Reading Great Books

“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

Oh, yes. It is a blunt, grubby little crayon too.

Kurt Vonnegut was the first male author I truly loved as a teenager. I’ve always identified more with what women authors have to say, but Vonnegut grabbed me and made me laugh and think and laugh some more.

Right now I’m re-reading authors I admire to see how they do what they do so well. Often they are authors I didn’t understand at all when I first read them (Faulkner, Forster). It’s a great exercise for an author to read the work of others in order to see what in it is lasting, what has an impact, what makes it a classic. If you are a writer, one of the most important things you can do is read every day, widely, in many genres, with an eye toward appreciating what is effective and what isn’t in each piece you read.

A really good novel needs to be read at least twice, because the first time, it will draw you into the story so completely, you won’t be able to read it with a critical eye. This might be true the second time too. I’ve read my all-time favorite novel, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, at least 5 times and still get swept up in it every time. I’ve yet to read it with a critical eye.

4 comments

  1. Ah, The Poisonwood Bible. What an incredible book by an incredible author. I also love The Bean Trees. I fight second reads because my list of books to read is so long – but I totally agree, that critical eye is lost in the first pass! So just maybe I will reconsider!

    • I used to feel the same way. Just stepping into a library would overwhelm me with the realization of all the books I have yet to read, and then there are new ones being written every day, and what about those books I never read with care during college because time was limited, and, and…

      But now I listen to a lot of audiobooks on my iphone while I’m driving and doing chores and walking the dog, and it alleviates me of that feeling that my reading time is so precious.🙂

      • I have to continue to comemnd you Diane for your willingness to tell the truth about the Reno real estate market. I think it is an uncommon realtor today who is willing to link to a site that describes the Reno market as extremely overvalued.

  2. You’re so cool! I don’t think I’ve read a single thing like this beofre. So nice to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the web, someone with some originality!

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