I could list all the cliché reasons why I love reading and chose to become an editor. Or I could include well-known, banal phrases, the likes of ‘books have the power to change the world’ or ‘they let you travel the world without taking a step.’
Instead, in this post, I share my candid perspective. I touch upon six reasons why I love reading as a book-lover and editor who often works with nonfiction publications.
1. I learn new things.
Editing work gave me one of the main reasons not to regret leaving academia after I finished my PhD. It exposes me to new research and scholarship and feeds my life-long love for learning. Editing humanities and social sciences, book and article manuscripts often aligns with my interests.
I have also worked on texts topically outside my immediate interests, such as medical regulation, architecture or trade legislation. I approach these topics with equal curiosity as those more familiar to me. Ultimately, I am grateful for what they taught me about the previously unfathomed subject.
2. … and learn more new things.
Reading and learning about new things inspire me to read and learn more. My interest in the subject does not usually stop when I finish a project. A map does not take you from point A to point B in a straight line but leads through cross-sections and back streets. Likewise, my exploration takes me to various (more-or-less) interrelated disciplines.
3. I love words.
As a logophile, I have a fetish for new words. You could say I collect them like a child would collect seashells found on the beach during the summer holidays. I store them in paper notepads and notes, documents and folders on my computer. I often revisit them to remember the texts in which I first read them. Therefore, by reading your texts, I expand my collection, reminding me of your books as if in a never-ending circle.
4. Literature taught me to express myself.
I have become a voracious reader of fiction and poetry because reading about how others express their feelings helped me express my own. Literature became a tool that helped me learn how to articulate how I felt. As a child, I instinctively knew I felt a specific emotion, but I lacked words to explain it.
Moreover, one could say that feelings are rather timeless, and only the historical context changes. Indeed. In poetry written three or ten centuries ago, I found that people expressed the same sentiments I felt. For this reason, I especially like reading poetry written in the former eras (and committed my PhD research to it).
5. I appreciate how fiction and nonfiction can present different facets of the same picture.
Broadly speaking, I enjoy historical readings. They supplement the academic publications informing about the same period and engage the imagination. Furthermore, I adore historical fiction for adding colours and personal touches. Well-written and well-researched historical fiction and nonfiction may go hand in hand, filling each other’s gaps. For instance, after editing the article about the 1958 political campaign targeting earlier literary works, I began reading more about 1940–1960 in China. I topped it up with novels set in a similar timeline, such as Anchee Min’s Red Azalea and Wild Ginger and Lisa See’s Dreams of Joy.
6. Reading makes me a better editor.
Finally, it is perhaps a truism, but the wider variety of genres and topics I read and edit, the better I become at my job. Stan Carey wrote beautifully about the importance of reading in the editorial profession. In an essay written for the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, Carey pointed out:
‘Broad reading opens us up to diverse world views, the same way that talking with different kinds of people does, and this informs our work. More directly, it familiarises us with lesser-known words and their habitats and collocations. It trains the ear on different forms of authorial rhythm, narrative, and humour. It accustoms us to different writing styles and devices, metaphors and clichés, norms and lexicons. Reading from different eras and dialects educates us on the inexorable drift of idiom.’
I hope this post gave you an opportunity to understand why I love reading and editing. It might inspire you when hiring a copyeditor (a hyperlink to the post about how to find a copyeditor) and learning about their approach and reading preferences. Follow me on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn for more editing tips for writers, sign up to my newsletter or contact me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount!).