I was chatting last on a mini-podcast to support the Horror Reading list I'm doing over at Geek Syndicate, and was asked about the idea behind it. I sort of waffled a bit about wanting to look at other genres, and being a bit snobby about things I know little about, but I've been dwelling on it a bit since and so I thought I'd try and lay out recent relationship with books.
The thing is, way back, I've always been a prolific reader. My parents will tell how I pretty much vanished into books in my early teens and stayed there until I left for university. At university I read and read, and even after I left university I accumulated books at a great rate largely thanks to the large about of second hand bookshops that proliferated around the University area of Leeds. The thing was, looking back, I think the volume was high but the range was narrow. I read Science Fiction, and pretty much nothing else, picking up an unhealthy disdain for Fantasy and Horror as genres along the way. Whilst I rarely re-read the same book (there's a few beloved exceptions) I suspect I was reading a lot of similar material and a lot of crap with spaceships on the cover, although I did manage to find some non-SF fiction I love to this day.
This really reached a peak in 1997, where I spent a long time hospital with very little else to do but devour fiction, although this did let me discover George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series so at least it wasn't all spaceships!
Without really noticing it though, I started to read less and less as the years went on. I became a father in 2001, I got more and more time- and energy- consuming jobs, and finally, a few years back, I had a moment where I couldn't remember what the last book I read was. I mean, I was still reading, occasionally, and mostly history or pop-science but certainly nothing at any great pace. Which was a bit of a stab at my self-image as a voracious reader and I had to do something about it. The answer was "reading lists" - nothing too demanding, just some sort of focus - and rather than sink back into SF I put together a lost of "American Classic" to read, enjoyed several of them, and discovered Hemingway, Vonnegut and Chandler.
So that was a win. After that I did "Crime Fiction", followed by facing by prejudices head-on and reading a year of Fantasy Novels, some of which (whisper it) I really really liked. Oh Dear Team, Oh Dear. In fact, this general project has been so successful that I'm thinking of doing a reading list of SF novels, just because it's been so bloody long since I read them in any volume!