Wednesday, June 6, 2012

For the Love of Reading

For the Author Blog Challenge I am participating in, yesterday's prompt was:

How do the things you read impact your writing? What do you love to read? What do you avoid reading at all costs? How would your writing change if you read more of the things you typically avoid?

I avoided this prompt yesterday but it kept gnawing at me - so today I am going to have two posts.  One, on this prompt, and one, my regular Wednesday Spring Things features.

I probably will not be following the prompts the next several days.  Thursday, June 7 and Friday, June 8, are the 9 month anniversary of the great Binghamton, NY flood of September 7 and 8, 2011, thanks to Tropical Storm Lee.  I use the monthly anniversaries to track the progress of the recovery of my neighborhood (one of the neighborhoods badly impacted) and the Binghamton area.  Saturday, June 9, is my Sustainable Saturday feature and Sunday, June 10, is my Civil War Sunday.  I will use these "days with a purpose" to (hopefully) improve my writing skills, and I hope you will join me.

What I love to read:

1.  My first love is nonfiction, and if I do end up writing a book, I suspect it will be something along the non fiction line.  Examples of books I have enjoyed in recent years:

Freakanomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.  They write about "The Hidden Side of Human Nature".  I loved their unexpected takes on "accepted facts", or what you might also call "Everything You Thought You Know is Wrong."

Outliers-The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Who would have thought that success in sports depended so much on your birthday?  Or exactly why was young Bill Gates in the right place at the right time?

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places on Earth by Eric Weiner.  Another "it's not what you think" book.  Come to think of it, that seems to be a theme of my non fiction reading.

2. Alternate history (what if the Axis powers won World War II?  What if.....) including these favorites:

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick.  
The Gladiator, by Harry Turtledove (YA fiction).
The Worldwar series and Colonization series (which are related), by Harry Turtledove.

Why alternate history?  Because I was originally a history major in college.  And I do enjoy a good "what if", if well written and richly researched.

3.  Dystopian fiction, mostly YA.  My prize find was The Hunger Games, which I read not long after it came out and long before the entire world discovered it. (Truthfully, I was not near as thrilled by the two sequels.)  I love seeing how each author meets the challenge of creating a world and allowing you in, and making you feel, even after you put the book down, that you belong in that world.  You can't wait to reenter it.

Other favorites, not strictly dystopian, include:

The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
Rot and Ruin and its sequel Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry.

Rot and Ruin contains what I think is one of the best opening lines of any book I've ever read:  "Benny Imura couldn't hold a job, so he took to killing."  

Yes, these two Jonathan Maberry books are zombie lit, but...don't sell zombie lit short. 

In a way, it's too bad that dystopian literature has become so popular but - that's a subject for another post.

What do I avoid?  Romance. (well, I do read an occasional romance in Good Housekeeping magazine, but that's about it.) Anything that sounds like a textbook.  And (this may horrify some people in the Challenge) poetry. Except for some Robert Frost.  Would my writing change if I read these genres?  I truly don't know.

What I do know is that I am paying more attention now to books I read, to discover (in books that work for me), why they work.  I need to read more to learn to write better and I need to pay more attention to the inner workings of those books.  But I will still read for pleasure, and I always will.

If you are an author-when you read for pleasure, do you find yourself dissecting books?  Or do you just - read?




  1. Sounds like good choices. One of my goals in the next few years is to try to find time to read more.

  2. I loved Freakonomics! I drove my husband crazy for weeks spouting out random facts from it!

  3. One of my re-read books is by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove. Excellent book. I believe it was titled Gods and Goddesses. Anyway, I seem to have an unrealized penchant for Historical Fiction as well. Maybe that's why I wrote Yassa in the first place. Meh, who knows? Excellent post today!! WRITE ON!


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