Why It’s Good to Read, but Necessary to Write

The last month has been all over. I attended a major conference, learning the history of Jerusalem that will help my role as a pastor. I visited both my and my wife’s families. My bride and I got away without our insanity of kids. As such, my regular writing schedule has suffered. As in, I’ve done basically no writing for a month, nor any writing-related activities like submitting stories to markets and such.

That said, I’ve found time to be reading. Oh, it was so good to dig into a number of novels. Some fantasy, some horror, a short story collection, all good reads. I lost myself in worlds I didn’t create.

This time of creative rest rejuvenated me. Rather than putting words on a page, I absorbed words from a page. I got to admire the craft others had worked to develop.

But now I’m home. Life is returning to what I laughingly call normal.

On the way home, I felt my brain shift. My wife and I mapped out a broad outline and started worldbuilding for a new series. (Obviously I need another project!) While away, I was all about reading. But now, now it was time to get back to writing.

Reading is good. Brains need to be fed. If you’re a writer, you really do need to read.

But you know what?

You’re not a writer if you don’t write.

Continue reading “Why It’s Good to Read, but Necessary to Write”

The Cull

I can’t do it.

We have too many books in our household. OK, yes, I know that’s technically impossible. It’s not “too many books,” it’s “not enough shelves.” Except we have two rooms dedicated to nothing but shelves of books, along with several other shelves in each bedroom, the basement, and the living room. We’ve run out of room on the shelves. We have boxes of books we’ve bought in the last two years that have never been on the shelves. It’s time to go through and cull.

I adore books as artifacts. Even if I never read the books on the shelves, there’s something soothing about seeing all these worlds lined up, ready to invite you in. Holding a book calms me. As a child, I’d literally carry a stack of three or four books around with me in my house so I always had options to read, whether I was in the living room, dining room, any of those places that would be necessary to have a pile of books. So, yes, books have been a thing for me for a long time.

It’s worse now.

See, I know from experience how much work goes into a book. I know how much time, how much effort, how much blood goes into the ink that marks the pages – not just from the author, but from a cover artist, an editor, a publisher… How could I take a book from my shelf and just get rid of it? How could I belittle the effort that went into the artifact that is a book?

Then again, most authors would never know. I purchased their book, so they’ve been paid for their efforts. So I’m not really offending them, am I? And if I donate the book, I can share the joy of that book with someone else who may enjoy it.

If I saw one of my books in a used book shop, I’d actually smile. Actually, I’d probably sign it and put it back, just so someone got an extra surprise.

So, it’s not that big a deal, is it?

Yeah. It is. I still don’t like choosing books to leave. How can I select someone’s child to become homeless?

So, what am I doing?

As we work our way through our shelves, I’m asking these questions:

  • If I’ve read it, am I ever going to read it again?
  • If I haven’t read it, will I ever actually read it?
  • Is it a book I want on hand to lend to friends?
  • Is it a book I want on hand so my kids can read it?

If the answer to all those is “no,” it goes in a stack for my wife to evaluate. She also goes through the shelves, pulling any books that she has no interest in ever returning to. If we end up agreeing, the book is removed from the shelves to our donation or resell pile.

There’s a process, but man, it still hurts!

Have you ever had to cull your shelves? How did you go about it?

Daring to Read a Bestseller…

I’ve rarely been accused of being normal. That shows up in my book choices. If you want to guarantee I won’t read something, tell me it’s a New York Times bestseller. I don’t know why. The book might be awesome, but the second I hear that it’s a bestseller on one of those big lists, I want nothing to do with it. Not long ago, I saw a quote that I’d like to take credit for, but I really never gave my book choices that much thought: “If you read only what everyone else reads, you’ll only think what everyone else thinks.”

I find myself more and more reading independent authors, independent publishers, and whatever I back on Kickstarter. Oh, also the books of authors I know personally, as I get to know more and more such luminaries.

The other day a friend asked me what comics I’m reading. I was hard-pressed to list a series I was reading that someone not already into comics might recognize. I finally remembered I’m still reading Conan the Barbarian. I have nothing against the standard superheroes. I love me my Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and X-Men. I just don’t buy them a lot anymore.

There are exceptions. I greatly enjoyed At Home in Mitford and the entire Mitford series by Jan Karon. Back in the day I read a good amount of Clive Cussler and Star Wars novels. So it’s not that I think that if something is a bestseller I think it’s low quality or something. They just don’t grab my attention. I’d rather read something else.

So when word came that my son’s class was going to read a book with some parental advisories, I thought I’d get ahead of the game and read it, too. My wife picked it up from the library for me.

Continue reading “Daring to Read a Bestseller…”

Year of Books 2020: The Best

Every year from July 4 to July 3, I set aside anything I read so I can gaze upon the shelf of things I’ve read. And every year I do a little write-up on what I’ve read. Today, I’m presenting pellet reviews of my favorites. I’ve broken down two different top lists. First are the favorite prose things I’ve read, and then I’ll present my favorite graphic novels of the last year.

Continue reading “Year of Books 2020: The Best”

Achievement Unlocked: Bookcation!

The bookcation hath succeeded!

Kind of!

In past years, we’d often explore many multiple bookshops and come home with boxes upon boxes of books. We decided to do something different this time around: One shop, load up, but then spend the bulk of the remaining time simply reading.

That said, I found some stuff I thought I’d share. We got 34 books total; I ain’t gonna share them all here. What I will do is share some of the highlights I thought y’all might find interesting!

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I picked up this book on the title alone. I mean, how could I not? That’s fantastic! I’m told Mike Resnick is also a fantastic author (and he was a swell guy, to boot), though I don’t think I’ve read anything by him before. It’s book 4 in a series, but I’m hoping I can get by with just this one. I would have picked up more in the series had the store had any!

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So, Andrew Peterson is one of my favorite musical artists. This book comes from his press, Rabbit Room Press, and it’s written by his brother. It was $2. I didn’t even care I didn’t know what it was about; I snapped it up. I figure, worse comes to worse, I wasted $2. I suspect it’s worth at least that much, though, and probably a whole lot more!

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If you know Gravity Falls, well, you’re awesome. If not, check it out. It’s streaming on Disney+ right now. Anyway, my wife found this hardcover, and it shows you everything awesome about the show. I mean, “The Curse of the Time Pirate’s Treasure”? How could you not love that. And it’s a “Select Your Own Choose-Venture”? Heck yeah! This is just going to be a delight.

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So, there are lots of barbarian riffs. Conan is obviously the most famous, but there are plenty of others. So why did I bother picking up this one? Look at that author: Gardner F. Fox. I don’t know if it’s the same Gardner Fox, but a person with that name is one of the editors responsible for modern DC comics. For instance, he was the editor for the first Justice League stories ever. A lot of comics people back then did plenty of other writing. I need to investigate to find out if it’s the same guy, but I’m hoping it is!

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So, I like nautical fiction. C. S. Forester wrote the Horatio Hornblower series I adore. But what’s all this? Well, it’s the journals of a man who really sailed the seas. I thought it might be fun. And then I read the end of the introduction by Forester:

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I love that.

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Finally, I was able to wrap up several series. This one, which started with Epic, has been startlingly good. I also got the final book of Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series, as well as the final Holly Vesper book.

So, overall, a productive bookcation, even if we only made one stop to purchase books!

I hope y’all are having a great summer — enjoy the day, and see you next week!