“I cannot live without books.” Thomas Jefferson
As I’m a writer, I think it goes without saying that I’m obsessed with books. I can’t get enough of them. It’s like crack to me. I think I actually sniff the cover of a new book when I hold one in my hand.
More importantly, I believe writers need to read rapaciously in order to improve their craft. Stephen King said it best, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” AMEN.
When I read a book, I look for multiple and crucial factors:
a) Is there a theme? What important message is the author trying to convey? (I am constantly surprised by how many books don’t actually have a real theme, just a bunch of action, proceeded by another round of endless action…)
b) Are the characters real, could they be real living people, complete with flaws and all? What do they want? Do I understand them? Hilary Mantel’s trilogy of books about Thomas Cromwell, “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up The Bodies” are excellent at conveying character. I feel like I not only know the man, but I actually like him! No shock that she’s won the Man Booker Prize (twice).
c) Plot – The one knock of literary fiction is that at times it’s a veritable snoozefest – NOTHING HAPPENS. Granted, the theme and the writing style may be prodigious, but nothing by way of exciting action actually occurs. So yes, I would prefer it if books had some compelling action to keep me interested throughout the entire story.
d) Writing Style/Voice – This is completely subjective, but I am *very picky* about this. I know within ONE paragraph if I’m going to be able to stand reading the thing for another 300-500 pages…Sometimes I just suck it up if it’s a real classic or award winner and just try and make it through while my eyes bleed…(being the professional that I am, I won’t mention specific titles!) 😉
My preferred genre of books include: Classics, Literary Fiction, and Historical Fiction. But I try to also read Commercial Fiction and maybe sometimes Crime/Thriller Fiction just to stay current and see what’s popular out there.
To that end, here are some of my favourite life-changing books:
- “The Age of Innocence” – Edith Wharton
- “The Master” – Colm Toibin
- “The Hours” – Michael Cunningham
- “Life of Pi” – Yann Martel
- “East of Eden” – John Steinbeck
- “Little Women” – Louisa May Alcott
- “Pride and Prejudice” – Jane Austen
- “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” – Thomas Hardy
- “The Picture of Dorian Gray” – Oscar Wilde
- “Remains of the Day” – Kazuo Ishiguro
- “The Unknown Masterpiece” – Honore de Balzac
- “As I Lay Dying” – William Faulkner
- Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
- “The Witches” – Ronald Dahl
- “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” – Ronald Dahl
- Nearly every book by Enid Blyton 🙂
Reading nourishes the soul…