket--you need to do a reading study and have fun doing it

If you are re-reading an author or a series, consider listening to the audiobook version. Or watch the movie (if there is one). Only read print books? Try an ebook version.

If it stops being fun—stop. You’re not getting graded or paid. If you’re not enjoying it or learning something, stop. Try a different author or a different book.

You Need to Do a Reading Study

Why do you need to do a reading study? It’s another way to enhance your reading pleasure. Will it take a while? Sure, depending on your reading speed and the books’ availability. I read fast but have little time for pleasure reading. Still, I’ll going to start a reading study on all the Octavia Butler books I can get my hands on. How about you? Have you read all of a single author’s books before? Does it sound like something you might enjoy doing?

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