I have to admit—I’ve been doing a LOT more reading than writing this summer. What is it about the warm weather? I’d love to see a statistic showing how many of humankind’s great books were written by authors tucked away in a cozy cabin in the cold winter snow vs. those who were trying to write with summer outside beckoning with all her charms. I’d put big money on the first group being a whole lot bigger than the second.
I’ve been reading the advice of a lot of my favorite writers, and they all say to read within your genre … and read outside of your genre. So basically, just READ.
It’s only June 30 … and here’s what I’ve read so far (in the order I read them, as far as I can remember), followed by a list of books I’m planning to read. (Disclaimer: It’s summer, people. I am a fan of easy, enjoyable reading in the summer, so don’t get all serious on me wondering why I’m not reading more weighty tomes. Blame the heat.)
Stephen King, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft
This title had shown up on several “must read” lists for authors, so I opened it as our plane took off from Oakland, CA, heading to Maui. I’ll admit, I’d tried to read this book before. The first few chapters were fairly biographical—not what I expected. But with a five-hour flight in front of me, I gave it another whirl, and this time it totally sucked me in. Once the great Stephen King starts talking about his writing process, it’s fascinating. He is a terrific writer—there’s not an unnecessary word on the page (something I am working on!).
Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County
I downloaded this book to re-read the moment I finished King’s book. He had spent a fairly long page bashing “Bridges” and I was taken aback. I had loved this book when it was released back in 1992 (I was 21). With Stephen’s harsh comments echoing in my mind, I was convinced I would read the book and love it again. Unfortunately, not so much. I have to admit Stephen was correct in his criticism of stilted storytelling. Though it’s still a lovely story (and any story in which I can envision Meryl Streep is a WIN in my book), I did not enjoy the writing style this time around.
Cecelia Ahern, Flawed
I’m not sure where I saw Flawed listed, but I am glad I stumbled upon it. I hadn’t read Cecelia Ahern before, and further research shows she’s not really considered a YA author. But this dystopian novel about a society that “brands” its flawed people (literally) was quite gripping. It’s only flaw (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) is that it ended with a lot of the story left, and I hate waiting for the next book.
Cecelia Ahern, The Time of My Life
Since Ahern left me hanging with Flawed, I downloaded another of her titles. This was an odd read, about a young woman who had let herself go, and her family calls in “her life” to meet with her. I stumbled a bit when reading the premise. It was presented very matter of fact-ly. Almost too matter-of-fact. I didn’t have time to adjust to the magic/fantasy element being thrust into a thoroughly non-magic story. But once I adjusted and adequately suspended my disbelief, it was a pretty interesting read.
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
Maybe the only book on my list that came off the bestseller list, I found The Girl on the Train to be completely absorbing, and equally confusing. The back and forth chronology and constantly shifting POV was incredibly interesting, but I had to scan back to see what time period I was in more than once. It did not detract from my enjoyment, and I gobbled the book up (and am looking forward to seeing the movie.)
John Grisham, The Testament
I hadn’t read John Grisham in awhile. And this was a paperback. So although I like to convince myself that my 40+ year old eyes work just as well as they used to … this paperback proved me wrong and I had to squint at it with my cheaters. But it was worth it. I don’t know if this was one of Grisham’s highest rated novels, but he never fails to grip you at the beginning, and keep you hooked until the end. The master of legal drama. Very enjoyable.
Pintip Dunn, Forget Tomorrow
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon Forget Tomorrow, but I’m so glad I did! Pintip Dunn is a skilled YA writer. Her pacing is perfect and the characters draw you in immediately. If you’re writing YA (or just like reading YA), pick up a Pintip Dunn title. My only regret is this is a book in a series, and I HATE waiting for the rest of the story.
Judith McNaught, Whitney My Love
Similar to my experiment with “Bridges,” this was a re-read of a book, and an author, that I had loved in my early 20s. And it was a bestseller. Read by millions. But I have to say, I’ve outgrown it. By a long shot. I love a good well-written, sexy romance (Outlander, comes to mind), but these descriptions were so overblown, and the characters so perfect (or way too imperfect). And let’s face it —the main male character basically rapes the lead female character. Maybe I’m not as romantic as I used to be, but this book—alas—is no longer for me.
Blake Snyder, Save the Cat
I took a screenwriting class a few months ago taught by Anne Jordan, a local screenwriter. The class was fantastic, and I’d remembered her mentioning this book. I dream of breaking into screenwriting, so figured I’d pick it up. (The funniest thing is I kept telling my husband I’d just downloaded this book called “Kill the Cat,” so now I laugh every time I see the title.) This book is a great resource for screenwriters, but also surprisingly useful for novelists as well. It’s all about the elements of a well-constructed story, and a very entertaining read.
John Grisham, The Confession
Without giving the story away, I loved this book but hated what happened to some of the characters. Centering on the death penalty, I have to say it might have changed my opinion somewhat on the issue. A very interesting read.
Pintip Dunn, The Darkest Lie
I started following Pintip Dunn on Twitter after I read Forget Tomorrow, so I actually got a tweet the moment her latest book was released. I’m about 3/4 of the way through, and this is a good read. Not my favorite of hers, but still keeping me turning the pages. The premise of the main character’s mother killing herself after being exposed for having an affair with a student seems a little harsh to me (maybe as the mother of teenagers … I’d prefer the mother character not be killed off?). Good writing, good pacing. I enjoy Dunn’s work immensely.
These are my “books on deck”.
- Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall
- Rainbow Rowen, Eleanor & Park
- Andy Weir, The Martian
- Stephen King, 11.22.63
- Kiera Cass, The Selection
- George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones
- Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel
- Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Happy Summer Reading! Send me your suggestions. I’d love to add to my list!