Monday, November 15, 2010

The Good Ole Spine Cracking Poll

I've been feeling really guilty about something for the past few months.

Okay, so guilt is a norm for me. I was raised Catholic. I also had a poor memory, which meant I'd face the priest with only a sin or two that I could actually recall, so I'd round out Confession with some Dick & Jane type sins like "I kicked Tommy in the shin" or "I pulled Sally's hair." I don't think I've ever pulled a girl's hair in my life. Sure did kick a lot of shins, though, so those Hail Marys were probably deserved.

But now? I feel especially guilty. As a kid, I was the biggest bookworm you've ever seen in your life. All I wanted for Christmas were books (and, once, a Trapper Keeper). My parent's worst punishment, reserved only for very, very special occasions, was to take my books away. I read everything I could get my hands on. This continued even past my English majordom, where I'd burn through a dozen required books a week and still have enough bookworm momentum to power through my suggested Writer's Reading List during summer breaks.

I bought a Kindle, for Chrissakes.

But lately? Whenever I look longingly at my bookshelf, I remember the article I haven't edited yet or the email I haven't sent. I haven't read a damn word. Not before bed. Not in the morning. Not at lunchtime. We all know the second-most repeated rule in Would-Be Writer history (second after "Show, Don't Tell") is "To Be a Good Writer You Must Be a Good Reader." So I've got a shelf full of spines I haven't cracked. What do I do?

I ask you what you do.

I know you, bloggers. You're writers. Which means you were once (and probably still are) readers. How do you do it? When do you do it?

What do you read? 

Who are your favorite authors? Who are your favorite poets?

What are your book suggestions? If you could only pick three books that I need to read before I curl up and die, what would they be?

Now, I'm going to go take a bath with the afterlife. AKA Mary Roach's Spook. Fellow bookworms can find me on Readernaut to see what I've been reading as well as my occasional (pretentious and analytical) reviews. (Readernaut's kinda like a social networked bookshelf. Great way to connect with other readers, but kinda underused. Do you use a different bookwormy social networking site? Lemme know.)


  1. I haven't been able to read much since I have started school again but when the break comes around sure I will read my ass off. That and watch movies and hang with friends like CamMan.

    I like reading all sorts of things but mystery novels are always awesome.

    I love Deanna Raybourn and J.K. Rowling, and um....I'll get back to you on that other author bit.

    There are too many books for you to not read! You need to read the Silent series by Deanna Raybourn, the 13th Tale, Tale of Two Cities, and Gone with the Wind.

  2. I love all the crappy mystery and horror books that snobs would call poor excuses for fiction. But lately the time has just not been there. I also love reading non-fiction and am in the midst of a book about writing that has me very interested but the problem is that a shortage of time has me only reading an average of maybe 20 - 30 pages per week. At that rate I may finished the book in June.


  3. I have a Kindle, too. Amazingly convenient, isn't it? I love mine so much.

    Anyway, I read every day for at least an hour. It's not something I think about...I just do it. I turn the TV off in the break room at work and read. At home, Padawan likes to go to bed earlier than me, so I read with a light when he goes to bed. On my days off between laundry loads I go out on the porch and read in the sunlight.

    And if you haven't read Gone with the Wind yet, you definitely should before you die. It has been my favorite since I was sixteen, and watching the movie just doesn't compare.

    And you should read Prozac Nation, because everybody needs a scary, deep look into out of your mind depression.

    And then because I've just given you two terribly depressing books filled with tears and anger, you should follow them up with the collective works of Jane Austen, because they always end happily.

  4. My reading drops with my blogging too. But I missed it terribly so I've gone back. I just read a Sophie Hannah book that was really good. I'm on which has given me a lot of ideas. But I don't know if my list would help you since I only read entertaining stuff. I'm not too into deep. "The Beach" is probably my favorite book of all time if that tells you anything...

  5. I used to be a speedier reader, but with the onset of age has come the onset of ADHD. I can get through a book in a few weeks, because I like to take my time. Some faves that I read recently were Stephen King's autobiography (On Writing) and A Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I'm reading industry stuff now, about SEO and internet finadability.

  6. By the way, I love that term, "crackin spines!" So colorful!

  7. You are going to be SO SORRY you asked.

    I read on the potty. That's pretty much the only place I CAN read.

    I read fiction -- lots and lots of fiction, but I make myself read 1 business nonfiction a month.

    I love chick lit. If Jane Green or Leanne Banks wrote it, I'll read it.

