For over a week now, when not working, I’ve had my head firmly planted in a book. Well, four books – they’ve all been the kind of books that you just can’t put down.
I picked up Enders Game a few months ago at Waterstones. I recognised the title from somewhere and then realised that the author had also written one of the writing guides on my bookshelf. I had to buy the book. They’re bringing the film out soon, so I thought I’d better read it.
I found the book disturbing (the good kind of disturbing where you feel uncomfortable, but you have to keep reading because you need to know what happens to the poor, tortured main character). Apart from being a great book, it’s also given me a better understanding on the writing advice he gives.
I went from Science Fiction, to journalist memoir when I read Diary of a Fleet Street Fox. Another page-turner, the book was really an extended therapy session about the writers divorce. It was funny, shocking and well written, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her.
Next I picked up apocalyptic Science Fiction novel, Flood. It has to be one of the best books I’ve read in years. I love the kind of sprawling, epic sagas that span generations and examine how people deal with things in the long term. Flood is one of those books that stays with you after you’ve finished reading, a bit like The Road. I’m itching to read the sequel, but it’ll have to wait until I’ve finished the book I’ve just started (Ready Player One – already looking like a winner).
Finally, I read The Shock of the Fall. It’s a novel about a teenager with mental health problems and written from his viewpoint. As a result, the narrative is scattered, jumping about with the characters state of mind.
Right now, I’m still reading The Watchers, a non-fiction examination of espionage in the Reign of Elizabeth I. To be honest, I’ve been a bit obsessed with Tudor history, so a lot of what I’m reading feels very familiar. As with most non-fiction books it’s something that has to be worked through, rather than devoured.
I know the advice is to read heavily from the genre you write in, but I think writers can learn from any genre of book (but maybe that’s because speculative fiction is one of those mishmash genres?). Anyway, in the past week, apart from being entertained:
- Enders Game has shown me an example of how to write manipulative characters.
- Diary of a Fleet Street Fox may be non-fiction, but it offered a great insight into relationships and betrayal.
- Flood demonstrated the resilience of individuals under extreme pressure.
- The Shock of the Fall showed me another writing method.
Another thing that all this reading is showing me, is how much of an impact you can make on the reader by starting the story in the middle of the action, and in the case of Flood, always leave them wanting more.