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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Pile

I think most people have heard the famous saying from David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross "A. B. C. - Always Be Closing." I take the same approach to reading - minus the cursing, the testosterone and the gold watch. I say, A. B. R. - Always Be READING.

If you want to be a writer you have to read. Read everything. Read best sellers to see what's working in the literary marketplace. Read prize winners to see what critics like. Read classics to see what will stand the test of time. Read. Read. Read.

Unfortunately for me, I am a slow reader. Because of that, I rarely read the same author more than once, no matter how much I loved their book, so that I can experience different styles and voices and learn different things. I generally go back and forth between what I consider "work reading" and "pleasure reading." Some of my favorite books have been slow paced, dense, or otherwise very difficult to get through, requiring patience and effort. But more often than not, the pay-off when I reach the end of those books makes it well worth my investment. However, I generally need to recover by reading something light.

I'm just finishing a rather consumable mystery at the moment and need to select a new book from my growing pile of to-reads. So I'm opening it up to a vote. Here are the options:

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
2. Wicked by Gregory Maguire

3. Underworld by Don DeLillo
4. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

5. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
6. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber

I certainly have more in my to-read stack, but these are the ones that I currently have in my possession without a trip to the book store (there might be more actually, but these jump to mind without re-organizing my book shelf).

So if you have an opinion about what should be next up, please vote in the comments. I'll be sure to tell you what I think when I've finished reading!


Andi said...

Oh the choices! I haven't read any of them (ducking head in shame), but I read a collection of Proulx's short stories, and I just love her.

Like you, I'm a pretty slow reader. For a long time I went through my reading hardly ever consuming more than one book by any given author. Then I fell in love with Paul Auster. Full-on, point-blank, undeniable literary crush territory. Now I've read his memoirs, several novels, and I own almost every one of this novels. Likewise, I fell in love with his wife, Siri Hustvedt, and now I've read almost all of her stuff.

It's a very different experience getting to know an author's work intimately, and really I feel it's taught me a lot about writing. It's interesting to follow along with an author's professional growth through novels and their personal growth in memoir. Very informative.

Now I'm on to Philip Roth. So far, one memoir down and three novels. Long way to go!

Stephanie said...

Andi, funny enough, Paul Auster is one of my few multiple reads. I've read both The New York Trilogy and Leviathan. Surprisingly, I preferred Leviathan, but both intrigued me a lot, so I understand the crush part!

My crush, if any, would be Neal Stephenson, who is also a multiple read for me. It's hard, and pointless, to resist when I really fall in love with an author, but nothing (since being obsessed with Madeline L'Engle as a child) has drawn me quite that deeply.

I think your point is well taken though. There is definitely something to be learned from reading and following a writer's progression.

I'm taking yours as a vote for Annie Proulx!

BadSpeller said...

Watership Down. I mean, who doesn't like rabbits?

Last Knight said...

I adored Watership Down; I've not read any of the others, but I like Carl Hiaasen's writing. So, I'd say one of those two. ^_^

I devour books like popcorn or potato chips, though, and it's not unusual for me to finish a novel in a single sitting.