Monday, July 26, 2010

What else do you read?

Happy Monday, everyone. I've spent the weekend reading Aristotle, and it has given me a bunch of topics to talk about with you all. But, what I also started wondering was what everyone out there reads aside from fiction.

I used to be strictly a fiction reader (and a scientific reader for work). But, lately, I've been feeling the limitations of most fiction, and I've instead been looking at poetry, memoir, and philosophy. I honestly never thought I'd be craving these other forms of writing, but I find that I've naturally drifted away from fiction, perhaps because I've been feeling good about my own work and don't feel like I have as much to learn from other fiction at the moment*.

What about you? What else do you read? Something that always stayed with me was critic Harold Bloom saying he read the backs of cereal boxes whenever he ran out of books at home.

*Although, I should say that I recently discovered writer Kazuo Ishiguro and have been learning a lot of new techniques from him.


  1. I read fiction, no non-fiction, no poetry, and have considered memoir, but haven't read it yet. : )

    As for the genres - I used to read only fantasy, not sci-fi, but have expanded my horizons in reent years and will read pretty much anything now.

  2. I read news articles and essays, things I can get through quickly.

    For books, I prefer novels. The most recent one I finished was THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and next on my reading list is EAT, PRAY, LOVE (once I finish another writer's critique I have on the front burner).

    When I read non-fiction, it's usually books of facts, or something entertaining like the Darwin Awards.

  3. The more I write the less fiction I read. Kazuo Ishiguro is amazing; so is Louise Erdrich. I'm reading more non-fiction, at the moment concentrating on research for my next novel, which covers the Anglo-Boer war (from the Boer side, their experiences in the Concentration Camps set up by the British) and the South African Border War.

    I do read light romances when I want to relax my overactive brain although, now that the Tour de France is over, I'm about to start The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

  4. I'm always reading something. I begin my day reading news and blog articles and responding to emails.

    Lately my non fiction reading has been books about writing and film. I'm currently reading Science Fiction Films of the 70's by Craig W Anderson. It's well written & full of very interesting tidbits.

    As for Fiction, I'm reading books that were recommended to me. I just finished The Girl Who Played with Fire by Larson and will begin Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

    but I'm always looking for recommendations to add to my reading list. :)

  5. I read memoirs, biographies, poetry, religious material, news articles, my daughter's storybooks, and lots and lots of blogs. ;)

  6. I had to read memoirs for part of my course and now find myself really enjoying some of them (though definitely not all of them) though I think my main love will be fiction. But even in that I'll give any genre a chance.

  7. Scott, I didn't even mention genre types. Thanks for bringing that up!

  8. Lately I've been into poetry and I went through a books on medieval europe phase a month or so ago but I've read quite a few good novels lately too. I love philosophy books when I have the time to contemplate them as they deserve. and books on plants. I love reading about plants. No idea why. --and last year I read a whole sereis of books on manners (Judeth martin). Also no idea why. I just felt like it. I'll read pretty much anything really. some friends and I once hatched a plan to write a serial novel on the back of a cerial box. haha

  9. My Bible, poetry, news (ugh), lots and lots of medical books. Oh and blogs.=)

  10. Rick, Did you like Dragon Tattoo? It's being passed along among members in my lab, which is always an impressive sign to me.

    Judy, Thanks for the tip on Erdrich. I know nothing about her, but I'll give her a try since we seem to agree on Ishiguro!

    BellaVida, I used to read a lot of books on writing. I think they can be quite helpful if we approach them with an open mind and understand that they just promote one way of doing things (usually). John Gardner has been the most helpful for me. I know a lot of people really liked Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, though I personally didn't connect with that one as much.

    Michelle, I bet reading your daughter's storybooks is quite educational. I don't do it as often, but I do feel like I learn things whenever I read to my nephew.

    Bethany, I was the same way with memoirs. I didn't think I'd like them, but I took a memoir writing class because I really admired the teacher. It is an amazing art form that requires so much courage to write. I published one very short memoir piece, and I still get nervous at the thought of someone reading it.

    Taryn, that would be cool if you did the cereal thing. Reading about manners is interesting to me too, for some reason. I get a kick out of how some things seem so random. I wish I knew more about philosophy. It's something I've always been interested in, but I never got educated in it, and my attempts to learn it on my own have failed. I feel like I don't know where to start.

