I have a problem. I have been trying to push it down, but it keeps fighting its way up to the forefront of my thoughts. I have too many books to read. Not as in I own them, but they are on my reading list, waiting for me to discover them, befriend them and love (or on the rare occasion get upset with) them. Hello, my name is Michael, and I am a bookaholic. Right now my reading list has 1196 books on it. No, I am not kidding. And this does not include the books I know about that are forthcoming or books I have yet to hear about! It does not include any subscriptions, magazines, other blogs, or news articles either. Just good, old fashioned books of all types. (Sadly, I read very slowly. The upside is that I do not need to re-read, and retain everything, even in a complicated 600-page novel, but I am in the bottom 16% of the population in terms of words per minute. Yep, I tested my reading speed haha.)
I have a goal of reading fifty pages a day from my reading list, which means that I can finish a little over two books per week on average. Of course, I add at least four or five books to my reading list every week, so this is not helping. I am busy, like every other person I know. I am not independently wealthy, which means I work forty to fifty hour weeks, as does my husband. Handling our house and finances are a fulltime job (at least it feels that way sometimes) and that job is also mine. Any long-term planning that needs to be done (trips, conferences, long-term goals, kids) – that would be me. My husband is seriously allergic to making such plans, see my previous blog Opposites Attract: The Story Of A Happy Marriage. And finally I have to balance a medical schedule of appointments, treatments and making sure I am doing what I need to do to stay physically well. I also must confess, this tends to come last for me. Deadlines matter more to me than getting a full night’s sleep. I now strive for a solid seven hours a day, much better from my previous five hours…
If I look at my list as it is now, it will take me roughly eleven years to get through, not taking into account any books I add to my list, which I can guarantee I will do by tomorrow. My friend Krystin joked with me about being in the right line of work (she has her Masters of Library and Information Science). But of course I am. I am a writer and part of the requirement of being a writer is to love to read. I have a passion for books and I have had that passion since I can remember, just like I have with writing. I firmly believe that the more a writer reads the better writing they will produce. I don’t read to be a better writer, though that is a fortunate bonus because sometimes I feel like I need all of the help I can get!
I read for so many reasons, I cannot limit it to one. I read to escape, to be transported to other worlds, both realistic and fantastic. I read for pleasure, entertainment and to try to quench by undeniable thirst to know everything. (How else can I claim know-it-all status?) I read for comfort, affirmation, encouragement, support, coping, joy, fun, excitement and intrigue. I read because I cannot imagine not reading. I read because most of the time I am doing something else, I wish I were reading instead. I love to read. Try to get between me and my books and we’re going to have a problem. Luckily, (for him) my husband knows better.
Of course, I know that I don’t just read for all of the reasons I have listed. At least subconsciously, I am taking an inventory of technique, word choice, what works and what doesn’t (and why), style, pacing, characters and dialogue, setting, imagery, weaknesses, inconsistencies and the author’s (not the narrator’s) voice. This inspires me, not with book ideas (like my reading list, I have far too many already) but with things to try. I love experimentation.
As an undergraduate I read Pam Houston’s “Cowboys Are My Weakness” and she used second person in one of the stories. I was fascinated and wanted to try it. The story was many firsts for me. It was my first time playing around with second person (and my only to date in terms of prose, poetry is another story) and it was also the first time my main protagonist was so incredibly different from me. Every character I write has a little bit of me in them, aspects, personality traits or personal history. This character did not. The only thing we shared was a longing for connection, though his longing was completely subconscious and I was too reflective to be unaware of my own. He came across as an egotistical, sex-crazed, crude man, when in fact it was bravado for being deeply insecure and lonely. Using the second person made it fun, but also tricky to show what was underneath when he was unaware of it himself. It is one of my favorite short stories to date (and what I read for my senior reading after three mentors insisted). It was also the first time I wrote I would consider graphic sex scenes (not gratuitous ), which left me feeling exposed.
