For a few years I was making grand plans to get stuff I’d wanted to read for ages and not gotten around to read. The end result of these plans was that I pretty much wasn’t reading anything, because I’d be trying to read those books when I didn’t really feel like it, and I wouldn’t let myself start reading something else until I’d finished those or given up on them because I’d decided they were too horrible to finish.
I abandoned this in favor of a system of reading whatever the fuck I felt like a year or so ago. Then I started making nearly weekly trips to the local library last summer. So, I’ve found lots of books in the past year that aren’t things I’d ever known existed. And been reminded of things I’ve wanted to read for ages but forgotten even existed.
And then we moved last month and there were built-in shelves in the bedroom and I ended up unpacking some books I hadn’t seen in over a decade.
This list is just the books I’ve read since last June (links are to Goodreads):
- The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower
- I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas (illustrator)
- All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown by Sydney Taylor
- All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzi and Christina Lamb
- Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne, and J. K. Rowling
- More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown by Sydney Taylor
- A Gathering of Widowmakers by Mike Resnick
- The Outpost by Mike Resnick
- True Grit by Charles Portis
- The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
- Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
- Reilly’s Luck by Louis L’Amour
- Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
- Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
- Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire
- Second Star by Dana Stabenow
- Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick
- Cartoon History of the Universe II, Vol. 8-13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome by Larry Gonick
- Heller with a Gun by Louis L’Amour
And the books I’m currently reading:
- The Widowmaker by Mike Resnick
- Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey
- A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
- Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
- Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
(Yes, I’m only reading five books at once right now! I’m amazed too!)
Now, like I said, that’s just the books. That’s not counting having read an entire webcomic (Digger, by the amazingly talented Ursula Vernon) in one day recently. Or my on-going project to read every single Marvel issue of GI Joe . . . which was going very fast until I hit the point where they started coming out with dumb shit like the Eco-Warriors, and even Larry Hama can’t do much with ideas like that. Or the day I spent reading blogposts about medieval book bindings. Or the day I spent learning about inaccuracies in the historical costumes in movies. Or the days I’ve spent reading articles about politics. Or all the book samples I’ve read. Or . . . do you get the idea now why I consider it fucking stupid that some people only look at lists of books read for a year to calculate how much people are reading?
Now, why did I make this post? Because I saw someone the other day — and this is something I’ve seen frequently before from authors and, perhaps especially, from wannabe authors — talking about how they don’t have time to read for fun any more because they’ve got all this reading to do for research for their next planned work and to keep up with their genre.
I can’t wrap my head around that mentality. First of all, if you don’t enjoy what you’re researching, then why the fuck are you writing a story that involves whatever it is you’re researching?! If you aren’t interested in something, then don’t write a story where it’s a major thing. This is simple logic, people!
Second, why do you have to keep up with your genre? Yes, I’ve been reading more sci-fi than I usually do the past year, but, well, look at the publication dates of those books. I’m not reading anything new. I’m reading stuff that interests me.
Why did I read what I’ve read? Let’s see:
- Caught my eye in the library: 2
- Recommended by my wife: 2
- Liked other stuff by the author: 14
- Re-reading a book I knew I liked: 2
- Fucked if I can remember: 1
- Saw the movie and wanted to read the book: 2
- Saw some quotes from it and wanted to read the whole thing: 2
- Wanted to finish the series because I liked the plot even if the style left a bit to be desired: 2
- Trying to figure out why other people love it so much: 2
Unpacking “Liked other stuff by the author” to see how I discovered those authors in the first place:
- Sydney Taylor – I don’t remember if Mom suggested I read All-of-a-Kind Family or just left it laying around after one time when she read it and I read it. At any rate, it’s Mom’s fault I discovered her.
- J. K. Rowling – Saw the first Harry Potter movie, decided to check out the books.
- Mike Resnick – This one is actually a kind of amusing story. I’d gotten him mixed up with someone else and started reading one of his short stories as a “prove to myself that I’m not the worst writer in the industry” thing. (Look, it’s a weird way to deal with anxiety inflicted inferiority issues, but it works, okay?) Instead, I ended up loving the story and wanting more like it.
- Louis L’Amour – My mother and grandfather read him a lot, so I grew up with his books around. I never finished one until a few years ago, though, for whatever reason.
- P. G. Wodehouse – Several of my favorite authors cited him as one of their favorites, so I had to try him out.
- Seanan McGuire – Someone linked to a blogpost where she described a character as the child of Batman and Dazzler.
- Dana Stabenow – Again, I don’t know if Mom recommended her or just left one of her Kate Shugak books laying around and I picked it up.
Oh, and I’ve got Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes reserved at the library right now. Why? Because this is possibly the longest I’ve gone in years without reading fantasy and I’m missing it, and this book’s negative reviews say that it’s “too D&D like” and “not dark enough”, which makes it sound perfect for my tastes.
So, in short, I’m not reading anything because I think I should be or because it’s directly helpful for something I’m writing.
That is not, however, to say that these books won’t have an influence on what I’m writing. I’m mimicking, somewhat, the structure of All-of-a-Kind Family for the first Jake book (now tentatively titled Jareth’s Son) because I think it’s a good way to introduce a young reader to a different culture. Some of the books listed about have shown me what not to do in various ways . . . one never let the characters catch a break, another was great until the last chapter which left me so depressed that I’m not sure I’m going to read the sequel, one had a romantic twist at the end that I saw coming about a quarter of the way into the book, etc. And some have had a direct influence . . . I got character ideas that have blossomed into at least the starts of stories from two of the Mike Resnick books, for instance.
And I’m going to end this post here because I just realized I’ve been up six hours and only had a handful of chips to eat, which explains why I’m having trouble thinking clearly. Sorry if this got too hard to follow.