    Robyn, I hope you're making progress with the medical books! I've also spent some time reading religious texts. They are such unique things.

  11. History is by far my favorite nonfiction, especially the history of exploration/discovery, travel/adventure memoirs. I also read biographies, art history, natural history/nature, birding, and anything that strikes my fancy at the moment (just read "The Geography of Bliss", lots of fun).

    Fiction -- I like mysteries best, followed by middle-grade fantasy. Also love Jules Verne and Patrick O'Brian.

    Probably around 50/50 fiction to nonfiction.

  12. I read a lot of history and biography, a lot of literary theory, some philosophy, some religious texts, some poetry, classical myths and folktales of all cultures (a book of Chinese folktales is in my to-read stack). I read a lot about music (history and theory). I also like books on birds and gardening and architecture, especially if they're heavily illustrated. Sometimes at used book stores or library sales I'll pick up cheap books about topics I never thought I'd be interested in and those are often the books that give me really cool ideas. Old books about science and the social sciences are really interesting, especially if they propound ideas that have been proven wrong.

  13. I generally stay with fiction but will go for all ranges from kids to teens to adults to graphic novels, etc. etc.

    When I pull out something "non fiction", my most frequent choices are religious/inspirational, biographies, and research/reference. I love "puzzles" and "brain teasers" books as well and have a number of books on cryptography, puzzle creation, etc that I love to thumb through.

    I read scripture every morning while eating breakfast (though yes, sometimes the back of the cereal box also desires attention) and I sometimes scour the college bookstore's textbook section to find a cool new topic to read about (though I don't usually purchase the textbooks there due to the crazy prices).

  14. That's funny, Davin, because I've just started re-reading fiction after several years of reading non-fiction almost exclusively. I fear I've become out of touch with my genre, and I'm enjoying reading for pleasure again.

    For school, I read a LOT of non-fiction, about ten books a week, which means I have to skim strategically.

    I also read non-fiction for pleasure, and of course, to research my fiction. Fave topics:

    Religion. (Various)

    I don't read many biographies or autobiographies. I wonder if it would help me with my characters?

  15. Judy Croome: The more I write the less fiction I read.

    I went through that stage, Judy. I think it's helpful to alternate, give the brain different flavors.

    Your book on the Boer War sounds fascinating.

  16. Re: Self-education in Philosophy.

    Aristotle is a good place to start, so seems to me you're doing fine. Consider picking up an old text book with an overview of field. (The great thing is that, unlike in the sciences, no philosophy has ever been proven wrong. Only unfashionable.)

    And if you haven't read it yet, Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar is very funny.

  17. I went through a dry spell when I wasn't reading fiction. Now I make it a point to be reading at least one fictional selection. Still I read a lot of nonfiction. On my reading table at the moment: Fiction: Julio Cortazar's Rayuela. Non fiction: Thich Nhat Hanh's Taming the Tiger Within (spiritual essays) and Irene Vilar's The Ladies' Gallery (memoir)

  18. I'm with Harold Bloom; I'll read anything that is in front of me if I don't have an actual novel with me. :)

    I'll read poetry on the blogs I follow, and sometimes in magazines or ads; but I'm not fond of it. I like some non-fiction - not usually memoire - if its about social issues. I rarely read a news article, but sometimes. And even though I've graduated college, I still read text books on counseling, social issues, sometimes history. Text books are good research, sometimes better than internet searches.

    I also read self help and writing books.

    As you say Davin; its good to stretch your mind with pure information. No matter how old I get, I'll always want to learn something new - and fiction is more about entertainment than education.


  19. When I was a kid we had nothing almost literally, but a set of world book encyclopedia's I've read most of them twice.

  20. I used to teach History and Poli Sci, so I read a lot along those lines. Some habits are hard to break.

  21. I read all kinds of things. Right now I'm reading a historical novel set in the London Home Front (love that era), I read historical war novels (WWII and Napoleon-era), crime (historical, contemporary), urban fantasy, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction (horror), and, well, horror. I've also read memoirs and published diaries from historical eras.

    I think it's more worth-while for me to point out what genres I don't read. I don't read romances unless they fall in a historical era that I love and the romance is just one angle. I don't read non-horror science fiction (though that might change). I have read chick-lit but I don't make a point of it. I also don't tend to read plain old mainstream.