    I am also a re-reader. I have re-read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder a thousand times. yes, I know I am almost 45 years old. I love LIW. I re-read all the Harry Potter's too. (am currently on Chamber of Secrets. I have a secret crush on Severus Snape)

    So. My books that are must-reads:
    A Catcher in the Rye
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Jane Eyre
    Death Comes for the Archbishop
    The Bluest Eye
    The Color Purple
    A Handmaids Tale
    Wake Up, I'm Fat!
    Jemima J

    I could go on and on and on!

  8. I read before I got to bed, like the 10 minutes before i pass out (especially during Nano), so it has been taking me quite a while to get through some books.

  9. Morgan-- I loved Gone with the Wind in spite of myself! I NEED to read Tale of Two Cities. I own a copy that I've started like three times...and something always comes up.

    Simple Dude-- Hey, at least you're reading! 20 pages is more than I've gotten through. Unless you count the Daily Lit installment of Anna Karenina I get every day.

    Chanel-- I did love Gone with the Wind! I'm adding Prozac Nation to my Amazon wishlist as we speak. I love reading on my balcony in warmer months, but my reading really dropped in the summer. Reading before bed is also an amazing idea that I think I'm going to start making a priority. Ten minutes, at least. Every night.

    Lacie--you know what's funny? I just watched the movie and hated it to the point that I couldn't finish it due to Leo DiCaprio coming off as a douchebag and a couple graphic scenes. On paper, though, the book sounds amazing. I'd give it a shot.

    Alexandra-- I'm working on On Writing now--it's insane! I had no idea he wrote some of my favorite books in a drug/alcohol induced haze.

    Mary--I READ THERE TOO! Who doesn't? If you say no, you're lying. Loved the Little House series growing up. Once walked to my neighbor's house in a blizzard to get the next installment. I'm pleased to say I've read many titles on your list (SOUL SISTERS, BABY!) but there are a couple like A Handmaid's Tale and Jane Eyre that I've been wanting to read. I've read a few Atwood titles now and either I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE them or despise them. She's a tricky beast.

    Amber--I love this reading-before-bed idea. I'm definitely making it a commitment. 10 minutes per day is reasonable and I definitely won't feel guilty for not getting work done during the day.

  10. Please give Jasper Fforde's "Shades of Grey" (or Gray. . .) I loved it. Honestly. Also, "My Name is Will" by Jess Winfield. And "Fool" by Christopher Moore.

    Other faves, some not so fiction-y.

    - Malcolm Gladwell's books ("Blink," "Tipping Point," and the rest.)
    - All the Brontes.
    - Tom Robbins. Particularly "Jitterbug Perfume"
    - Hello, "Harry Potter."
    - Dave Barry's "Big Trouble"
    - "The Red Tent" Anita Diamante (not so sure that's spelled right.
    - Must read John Donne and Carl Sandburg. I always like Carl Sandburg as a kid because I thought it was so accessible. Now, as a grown up, I think it's so complex.

    Actually, I am not reading as much as I'd like either. And lately, it the fun stuff only (vampire lit). Oy!

  11. Oh, a Handmaid's Tale. I'm on board with that suggestion, too. Any Margaret Atwood's thought provoking.

    I try to keep a book in my bag in case I'm stuck somewhere for a few minutes.

  12. I'm kinda in the same boat. I buy books nearly every time I go shopping and they are just sitting there waiting to be read. Taunting me really. I just can't find the time anymore. I use to be able to read at least one book a week. Now I'm in the middle of a series and can't even find time to read the third book. It's sad really.

    As for books to read, I love anything Anne Rice. A lot of people say the way she writes takes some getting use to, but I didn't find that.

  13. Must preface my reply by saying that I HAVE TO read all the time for work. In hematology and oncology, new treatments are coming out constantly, and the sheer number of clinical trials and reviews I have to read can keep me busy 24/7/365. Strangely enough, when I do find time to read for "fun", it's usually non-fiction, usually science. I take great pride in my pathetic choice to do that. Moving on...

    Over the years, I have found myself in the same pickle that you're in - probably three or four times. It's weird, because it's not like anything changed in my love of reading. I simply allowed the book inbox to stack up while some other novelty wedged its way into my spare time, what little there was.

    Every time it happened, the one thing that got me back in the groove was that I would talk myself into reading something:

    - Short
    - By an author I had never read, or
    - On a topic I thought I might NOT enjoy

    Funny, some of the authors that were mentioned here, in particular by Nicole, because two of her "liked" writers were responsible for pulling me back into reading on two different occasions.

