This has been interesting. I've been reading a lot more lately. I'd forgotten what a pleasure just reading to enjoy a story is. So often, when a person starts writing, especially writing fiction, you start reading to anlyze the book. What works. What doesn't. Or worse, to critique a book--the writer should have done this or that and it would have been better.
But I've been just reading. No analysis. No critique. Just enjoying the story. Getting lost in it. Letting it become my world for a few hours. And it's wonderful. I heartily recommend any writer who has forgotten what it was about books that got them writing in the first place relearn reading for pleasure. Turn off the editor and just enjoy.
The ironic thing is reading for enjoyment makes my fingers itch to be writing my own stuff. My brain starts thinking of characters and what's going on with their lives. I start seeing the world around me from their perspective, not mine. A sure sign storytelling is imminent.
That reaction doesn't happen when I analyze or critique a book. It's probably because when I'm analyzing or critiquing, it's too similar to parts of the writing process. It feels too much like working on a book, so it pulls me away from my own stories. It also spoils the pleasure of reading the story.
I'm beginning to think that unless I'm looking to learn a specific technique or studying something a particular writer does especially well, I should analyze and critique my own stuff. And read the books I buy strictly for pleasure. After all, I bought them because I thought they'd have a good story inside. If I'm looking for how to write stories or what could be better, I'm missing that good story.