  22. When not reading fiction I like to read books about what makes people tick: like The Female Brain (and the male version too) by Louann Brizendine and books on temperament theory by Keirsey and Montgomery.

    I have a book I keep trying to find time to read called "This is your brain on music" and another that's called "Be Our Guest" about the art of Disney customer service technique. Really, with the limitations on my eyesight now I just don't get to read as much as I used to.

    I will admit that I still love to read Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes comic strips in book form as bookshelf is pretty well, weird would be a pretty polite word for it *laugh*

    One thing is I'm going to be reading a lot less of is blogs, going forward- too many, just not enough eyesight to go around. Of course, this one is at the top of the must read list and will stay there!


  23. I just acquired a bag full of poetry collections, which I fully plan on reading through (very slowly). Also, I've been reading Robert Frost's collected works. A lot to learn there about communicating through dialogue.

    Magazines and comic books provide the occasional diversion, too. Mainly it's still about the fiction, though. I've a lot of catching up to do.

  24. Oh! How did I forget poetry? Tennyson is my favorite. I also partial to Yeats and Emerson...

  25. Lately, I've been trying to read more French, because I hope to improve mine. A few days ago, I finished Mauprat by George Sand and thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn't my usual style, since it's a Gothic novel, but it certainly fell in with my usual preference for love stories and happy endings.

  26. Mizmak, art history is another subject I've always been interested in but never started. My favorite English teacher also taught art history, and I was always jealous of the discussions that ended just before I got into the room.

    Scott, I love getting odd used books as well. I just picked up a couple this weekend, which has hopefully started my journey into philosophy. Myths and folktales are very cool.

    Okie, cryptography? Neato! And I also tend to collect textbooks. Unfortunately, for me, I end up getting them and then not reading them, and those things are so heavy to move around!

    Tara Maya, I personally think it's a good idea to get out of touch with your genre. I honestly wish I was less in touch with mine because it dictates my thinking too often. As far as biographies go, I personally think it helps with character. And thanks for the philosophy tips!

    Judith, that's a great mix of books. I do usually have some fiction reading going on somewhere. It just doesn't always get all of my attention.

    Donna, I hope I'm always learning. I think that's the only way to keep from dying. Self-help books are always interesting to me. I've read a few, and I think they are almost always helpful to me in some way.

    T. Anne, that's impressive. I had encyclopedias, but I rarely read them. I'd tell myself to, and then give up after a few paragraphs.

    Jolene, I wish I had paid more attention in my history classes. I somehow wrongly convinced myself that history wasn't important when I was still going to school. I regret that.

    Shannon, published diaries is an interesting group. I don't think I've ever read through those. Well, come to think of it, I read some of Virginia Woolf's diary entries, I think. I've never been able to read a romance either. Though I've tried.

    Bru, I think books about how the mind works would be ever useful in fiction writing. The Disney business model is also a fascinating topic! And, the more I write the more I appreciate comic strips: Calvin & Hobbs, Mutts, Rose is Rose, Peanuts, Dilbert. All great. Hope to see you around at TLL!

  27. Simon, I try to read more poetry, but I also feel like I don't know which poets to try. So, I tend to stick to the most familiar ones, which is probably wrong.

    Dominique, you speak French? That's cool! I've been taking lessons!

  28. Davin: Oh, I'll be around *laugh* the very best thing to come out of the past year of online research for me about publishing, writing, all of that, is finding this place. I love it. It's homey. You're all stuck with me now *laugh*.

    The Disney business model is fascinating and a lot of other companies hire them to send in consultants from The Disney Institute (they wrote the book I have) to come in and give seminars to their employees.

    In another life (two decades ago- that qualifies as a past life to me...) I was actually Disney Traditions trained (I worked for the company in the late eighties for a time but not in the parks) and so it's also a sentimental subject for me. In fact, my Traditions teacher is actually working for The Disney Institute now. I have to drop him a thank you note...that training got me every other job I ever had (when I was still healthy enough to hold one.)

    The books on how people work, especially temperament theory, are invaluable to me when it comes to creating characters and especially emotional interaction. I can't get enough of the stuff. Keirsey, MBTI, Jung, bring it!

    Understanding real people helps so much when you want to create fictional ones that feel real :)



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