    Dave Barry got me going way back in about 1988-89, and Carl Sandburg got me revved up again in the mid 1990s.

    Another thing that gets me back into the swing of things if I find myself reaching for the TV remote more frequently than a real book (or my Kindle), is a biography. I have yet to read a bio (by a decent biographer) that has let me down. I've even re-read biographies and autobiographies on Ben Franklin, Galileo, Chuck Yeager, and a few others. Still no let down.

    Poetry: any kind. Always a good starting up point.
    Really, REALLY old books.
    Comic Books (now a good graphic novel would probably be in order).
    A Play ("Noises Off" is a re-re-re-read for me)

    By the way, read Mary Roaches latest book too, "Packing For Mars". Potty humor has never been so much fun, AND you will learn a new word that you won't be able to resist using around your friends.

    As for books you MUST read before you die, I can't offer anything that is a must for another person. Tastes differ too widely. But if I had to suggest books or authors I have enjoyed above and beyond 90% of the things I've read, here are a few:

    Author: Dan Simmons, in particular "The Terror" (my favorite of all time) and "Drood".

    Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian): Loved his stories. He wrote in a style that was a tip of the hat to Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Jules Verne. But better.


    Jerome K. Jerome (really)
    H.G. Wells
    Benjamin Franklin
    Alexandre Dumas (junior)
    Baron D'Holbach (Paul Henri Thiry Holbach)
    David Hume
    Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Paine
    Sir Jonathan Miller

  14. very ashamed to answer this. i read crap. literally - crap. harry potter, twilight, young adult fiction, sohpie kinsella, meg cabot, and the bible (also known as hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy). i have been known to read something like 'the handmaid's tale' when recommended to me. i also lovelovelove elizabeth wurtzel, but i think 'more, now, again' is better than 'prozac nation'. i also read lots of books about neo-paganism. and cookbooks.

  15. Everyone who suggested Carl Sandburg-- GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!! He's my all-time favorite poet. Has been since I was fifteen.

    Nicole-- A random guy in the grocery store suggested Tom Robbins to me after he told me I looked straight out of the 1960's. I had just read the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. It was very full circle. I started Christopher Moore on Audiobook and had to stop it because it was HILARIOUS and I knew it would be even funnier in print.

    Jumble Mash--I have actually never tried Anne Rice, although my friends give her great reviews. I think it's because I keep getting Anne Rice confused with Nora Roberts. I KNOW I KNOW, sacrilege. It's a problem.

    DefiantMarshmallow--if I had to read that much technical stuff, I don't know if I COULD read. I always feel guilty because I'm not working on the "required" reading.
    As for your suggestions, I just heard Mary Roach promoting her new book on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. I'm so excited. I can't believe how into a self-proclaimed "science writer" I am. I guess it just goes to show that good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. Biographies and memoirs both really excite me, even the "how the heck do you remember all that?" memoirs. Mary Karr's The Liar's Club made me a die-hard believer in memoirs. Dave Barry, I think, could really kick-start a reading kick for me. I'm slogging my way through Anna Karenina now, and it's a trial. I need something lighter. Sorry, Tolstoy.

    Steph--Dude, I LOVE Harry Potter. LOVE. L-O-V-E. Meg Cabot too. Never read Twilight. Or the Hitchhiker's Guide, but it's been on my Must-Read list as long as I can remember. Haven't found a thrift store copy yet, I guess. And cookbooks? I LIVE for cookbooks. I even check them out of the library. Yeah. I'm THAT girl.

  16. I would have to agree with harry potter, I love it too, and I can't wait to see the new movie this weekend, although i am always so sad that it wasn't as good as the book when i see.. also, anne rice is really great, nothing at all like nora roberts, I loved the books about Lestat, and the ones about the withces.. you should check them out.. one more thing, the tale of two cities is good, but hard to read, took me like 3 months to get through that one.

  17. OMG, I get so frustrated over this too. All I manage to read now is graphic novels and it's just not the same! I squeeze in a 'proper' book maybe 5 times a year, it used to be one a week!


  18. Hey! I gave you an award! Stop by and see!

  19. 1) Your opening paragraph (the big one): Also raised a God-fearing Catholic kid. Worked well as I'm in Mass every Saturday night (the lazy Catholic's service, yeaaaah-yuh).

    2) Fave authors: Jane Austen (duh), Dr. Seuss, and Oscar Wilde.

    3) Fave books: Black Beauty, Deception Point (Dan Brown), Memoirs of a Geisha, and My Sister's Keeper.

    Happy reading!


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