Friday, January 16, 2009

On Reading

I have recently become addicted to PaperbackSwap. There is a referral linkie on the left nav of this page if you want to check it out (disclaimer, if you sign up with that link, I get a credit towards a book...feel free to use this link (  instead if you don't want to click through the referral link). It is a smorgasbord of books available for trade...It's been kind of a struggle for me deciding on what to get. 

(There was a long story here in the middle that I wrote and deleted, because it was, well, long. Synopsis: I used to read a lot, but stopped for close to a decade.)

On starting to read again after college, my inclination--having been bitten by the writing bug--was to start with what I thought of as standards and classics, hoping the magic would rub off on my fingers. I read Virginia Woolf, and although I loved her unusual style, I found it almost unreadable. I read Hunter S Thompson, and became a lifelong fan. I choked on Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and, although I really liked them both, found them too inky and preachy to finish. I read The Great Gatsby and thought it was OK (maybe I read it too fast and didn't get it); I really liked Twain's classics, as well as Morrison's Beloved. I threw in some King, Rowling, Gaiman, Barker, and Adams for balance.

So, now with Paperbackswap, I'm faced with that question again: what to read for a balance of good, solid writing and entertaining fiction (spinach and ice cream); what will inspire me to be the best writer that I can be in the way that Cormac McCarthy and Ernst Hemingway do, but be entertaining enough to keep momentum towards fifty books read this year?

So far, I've ordered (and received almost all of): King's Needful Things, McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, Goddard's In Pale Battalions, Russo's Empire Falls, Robinson's Gilead, and Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Of the books posted, I guess these made up the first round of what I considered to be modern literature's A-list. I have a few more on my wish list that aren't yet available. I probably need more "popcorn" authors, like Grisham and Koontz.

PBS has reminded me, in the way that visiting Barnes and Noble still does, how much I love books.


Jamie Eyberg said...

If you can get your hands on a copy of Kosinski's The Painted Bird you will not be disappointed. Also Lisa Gardener's Alone is a good read.

Natalie L. Sin said...

My TBR pile is way too big. Finally finishing MEG reminded me of what I'm missing!

Robert said...

Anything by Dennis Lehane, Stewart O'Nan, TC Boyle, Philip Roth, Elmore Leonard, Michael Connolly, Charlie Huston, James Lee Burke, George P. Pelecanos, Richard Price just to name a few :-)

Rob Brooks said...

I think John Irving is a good example of an author who will inspire you to be good and will still keep you reading. I'd recommend World According to Garp or A Widow for One Year. He's the only writer I know who tells you what is going to happen somewhere, and when it happens you're completely surprised.

Felicity Dowker said...

Random unrelated comment: your blog looks fabulous, especially the header. Can you tell me how you did it? I've been dying to fix up my header for ever.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Thanks everyone for the suggestions...I knew I could count on you all for some good recommendations! I wish I could just take a month off of work and just read and write. That would be wonderful.

Felicity: thanks! I have been tinkering with themes forever, and got so sick of it all that I just modified my old theme directly in the CSS. For the background image and the header, I just decided on a motif (smoke, velvet), found some nice, royalty-free images in the 'net, and prettied them up in Photoshop. I'd be happy to help if you wanted a header...any particular theme, color schemes, etc, you were looking for? If you want, we can take it offline and email is jeremy at brooksfamily dot org

Catherine J Gardner said...

Felicity's right, your blog is looking mighty spiffy. :)

My 'to read' pile is huge.

Barry Napier said...

Is that a picure of Heaven???