We all know we need to eat our fruits and vegetables, limit fat and sweets, balance our whole-grain carbohydrates and healthy proteins. The importance of a varied diet is well documented. But the same goes for reading: if we overindulge in our favorite things (and be honest about your sugary favorites!) we end up with rotted teeth and diabetes. Or, in the literary sense, a lazy, mushy mind.
To that end, I encourage everyone — writers especially — to diversify their reading diet. Truly, it keeps your senses sharp, and offers plenty of perspective that can improve your own writing. If you don’t read, you can’t write. Period. (And if you don’t read many different genres and styles, you can’t write well.)
And just so no one can claim I don’t practice what I preach, here is a list of some recent books I have read and enjoyed, more or less in order. Amazon buy links included, as well as genre. With a growing stack on the horizon, I’ll be busily eating my literary vegetables for a long time! (And, you know, indulging in candy bars regularly too…)
Currently reading: The Things They Carried – fiction – The Vietnam War revisited through a series of brief, vivid tales, each a visceral reminder of the horrors of war.
The Cellist of Sarajevo – literary fiction – A gritty, wrenching portrayal of a city under siege, and the struggle to preserve humanity under inhuman circumstances.
Knight of Jerusalem: a biographical novel of Balian d’Ibelin – historical fiction – Well researched and unique, focusing on a little-known character during the medieval Christian occupation of the Holy Land.
The Shipping News – contemporary fiction – Superb characterization, snappy writing, and a darkly humorous look at love, life and struggle in modern-day Newfoundland.
Saga – graphic novel/space opera – One of the best things I have read, ever. Great adventure story, excellent dialogue, and gorgeous artwork. Go get yourself a copy now!
The Sport of Kings – literary fiction – A new take on the dark, gothic Southern family saga. Incest, violence, wealth, and racism intersect in all the worst possible ways.
My Antonia – American fiction – It’s a classic for a reason. People just don’t write like this anymore.
I Won a Basket of Porn – erotica/humor – In case you needed another reason to love author Patient Lee! Hilarious fun poked at small-town politics. Plus sex.
Because Beards – erotica/romance anthology – A fun collection of sexy stories, all with some kind of bearded hero. Some were excellent; all were okay. Plus, it’s for charity!
A Heart’s Promise – romance – On the sweet side, a classic romance novel featuring a horse-loving gal and a hot, modern cowboy.
Little Birds – erotica – Sexy short stories, from back in the day when erotica was all about turning on classy, well-read rich people.
Ancillary Justice – science fiction – An unusual SciFi adventure, featuring a ship that is also, somehow, a person. Totally unique.
All The Light We Cannot See – historical fiction – The kind of book that moves you to tears… and makes you wish you could write like that. Utterly superb.