Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Varied Reading Menu

Lest anyone think, based on the discussion of the past few days, that my reading is limited to chick lit, I thought I'd throw out some of the other things I enjoy. I only got into that discussion because that new This is Not Chick Lit book just came out and re-ignited the debate, plus it grew out of the workshop I just gave. Meanwhile, I tend to have seasonal reading tastes, and this is chick lit season.

Yeah, for some strange reason I tend to get into reading modes based on what time of year it is. In the summer, I usually focus on chick lit and lighter contemporary romance. Fall is mostly for mystery, fantasy, and some more serious literary work. In December, I tend to be a sucker for holiday-themed books, especially in romance and chick lit. That's also when I like re-reading Harry Potter books. Winter is when I tend to read historical fiction (including historical romance) and classics. Spring is kind of variable (since spring weather is so variable here). That's when I start transitioning to lighter stuff, but a good rainy day will kick me back to heavier stuff. Science fiction tends to run the gamut in tone, so I may read it throughout the year depending on the book itself. Of course, for authors I follow, I'll read their new books whenever I get my hands on them.

Some favorites by genre (and this is really skimming the surface -- two hours from now I'm sure I'll think of dozens more):

Mystery: I LOVE Dick Francis. I'm also enjoying Elizabeth George's darker, more psychological mysteries. I read most of the Ellis Peters Cadfael books, but I also loved her contemporary stand-alone mysteries (Never Pick Up Hitchhikers is one of my all-time favorites). Of course, there's Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. For this fall, I plan to start working through the Dorothy Sayers reading list Connie Willis gave me.

World War II and Action-Adventure: I've read just about everything by Herman Wouk and Leon Uris (my copy of Mila 18 is rather battered). Other favorites include Alistair MacLean and Jack Higgins/Harry Patterson (and I think there was one other name he wrote under). Still in the action genre, but pre-WWII, I love John Buchan's books.

Classics and historical novels: I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for Dickens (this winter I plan to finally finish Our Mutual Friend). I also find Thomas Hardy strangely addicting, no matter how depressing he gets. Then there's E.M. Forster, and, of course, Jane Austen. I don't know how many times I've read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, so I really ought to branch out and try something else by him. I still love Joan Aiken's young adult novels that are set in an alternate universe that corresponds to the Victorian period in our world, but which in her world have a Stuart still on the throne.

Science fiction: Connie Willis is possibly my overall favorite author (if only she'd write faster!). Alan Dean Foster was who got me into science fiction in the first place, and while I love his Flinx books, I think Icerigger is my favorite of his (great to read during a hot summer). Then there's Lois McMaster Bujold, and Anne McCaffrey, though I like her "ship" series better than the Pern series (which is science fiction, not fantasy, even though there are "dragons" in it). I've liked a lot of what I've read by Neal Stephenson, but I haven't kept up with him lately. I also really like Robert J. Sawyer. I used to be in a science fiction book group, so I read more widely then, and I discovered a lot of authors I intended to keep up with, but haven't.

Fantasy: My bookshelf's fantasy section is surprisingly slim. I guess I get more out of the library, or I was forced to write fantasy because I wasn't seeing what I wanted. I loved much of Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series, but haven't been as crazy about her more recent books in that series (it doesn't help that my favorite characters don't seem to be her favorite characters, so she keeps killing or marginalizing my favorite characters and focusing on characters I don't find interesting at all). Of course, there are the Harry Potter books and the Narnia books. More recently, I've gotten into Neil Gaiman, who makes me feel like a hack, and Terry Pratchett.

Romance, women's fiction and chick lit would require their own post. It's also hard for me to name favorites in these areas because most of my friends are authors in these genres, and it's hard to name favorites. Plus, there's the fact that most of my towering to-be-read pile is made up of romance novels I get at conferences that I haven't actually read.

Gee, it's a miracle I get any writing done with all this reading, but that's why this is such a great job. When I'm not writing, I can be reading, and reading widely is important for an author, so that counts as "work." This summer, I read 21 books in June and July, in addition to writing one. I even plan reading vacations. Last Labor Day, I bought a stack of books and spent the whole holiday weekend reading, and I've already got my stack put together for Labor Day this year. It's cheaper and more relaxing than travel.

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