To Read, Perchance To Write: Ay, There’s The Rub

A few weeks back, one of my childhood friends sent me a message on Facebook asking for recommendations for fantasy and mystery books for her daughter.

I began to reflect on books I’ve read and loved, and began making recommendations off the top of my head.  Most of them were either classics or about fifteen years old.  Many I grew up with.  Few were read in the last five years.

I think I need to read some current books.

My reading repertoire has suffered greatly since deciding to become a writer in eighth grade.  I have many boxes of books in my parents garage, but most are from my childhood.  A good portion are from my college years, waiting to be finished as they gather dust.  However, I don’t think my friend’s daughter would be interested in Third Cinema or theological discourses from the Medieval Period.

I am grateful to my younger siblings and their large collections of books, especially Natalie, who is an avid reader.  Most more current books I read come from their collections.  Also, since buying a tablet last summer, I’ve used the local library app to expand my repertoire and be a bit more current.

This isn’t the first time I’ve realized I need to read more books.  There was a literacy class in my teaching credential program in which we did an activity where we read an article to the point where we knew most of the information, and then we answered a quick quiz.  The last question was ‘How many books did you read over the summer?”

The first five people were reported on the board (all of us were the English credential candidates).  The other four read between 5 and 20 books over the summer.  My summer had been spent as an administrator at a summer camp, where I was busy approximately 20 hours out of the day.  In between, I read magazine and newspaper articles to stay up on current affairs, wrote my great novel.  As for books, however, I only read one: Daniel Deronda by George Elliott.

Granted, Daniel Deronda is approximately 500 pages of Victorian prose, and a great, but densely packed story.

Classics are great, but I know it’s important to read what’s modern, what people are buying daily from bookstores – physical and online.  I need to read good writing and let it feed my skills.  I need to read bad writing so I’m aware of red flags.  I need to read non-fiction to expand my knowledge, and have more room for my imagination to run.

To be a good writer, I need to read.

But, I also need to write.

Here lies the great dilemma of many writers, especially those who have yet to make a living off of their words.

In my quest to become a more well-rounded reader in the past year, here are some of the current books I’ve read, and enjoyed:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

With the movies and the hype, I decided it would be wise to know what people are talking about.  I enjoyed the first book a lot, and really got into the first half of the following two books.  However, the last half of the latter books left me a bit disappointed.  Still, it’s a good story with strong characters, and well-worthy of the big-budget movies based on them.
Delerium by Lauren Oliver

Rare is the book centered around Romeo and Juliet style romance that captures my imagination.  Set in a dystopian future where love is banned, grounded by a great best friend and strong characters, and full of suspense, this book is great.  A film adaptation is in the works, and has a lot of potential.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Starts a bit slow, and I wasn’t sure of it at first.  Then, I read the last half in one sitting, unable to do anything else.  Engrossing, fascinating, weird, interesting, suspenseful, all with a good heart.  If we can trust Wikipedia, Tim Burton is in the works to direct the film version.  It would make a good match of fantastic wierdness.
Inside by Maria V. Snyder

A good sci-fi suspense story set within a unique and interesting setting.  The female protaganist is strong-willed and feisty, making this a fun read.  I bought the sequel, which isn’t quite as good, but is still enjoyable.

Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde

A Vivian Vande Velde book is always fun, intelligent, but grounded by strong characters.  In Deadly Pink, the main character has to rescue her apparently perfect older sister from a fluffy, pink cotton candy-esque virtual reality game.  However, things may be more sinister than they appear.  And there’s a dragon.
Chalice by Robin Mckinley

Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors.  Her books almost feature a strong female protagonist, and Chalice doesn’t disappoint.  It’s another interesting, vivid society and world.  A young woman is suddenly made Chalice, the pseudo-earth mother and protector of her land, who works in tandem with The Master, who may no longer be human.  Tension builds, broken briefly by humor, into a satisfying conclusion.  The book came out in 2009.  My sister Natalie has read it approximately 5 times, and Natalie has good taste.

There were a few other books I read, but the above books reminded me why I love reading, and the wonder of losing yourself in a story, of lost time and realizing you’ve just spent the last hour in another world.

What current books do you recommend (I’m stretching current to mean published within the last 5 years)?  How do you balance reading and writing along with your other responsibilities?  What’s the last book that transported you and made you lose track of time?

Side Note: My sister Natalie is challenging me to ome up with a stupid pun involving “Ay, there’s the rub.”  Any ideas?  Hi-five to the person with the best pun.

Side Note 2: Speaking of time-travel, this came up today on Doctor Who’s Facebook feed:

Side Note 3: Dad came home Monday.  He’s a little wobbly, but is doing well.  Glad to have him home and healing.  Thanks once again to everyone for their support.

13 thoughts on “To Read, Perchance To Write: Ay, There’s The Rub

  1. Still working out the balance, myself, between writing, reading classics, and catching the new stuff. One of the ironies is that writing is forcing me to do certain types of reading, on top of what I would normally want to do!

  2. Hmmm. Best book I’ve read recently that made me lose track of time is the fantasy novel “Elantris”. I consider it new (I think 2006?) but it’s not YA.

    Good call on Robin McKinley. I love most of her books. A lot of people like the Blue Sword, my sister LOVED it and recommended it to me, but I didn’t like it for some reason. I liked Deerskin, Beauty, Spindle’s End and the Outlaws of Sherwood.

    For dystopian literature, I really liked “Matched” by Ally Condie, which is 2010 so that’s recent. I heard a rumor it may also be made into a movie. It sounds a lot like Delirium so hopefully these movies aren’t coming out at the same time and just confuse people!

    For general fantasy novels that are recent, I read the first three books of the Atticus Finch series (stopped after 3 because the epilogue of the third hinted at zombies coming later and I can’t do zombies): Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a modern fantasy book.

    • My sister Natalie thinks your sister is awesome because the Blue Sword is Natalie’s favorite book. Thanks for the recommendations, and I too get turned off by zombies. I was reading a book that had a really interesting society, and I wanted to see what would happen, and then it turned into ZOMBIES! Everybody dies!

      • Horror! I would not like that either. I can handle most fantasy scary “things” but zombies and werewolves, I draw the line. Well, actually, I can even stand werewolves more than zombies, because werewolves have the potential to turn into nice happy people – like Lupin! But there’s no chance for zombies.

        I’m not sure why I didn’t like the Blue Sword. I really don’t know because everyone seems to love it…and I was thoroughly bored.

  3. Take a look at the stuff that Hugh Howie is putting out, particularly his “Wool” series. The “Wool Omnibus” is one of the very few books I’ve read in the last 20 years that I literally couldn’t put down. I read the whole 500 pages or so over the course of one weekend, on my Kindle.

  4. I totally get what you’re saying about the having to read to write thing. It’s tough finding a balance, and of course that’s not even taking in consideration reading for pure research purposes. So much to do, so little time. Since you’re a big fantasy fan, I was wondering if you’ve heard of “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss? Awesome trilogy, with two books out so far. But don’t worry it’s not like George R. R. Martin where it takes 7 years to write a book and he’s old and will probably die before the series is done. I’ve read the first one, and I’m currently reading second one. Check it out on awesome, a ton of reviews. Digging it.

  5. I totally understand what you mean about not having enough time to read books as a writer – it’s ironic really! I had more time to read them when I did work unrelated to writing… I try to cram in some pleasure reading but there is only so much time in a day lol. Great post!

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