Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” To say that those are wise words would be an understatement. Never mind the fact that it’s the advice of King himself, but there is no denying the truth behind the statement.
I have only recently begun to call myself a “writer” and still with a trepidation and sense of falsehood. I no more consider myself a true writer than I do an actor, though I have a passion for both. Who am I to include myself in the same category as the literary giants? I am no one. Of course, all it takes is one afternoon browsing my way through social media sites, soaking up the examples of the so-called wordsmiths who claim to be writers, to make me feel better about myself. You know the people I’m talking about…the ones who can’t spell. I’m sorry to go off on a tangent, but I must. I know that I am not the human dictionary, as is my spouse; my vocabulary and grammar for that matter, need improvement. But if you are going to publicly call yourself a writer, yet insist on misspelling everything that you post, and abusing ‘text-speak’ abbreviations to the point of bastardizing the English language, just stop. Stop what you are doing and back away from the keyboard before you hurt yourself. But, I digress…
To King’s point, you have to read in order to write. It doesn’t matter, in my opinion, what you are reading. But you need to always be reading something. Not only will reading keep your brain sharp, it will expand your vocabulary and your imagination. Reading books from within the genre that you are writing will allow you to appreciate what others have done; examine their use of literary tools. This can assist you with deciding what you do and don’t do with your own work. Reading in order to write also allows your brain a ‘time-out’ from whatever it is you are working on. Books–the precursor to television and film–is the greatest mental escape you can take. You’re allowing yourself to become immersed in words as you quiet your mind from the every day mundane, leaving your stress behind. Yet, at the same time, you continue to learn. It’s brilliant.
“You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!” ~ Doctor Who
I am no longer the voracious reader that I once was, a sad situation that I’m hoping to remedy. I attribute my love of books to my mother. She was a lover of words. The woman worked from 4am until nearly midnight, 7 days a week, for most of my life. She took care of a husband, 6 kids, grandchildren, and went back to college to become a nurse in her late 40s. There was a book on her bedside table, another on either end table in the living room, crossword puzzles all over the house, and boxes of books in the basement. As a child, she enrolled me in one of those mail-order Book of the Month clubs, where once a month I would receive a box with 2 books in it, usually of the Sweet Valley High variety. I fought the urge to love the books at first, finding more enjoyment from collecting comic books and Teen Beat magazines. But, by High School, things changed. Something inside me clicked. Rather than spending time in the library trying to make xerox copies of my face or extended middle finger, I actually started to check out the books. In time, they built a Walden Books store walking distance from our home. My first book store. Borders and Barnes & Noble would follow, and, my favorite, Books-A-Million. Of course now I can also be found hunting for books in second hand, trade-in, and thrift stores.
I am the sort of person who would buy copies of books that we were assigned in High School. My thought was, if it was important enough to teach, it must be worth having. I began stocking up on literary classics from every genre. While in college, I met the man I would marry. He was just as big a nerd as I was, plus, he was also a book collector–even more so than I was. We have approximately 14 overly stuffed book cases in our little home. I’m proud to say that we own more books than we do movies or video games; an impressive feat in this day and age. And while our daughter can be found reading books on her iphone, she also has a love for a tangible book and will request book store cards as birthday gifts.
I have collected everything from the “classics” to Greek philosophy, from Shakespeare to Nicholas Sparks, Dr. Seuss to Dr. Phil, and so much more. I love reference books, especially those on geography, religion, and medical jargon. I have how-to books, cook-books, comic-books, and coloring-books. In the Venn diagram of life, my taste in books barely crosses circles with my husband’s taste in books. But we make it work.
And so, for this hot, humid, stormy month of July, when there’s nothing better to do than sit around and read a good book, I ask…what are YOU reading? I just finished Goodnight, Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros and have started Inferno by Dan Brown. There are so many books that I want to read, and even more that I am glad that I read. Some books I find enjoyment in, and others stay with me, leaving a mark. Maybe it’s because they inspired something within me, or maybe it’s because they offered a true glimpse into ‘real’ life encouraging me to make changes.
In honor of Top Ten Tuesdays, I present to you a list of 10 books that I am very glad that I read. As always, these are in no order of importance and are off the top of my head. Knowing me, I’ll think of 10 more by the time I finish typing the list:
- The Outsiders by SE Hinton
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
- World War Z by Max Brooks
- The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
- The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova
- My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
I know some of those aren’t exactly “beach reads”, but I assure you, they are important reads. Throw in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Peter Benchley’s Jaws, JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, Bret Easton Elis’ American Psycho, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Elie Weisl’s Night, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, anything by Nick Hornby…..See, I told you I’d think of more.
If you want to know why I chose the 10 books that I did, just ask and I shall explain. If you want to share the 10 books that YOU’RE glad you read, no matter what the genre, please do so in the comment section. I’d love to see your lists and perhaps find new books for my family to read!