Another short story in the same collection of stories was witnessing a horrific event through five different points of view (POV). Of course, when you begin you have no idea what has happened. Each POV gets a little closer in living the end and after the final POV is shared, the story cuts to a loved one watching the news and seeing the story of those five souls’ fates. I loved the challenge of telling the same story five different times, and while actions and dialogue needed to be identical, each POV needed to be its own piece of the larger puzzle, its own story and voice. I was inspired by the movie Crash (though why the movie sparked this I have no idea). Movies and television affect me the same way books do in terms of the subconscious workings of my writing mind, but nothing will ever top reading.
Reading, like writing, is something that I can’t ‘not do’. I wouldn’t know how or where to begin and quite frankly, why think about something that just isn’t possible? So, I will go on reading as much as I can and know that there is always going to be another book for me to read. Just like I cannot possibly write every book I envision (not enough time in this lifetime!) I know that the same will go for my never-ending reading list. I will carry on avoiding bookstores or libraries unless I have at least thirty minutes to spend exploring and my office will have piles of books on the floor (and everywhere) simply because I have run out of shelf and cupboard space. My voracious appetite for the written word will always win, and I am okay with that.
For kicks, here are my most immediate ‘to read’ books. I try to keep it balanced between fiction and nonfiction. My top must-reads may change when I move onto the next book, but most of the titles are devoured before moving further down my list. I have omitted by guilty pleasure reads because those are a blog of their own!
“The Daylight Gate” by Jeanette Winterson (Currently Reading)
Fiction, a find from People Magazine’s book review section. This was off to a rough start, but around page 50 things are moving a little faster. This is the author’s creative take on the Pendle Witch Trials in England (1612). I appreciate the author’s (obvious) historical research as these were actual events.
“Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents 2013” by Jeff Herman (Currently Reading)
Nonfiction, publishing. I was referred by a previous book I read about the publishing process. I have read so many books on publishing, query letters, and agents this-and-that, but this book is fantastic. While it won’t help you prepare the perfect query letter or write a book proposal this is a must for anyone currently seeking representation. It has extras in its agent profiles so you get to know the agents, their likes and dislikes, personalities and what they specifically look for themselves.
“The 9th Girl” by Tami Hoag
Fiction, a library find. This is the book I wish I was reading now! I don’t know why, but when I read the book jacket I just felt the need to read this and it moved to the top of my list (and that is rare). The book centers around the suspected ninth victim of a transient serial killer and the truth about her death. Was she really the serial killer’s victim or were her demons closer to home? I can’t wait! (This will also be the first book I read by this author and I have a feeling, her entire bibliography is going to end up as new additions on my reading list!)
“Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own” by Doreen Orion
Nonfiction, memoir, referred by a book I read about book proposals and queries. The memoir sounds hysterical and is a happily married couple who are complete opposites going on the road, much to the author’s initial dismay. It helps that they are both successful shrinks well aware of their dysfunction. Unfortunately, I am probably going to have to break down and buy this book. I can’t find any libraries that carry it. (I am all about supporting authors and have the personal library to prove it, but I typically read the book first and limit my purchases to my favorites. If I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t hold out, but I would also blow millions on books!)
“The Dinosaur Feather” by S.J. Gazan
Fiction, another People find. A crime novel that is heavy on scientific research (a tad nervous about that, but that fact that it centers on dinosaurs should mean I’ll be all right) with a strong female lead (a weakness of mine – it is just easier for me to get into a woman’s head).
“Born On A Rotten Day” by Hazel Dixon-Cooper
Nonfiction, astrology. This is another book I was referred to by a book on queries and book proposals that I am probably going to need to break down and buy for the same reason as “Queen of the Road”. I am not into astrology, it is fun, but I see it for entertainment value only (as does my husband) but this book is different. Hysterical, dark and blunt (my kind of book!) it talks about the faults and neuroses of each sign, focusing on what people never hear and for good reason!
Do you have a book you think I should read? I would love to hear what others are currently reading and anything to add to my list, because I am a glutton for punishment. Let me know in the comments section!
Now will you please excuse me? I have some reading to do.