What I’m Reading

June 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

What I'm Reading

Summer for me almost exclusively means reading. I haunt musty old bookstores just to run my fingers along hundreds of dusty spines and envision their hundreds of writers who were once young and hopeful and looking for the right idea. I read in the afternoons, when that lazy, dreamy feeling sets in accompanied by buzzing heat. Usually I drink tea with honey or lemon while I hang upside down in my bed or scout the house for a quiet area.

Reading has always been a great comfort for me. I remember once during a sobbing spell that seemed never to end, my mother finally desperately suggested, “Does your library have any Harry Potter?” I spent the next several hours huddled up in my common room with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, my breathing becoming more regular with every page turn. Books have been my savior since I was little. An escape from pain, a journey to another place.

I definitely get what I call “writing orgasms” when I read a particularly good book. I fall in love with the writer’s choice of words, his use of imagery, that feeling that resonates throughout the entire work. A few great lovers were The Book Thief and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Fantastic writing orgasms. People will say to me, “Yeah, cool story,” and I’ll say, “But the writing. Wasn’t the WRITING just fantastic?”

Reading is a crucial learning experience for any writer. You’ve got to expose yourself to what’s out there. If you don’t read, don’t expect to write well. Or know very much.

Here’s what I’ve read so far this summer:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince– So I’ve read it three times, who cares?

The Hunger Games-Mostly because people made me, and I wanted to see the movie but abide by a strict not-before-I’ve-read-the-book! policy. I found the story itself to be fairly creative, and there’s no doubt that the pacing was well-done (though I find that pacing is over-rated in a way, at least when it’s used in the context of “creating suspense.” Kurt Vonnegut agrees.) But I find that these sorts of stories aren’t really my kind of thing. They don’t make me think as much as other works. But Katniss Everdeen kicked some serious ass in that movie.

Brave New World-I had never read this book, and a few people recommended it to me. Huxley certainly creates a vivid and terrifyingly real world. I felt like I could ask him anything about the social order or the geographic qualities of this brave new world of his, and he could answer me immediately, perhaps with additional references. I really like when authors care enough about their work to “put in the effort” so to speak and be well-researched. Experts on their fantasy. Think about in terms of the medical profession. Would you prefer a doctor who knew anything and everything about the human body, or one who has a general idea? It’s Huxley’s detail that transforms Brave New World from fantasy to very probable future reality.

Slaughterhouse 5– Again, this was a classic I had not read. (I know, what was up with my high school English classes?) I really enjoyed this one. First of all, I’m a sucker for books that make you feel like one, lonely person moving through life, through space and time, interacting with a world that often makes no sense (I felt this way about Brave New World as well.) That’s the sort of feeling that underlies a lot of my own writing. The way Vonnegut moves through each period of time, then back again, then forward and so on is incredibly well thought out and really perfectly done. It truly felt like I was on this journey with the character. And isn’t that the point of all this thing we do?

Me Talk Pretty One Day-This was interesting for me. Nearly everyone I know has told me “I’ve got to read this thing by David Sedaris.” He’s so funny, I’ll love it. “It’s so deep, it’s totally your thing.” I didn’t dislike the book. Sedaris’ writing is beautiful in the sense that nothing ever trips you up or makes you pause. It’s seamless. And he is quite funny at some parts. For me though, I sort of finished it and shrugged. It’s more or less a collection of very short clips from Sedaris’ life that revolve around humor, though there is some talk of self growth and the like. I felt like I could write like Sedaris, make a similar book. But I didn’t want to. The style was not my style, but that by no means should suggest it’s a bad book. It was an amusing way to spend my time, and I really did enjoy the clarity of the writing.

So what have you been reading? Any thoughts on the books listed above? Recommendations?


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