I love to read. That phrase seems so pale compared to the feeling behind it. There are few things that I enjoy more than a good story. I love movies but the movie that plays in my head when I'm reading has wide screen, High Def, and surround sound. I not only see the characters, I get to hear what they are thinking. I am a voracious reader and when the story takes me, I can read at a much faster pace.
I read the first three books of Stephenie Meyers 'Twilight' series in one weekend. From late Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. The only reason I didn't start the fourth was because I had not purchased it yet.....and by that time I wasn't sure if my name was Bella, Edward or James Earl Jones. The story took me and it was hard to pull myself back out of it. I loved Edward Cullen with all the intensity of a high school crush for several weeks. I am still in recovery.
That is how I read as a reader, but as a writer I feel as if I am learning to read all over again. I force myself to slow down, I hold back and try not to be consumed by the story so I can study technique. This is incredibly hard at times but necessary. I read 'Twilight' again and I saw mistakes. The writing is not as polished as it could be and it is flooded with flowery purple prose. It is still a great story and Stephenie Meyers made us care about the characters....and she made us believe.
Some books are easier to read than others. It took me two nights to read Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. I struggled with the frenetic pace and the complex symbolism. It was a good book but a hard read. I went back and reread some of Laurel K Hamilton's books. Whether you read them fast or slow....you always want to sit back and light up a cigarette afterwards. Stephen King has a style all his own. He is clear, abrupt, and shockingly insightful. All of his characters are flawed, as we all are, and yet we love them more for it. You get the impression that King sees more deeply than the rest of us and isn't afraid to share that vision.
I still love to get lost in the story but reading with a writer's eyes is necessary for us to improve. I have pulled out historical romances that I used to love from ten years ago and I wince at how badly that are written. These books are actually more of a learning tool than the good ones. We know when something isn't working, when the writing is mediocre and the characters as one dimensional as a cardboard cutout. It can be difficult articulating exactly what is wrong at times when I don't enjoy a book but part of learning to write is being able to spot these flaws in the work of others and making sure we do not repeat those mistakes.