Sunday, December 12, 2010

I am Really Book Dumb...For Reals

Truthfully, I must confess, I am NOT as well read as I should be. Especially for being an aspiring writer and all.

In July of 2009 I officially stopped daydreaming about the story in my head and started typing. Even then I was reading mostly James Patterson. I joined one of those book clubs and snatched up some mainstream stuff. I remember getting one about a young woman helping her town after a tornado and an early reprint of a Sandra Brown. A student of mine gave me a Nicholas Sparks. I read his works off and on. Patterson kept me busy, as did some Dan Brown and Elizabeth Kostova.

But I write Love Stories and up until 2008 all I had was some Sparks and a single Sandra Brown.

I have an even worse confession. I am poorly read in the classics. In college I think I read Pride and Prejudice. The movies I remember more. I recall some titles from high school and college but vaguely remember most of them.

Does that make me a poorly trained writer? Does under-read translate into Book-Dumb? Right now I feel like I am in a place where I shouldn't write. Something inside me is unquenchable. All I want to do is read.

What should I be reading? What should I have read already?

What books do you feel all writers, at least of fiction, should read before typing a single word?


  1. Hi Charlie,
    Surely you've read Shakespeare, those are the real classics to me. Raphael Sabatini (please correct me if I've misspelled), is a favorite of mine, I've read Gone with the Wind several times, about everything Anne Rice ever wrote, John Steinbeck is another favorite, The Winter of our Discontent, especially, but it is very sad. As for reading, it's a grand pastime, until you just have to write again... and I hope you will. Happy blogging! Kathy Fox

  2. Charli,

    Great post. I can completely relate.

    I, too, haven't read a great deal. About a year and a half ago, I followed some sound advice by those within the realm of the Liar's Club and began to read within the genre of my interest, science fiction. I have found that reading from the likes of Jack McDevitt, Alastair Reynolds, Michael Creighton, and Ben Bova have helped me to see how successful writers structure plot line, dialogue, and character development. I'm still struggling with writing my second novel, taking advice from critique group members, and trudging along. Writing surely is NOT an easy process, and marketing is even more challenging! I guess the best advice I can add is to keep learning, keep writing, and keep persevering!


  3. I don't think that any books are more worthy of being read than others. Read what fascinates you. Read what gives *that* feeling in your chest, that can't-put-it-down struggle. Read for the joy of it, not because you "should".

  4. I am well read (all the classics and more, having been an English major at university and having studied law after that), but I don't think anyone needs to be well read to write. In fact, I think a knowledge of the classics can impede an author in modern times. IMHO, a surplus of imagination, a grasp of writing mechanics, an understanding of marketability, and a bit of luck are the main ingredients to success as an author.

    Happy Writing!

  5. I am most certainly NOT well read..I only read on school b/c I had too and never finished a book- coles notes! I would read a little of beginning middle and end and b.s. the rest. But 2 years ago a friend shoved Eat Pray Love at me, and I found a love of hubby is thrilled and we are accumulating a nice collection of books...I don't think you need to well-read to be a's just something inside of you, I've only been writing for a year, but I love it and know that it's meant to be- well-read or not. It's a constant learning process, and with each story my abilities get better. I want to read the classics, and see why they are so timeless, and I will, they've been around this long, I'm pretty sure they're not going anywhere anytime soon.

  6. Given the number of books out there already, and that I don't know you at all, it would be presumptuous to suggest any book to read.

    Reading is a lifelong education, and there will always be something you "should have" read but didn't. And some books will probably remain closed to me. (I've read enough Henry James to last me for a lifetime, thank you).

  7. My unique approach to "what's on my bookshelf" will surprise everyone.

  8. I'll not claim to be well read. Rather, I can only say that I read frequently, although not as much as I used to when I had more of that commodity we call free time. Since I was in middle school, I've been an avid reader and started with SF and speculative fiction by the likes of Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison. I was addicted to Sherlock Holmes. I couldn't get enough.

    I discovered Edgar Allan Poe at about the same time. Over the past few years, I've picked up John Irving and even more Ray Bradbury as well as Ben Bova who is coming to BaltiCon next year.

    I can't say exactly who to recommend before you decide to write something of your own. Just read what interests you and absorb as much as you can.

  9. Gosh, I feel underread too! Especially with the debut novels coming out--everyone Twitters about them like crazy and I'm like, "well, guess I'll get to that sometime this decade." (It's not for lack of wanting, it's from lack of time. IDK, is that a viable excuse? LOL!)

  10. Looking back, I did read Shakespeare but that was for school. I didn't go into a store and buy it because I couldn't wait to read it. I enjoyed them and still do, but they are plays. Meant to be seen.

    I read frequently, absolutely. But very few characters make it into that place we keep, for all the characters who live within us still. That's not to say most of the books I've read weren't good, just, they didn't stick over the years.

    I do want to say I've read this or that. So, I am expanding my horizons. I will absorb as much as possible, for both leisure and the craft.

  11. Charli-

    Now there's an interesting question--which characters (not books) have made it into the place you keep for all the characters who live within you still? I'll let you lead this off with yours.


  12. I can relate, because right now, I feel like I use up my spare time writing instead of reading new books!

  13. Ponyboy Curtis, The Outsiders
    Huck Finn
    Charlotte, Charlotte's Web
    Noah and Allie Calhoun, The Notebook
    Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca
    Charlotte O'Keefe, Handle With Care
    Celie, The Color Purple
    Janie Starks, Their Eyes Were Watching God
    Francesca Johnson, The Bridges of Madison County
    Jamie Fraser, The Outlander
    Taylor McAden, The Rescue
    Garrett & Theresa, Message in a Bottle

    I stopped here because I was digging in me brain. LOL.

  14. Come over with a big empty bag ... I have an entire library you can borrow from but I want them back. :)