Many well known and well-paid authors tell beginner writers to read whenever you can’t write. The reason is, reading will expose you to more ideas, more styles of writing, and a lot of great fiction. Even non-fiction can be useful and if it fits into the research you need to do for your novel, that’s a win-win.
I usually take an hour every day to read plus an hour or so before bed. I know conventional wisdom says to avoid any electronics and screens before bed in order to sleep better, but I’ve fallen asleep with my phone in my hand more times than I can count. My rule is, the second time I drop it, I have to shut it down and turn out the lights. And yes, I have a reader on my phone.
I’m going to share my recent reads soon but for this blog, I want to talk about books that have fashioned me as a writer. Besides those that were assigned as classwork over the years, even though The Yearling and Smoky the Cowhorse will always be favorites. I wonder if Hollywood ever made a movie out of those two?
During a time in my life when I caught every flu or cold that came along, my mom, no great reader herself, bought Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty for me to read. I had no idea that telling a story through the eyes of an animal was unique when the book first appeared. I’d watched too much Disney television and accepted that as normal. There followed a ton of books about horses, from My Friend Flicka, National Velvet, and the Black Stallion series. Also dogs, like Lad: A Dog, Big Red, and Where the Red Ferns Grow. Old Yeller was a favorite on television, as was Lassie.
As a young adult, I left behind Little Women and moved on to Little House on the Prairie. Then, boom, I discovered The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Cannot get enough of that sword and sorcery style of story. Star Trek took me into The Foundation Series, Stranger in a Strange Land, Caves of Steel, and The Martian Chronicles.
Many television series influenced my reading. Kung Fu led to a sampling of Westerns and Louie L’Amour. Police dramas gave me the chance to read some murder mysteries, especially Agatha Christie. And a sense of the excitement of fighting Nazis in World War II brought me into Escape from Colditz, Catch-22, and The Guns of Navarone.
As an adult, I have enjoyed a ton of Romances. I remember standing in the hallway of my sister’s house, telling her about the soap operas she could no longer watch, and then talking about where we were in reading Kathleen Woodiwiss’s most recent novel. I didn’t care for contemporary romance back then, only historicals and especially Regency. Then Contemporary got a lot more interesting, and I read great ones like Good Grief by Lolly Winston, Her Other Secret by HelenKay Dimon, How Not to Fall by Emily Foster, Maid for Love by Marie Force, Make Me Forget by Anna Brooks, and The Men of Starlight Bend, an anthology by a lot of good writers.
I joined a book club that reads science fiction and fantasy and occasionally horror. With them, I have picked up books I never would have and enjoyed rather a lot. We just finished Invasive by Chuck Wendig, certainly not my style but could not put it down. We read Armada by Ernest Cline, a fun read. I really enjoyed the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman and got the club to read the first one. We read Locked In by John Scalzi, Old Man’s War also by Scalzi, and Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series.
I have to include the Outlander series, the Laundry Files series, the Rivers of London series, The Expanse books, Lois McMaster Bujold’s books, all of them, Elle Kennedy, Susan Squires, Molly Harper, I probably would go on and on if I didn’t have a deadline for publishing this. The bottom line is, Read. Stretch outside your comfort zone. Assign yourself reading homework. Check old literary journals for books published last century that are worth a glance. Have fun!
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.