If you want to read, don’t be a writer.*
I mean, if you’re going to be a writer, then obviously read.
But they tell kids who read a lot that they should be writers, and it’s a trap! Writers spend such a lot of good reading time re-re-re-re-reading their own work.
But if you want to read a lot for your job, illustrating is where it’s at. That’s where you get the books before almost everyone else, and where dedicated development of reading comprehension and the desire to comment on everything other people has written pays off.
It even usefully diverts the desire to analyse themes, or to wax academic without suddenly having the Chicago Manual of Style thrown at you.
And sometimes, at last, your favourite books*** come back around and need new art.
*I am, of course, doing both, so interpret this accordingly.
**Unless, of course, it’s to illustrate it.
***Not generally style manuals, but who knows? There is, after all, the delightful Maira-Kalman-illustrated Strunk & White.