Reading for Pleasure

I was very lucky recently to meet two Brisbane writers, both published authors, who, being generous with their time and advice, as well as passionate about their writing, inspired me to buy their books and read them. Had I not met them, I would probably never have read their work because it dwells in an area of your typical bookstore that I rarely visit and, when I do, usually only to buy something for someone else.

I love SF. I am besotted with it almost to the exclusion of other forms of writing. This is not to say I hold all non-SF writing in poor regard – not at all – just that I long for books that take me out of this world. When I was younger I read more broadly, so I’m not completely ignorant. It’s just that over the last ten or twenty years I’ve read little else.

This is not a good thing.

Reading outside the genre I write in is important in ensuring I learn as much about writing and the elements of a good story as I can from as many different sources as are available. All forms of writing have the capacity to teach, to warn and enlighten. Even the great Sir Pratchett says so.

Another good reason is pleasure. When I read my beloved SF genre now, I analyse. I edit. I judge the author’s craft and, by comparison, my own. It’s hard not to do this. Since getting serious about writing I’ve become doubly serious about my reading. There are times when I forget how to just enjoy the book.

Reading outside my genre is one way to recapture that pleasure while still learning more about the craft, albeit in a more subtle, osmotic manner. I’ve known this for a while, but couldn’t decide where to start. Would it be crime, or romance, or crime-romance? Would it be one of the classics everyone says I must read but have so far avoided? Then I met Rebecca Sparrow and Rebecca Bloomer in the space of two weeks and immediately had new, non-SF books to read. Better still, both books centre on a truth I had to learn the hard way and still sometimes fail to put into practice, and that is to laugh more often, because things are rarely as bad as I think they are.

Usually, if I am laughing aloud while reading a book, then quoting passages to TB, it’s because I’m reading Pratchett (and it’s usually Death I’m quoting; I love that skinny guy). This time around it was Rebecca Sparrow’s The Girl Most Likely. Rachel Hill finds life hasn’t turned out as she’d planned. Her attempts to get everything back on track only compound the spectacular failure she feels she has become and, in one scene, she does something both hilarious and unspeakably bad while drunk and dressed as a nun. If Rachel decided to run away to another town, change her name and start afresh, or if she sealed herself up in her room and never emerged into the light of day again, you’d understand. Instead, she shows us what it is to be resilient, to laugh and move on.

Rebecca Bloomer’s Willow Farrington Bites Back has that same all-important message. Willow is a survivor too. She reminds us that although it can be easy to think you’re the only one that finds life is sometimes too hard – that no one else cares or understands – it’s usually not true. It’s a beautiful book, and not just for the brilliant cover.

So, many thanks to these two authors and their wonderful books. It was timely in that I needed some pointers about what it is to bring characters alive from within, and because it’s that time of year when I’m thinking about the year almost gone and the one about to begin, a time when I’m looking ahead, making a fresh start and reinvigorating my dreams.

Here’s to 2010 and staying in the game. 🙂

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6 Comments on “Reading for Pleasure”

  1. TB Says:

    Actually Megs hasn’t been entirely truthful here. Her claim to reading only SF isn’t really true  She has a dirty little secret. Occasionally, when she’s in a particular mood, when the moons align, she resorts to reading (wait fot it)…


    • Well, now that you mention it, reading Shakespeare is a lot like reading fantasy. You have ghosts, witches, magic, prophecy, fairies, etc. Kings and queens, treachery and courage, cross-dressing. As much as I love The Bard, you have to admit even his histories are more fantasy than fact. 🙂

  2. onewandering Says:

    Oh, this sounds familiar! 🙂 I, too, consider fantasy to be my “main” genre… but every few months or so I attack a couple of non-fantasy books and most recently I’ve discovered a love of historical fiction (Stephen Lawhead’s Robin Hood series (Hood, Scarlett & Tuck) & Mercedes Lackey’s Gwenhwyfar).

    Last year, I picked up two books back-to-back that were very good and ended up suggesting them to my Dad. It was the FIRST TIME in my life I’d ever given my Dad a book to read that he liked too! Very Exciting Stuff. They were: “We Took to the Woods” by Louise Dickinson Rich and “The Hearts of Horses” by Molly Gloss.

    Just before those, I read a book my mom lent me by Tami Hoag. It was excellent (mystery/thrill), and I was surprised to find myself opening up a horseback riding magazine to find Tami featured — she apparently writes and rides!

    I’m back on my fantasy kick, but an online friend of mine recently suggested “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak — I haven’t picked it up yet, but I think I will pretty soon!

    Did you like either of these two books in your post enough to recommend them? What are your favorite fantasy authors?

    • I love both books but, as you say in your beautiful post, book love is a personal thing. The images each of us see, the emotions we experience, are uniquely ours. One reader’s review is just that; one opinion formed from that person’s life, loves and preferences.

      But I do love both books, and I’m really glad to have read The Book Thief too. It’s one of those books that moved me and settled in me; I think of it often. Strong images and emotions.

  3. bloowillbooks Says:

    OMG! Just read Bill Bryson’s ‘Shakespeare’ and loved it.

    It’s true what you say about reading with intent. I do the same thing now, although I rarely expect to learn about creative writing while reading non-fiction books. Bill Bryson is my exception. I love the whimsy he injects into his books. I am awestruck by the way he can compact so much knowledge into a readable, even linear piece of work. There are lessons to be learned here and I’m taking notes!

    And thank you for the glowing report Miss Megs! Glad to be of service!

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