Finding the Words

a blog devoted to the art, craft, and frustration of writing

Reading List 2007 February 28, 2007

A writing teacher once told me to become a good writer one must follow this directive: read, read, read, write write, write, faster, faster, faster!

Since I’ve started writing I found I don’t read as much, mostly because I’m stingy about my time and I’m an excruciatingly slow reader. But I’ve decided to allocate at least an hour a day to reading. So here’s the list of books I’ve read so far:

1 The Gunslinger by Stephen King (book 1 of Dark Tower series). King is an amazing story teller. I don’t go for horror, but this series is more fantasy.
2 The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King by Stephen King (book 2 of Dark Tower series)
3 The King Must Die by Mary Renault. A powerful story. I’m still haunted by the images of it A quick excerpt:
It was a good clean killing… Yet, even now, I still remember. How he reared up like a tower, feeling his death, dragging the men like children; the scarlet cleft in the white throat, the rank hot smell; the ruin of beauty, the fall of strength, the ebb of valor; and the grief, the burning pity as he sank upon his knees and laid his bright head in the dust. That blood seemed to tear the soul out of my breast, as if my own heart had shed it.
4. Mirror Mirror by Gregory Macguire
5.Pride of Carthage by David Anthony Durham
6. The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman
7. The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great by Steven Pressfield
8. Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Honestly, I was disappointed in this book. Maybe this always happens when a book comes highly recommended by friends. An adult fairy tale it is, but i found it tiresome, the characters capricious and whimsical. I’ll try reading more by him, though.
9. Dead Cert by Dick Francis
10.Maurice by E.M. Forster
11. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. A fantastic book! It succeeds where Stardust failed for me. It’s fresh, the characters interesting, the story charming. This is the sort of book I wish I had written.
12. The Dawn of Fear by Susan Cooper. Gack! A story you know how is going to end but you have to read through the whole thing anyway because it is so well written. I almost started sobbing when I finished this while still on the elliptical trainer at the gym.
13. The Reader’s Companion to Military History edited by Robert Cowley ad Geoffrey Parker
14. What If? Edited by Robert Cowley: “The world’s foremost military historians imagine what might have been.”
15. Perseus retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
16. Sabriel by Garth Nix
17. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Okay I cheated; I skimmed through much of this book.)

18. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
19. Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch — One of the most thorough and honest guides I’ve encountered to help you not only with writing the first draft but also how to tackle the second. And the third, and so on.
20. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

21.The Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

22. The Persian Boy by Mary Renault
23. Arslan by M.J. Engh- A thrilling speculative poli-sci novel
24. The Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholdm- A surprisingly haunting and poignant book.
25. Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
26. How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
27. The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones- I loved Howl’s Moving Castle–this one felt a bit off to me.
28. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling–I’m beginning to see how mystery is a natural genre for JKR–she likes to embed clues everywhere, and then brings them all together in a Poirot-like revelation.
29. Manon Lescaut by Antoine François Prévost. I read this book for research, since it was written in the 1730’s. It turned out to be quite good, and has me mulling for quite some time. It’s a story of love and morals, but quite ambiguous. The coolest part, though, is when the main character makes arrangements to meet someone at the Jardin du Luxembourg. Hey, I was there! Nearly 300 years later, I walked on the same stones! (Sadly, while in Paris, I did not make it to Fontainebleau, which is referenced repeatedly in The Three Musketeers.
30. Tuf Voyaging by G.R.R. Martin. An odd book–think Comic Book Guy meets Aliens, or Event Horizon. Apparently it’s a collection of short stories. The first was uproariously funny. Then it just got odder and odder, and didactic. Anyway, I was curious to read GRRM’s earlier stuff (he’s currently best known for his Song of Ice and Fire series). He has nothing of the style that I associate with him. Makes me wonder when he developed it.
31. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. I saw the movie a while back–the book is less satisfying somehow, but still charming and a joy to read.
32. Imperium by Robert Harris. Wow, an awesome book. I cried at the end of it, simply because I was sad to see a good story end. Anyway, a good lesson on politics, and a fantastic first-person narrative.
33. The Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell. Highly acclaimed, but it felt flat for me. The characters are predictable, acting and thinking exactly as I’d expect them to. Maybe that makes it realistic, but it doesn’t make it very interesting.
34. Farnham’s Freehold by Robert Heinlein. A very odd book, but good. I see why he’s a master of the genre.
35. Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China that Never Was by Burt Hughart. I was afraid this book would be cheesy, and it was a bit difficult to stick with in the beginning, but the reward was wonderful. I think it ranks among my favorite books. Or at least among the books that have a special place in my heart.
36. Dawn by Octavia Butler. Wow. Few books have surprised me, or engrossed me as this one has. It’s a gripping, boldly emotional sci fi, disturbing and yet compelling.
37. The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard by, you guessed it, Elmore Leonard. I was inspired to read this after I watched 3:10 to Yuma, which was based on one of his short stories. Gotta say, the movie was better. But, I do like Elmore Leonard. His character descriptions are fantastic. After a while, though, you do start feeling a little dusty and thirsty. Over all, a beautiful rendition of the Old West. Accurate? I have no idea.
38. Alastor by Jack Vance. Vance is one of GRR Martin’s favorite authors. Well, I couldn’t get passed the first chapter of this book. Rich in world building, yes, but he uses footnotes, for crying out loud! I just couldn’t stick with it.
Books to Read

I keep thinking of books I want to read, and then forgetting about them. I’ve been using the Amazon wish list to track them, but I don’t actually want anyone to get me these books since I plan to borrow them from the library. So, I guess I’ll start my little list here.

  • Anything by Jack Vance–research–he’s GRRM’s favorite author, so I’m curious.
  • Anything by Charles deLint–again, research. He’s credited with being one of the first, and most influential, urban fantastists (is that a word? no? well, it should be). I’ll probably start with Little (Grrl) Lost
  • The Red Queen’s Daughter by Jacqueline Kolosov–A teen historical fantasy. Dunno, sounded intriguing.
  • Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold–can’t remember why I wanted to read this. Someone recommended Bujold, I think.
  • An Army of Angels, by Pamela Marcantel–historical fiction about Joan of Arc. Curiosity, and research.
  • Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell–historical fantasy
  • Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolf
  • Funeral Games by Mary Renault–Historical fiction about Alexander the Great, written by my favorite author
  • The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault–Historical fiction about Theseus
  • The Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield–historical fiction
  • The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon–fantasy, highly recommended by a colleague.
  • Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  • Bridge of Birds: A novel of ancient China that never was by Barry Hughart
  • King Rat by China Mieville
  • The Generalship of Alexander the Great by J.F.C. Fuller– research
  • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay–I think I read this _long_ time ago, but someone recommended it to me so I’ll give it another go.
  • Inkwell by Cornelia Funke (or whatever the first book in the series is)
  • The Journeyer by Gary Jennings
  • Colleen Mccullough’s books
  • The Bone People by Keri Hulme–one of Elizabeth Moon’s favorite books.

Well, it looks like I have my reading cut out for me! I’d better get cracking Hopefully, I’ll be able to read just a little bit faster this time.

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