Reading for Pleasure and Research
Is this research related? Maybe. Look at it this way. Characterization is the central focus of what I write. The inspiration for those characters comes from my own view of the world, a view strengthened, challenged and enlarged by the fiction I have read. More than ever I read with an eye to how the author draws her characters, which makes every novel I read a part of my education. So yes, this is research related.
The books below have been read more than once,. They are books I go back to again and again to remind myself how the author so thoroughly captivated me. From them I have learned and developed deep point of view, the need for action to balance all that depth, and an element of honor at the core of the characters that is the key for me as a reader. That element allows me to identify with a character and care about his/her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Here is my list. They are all fiction. They are not all brilliant, so I am not neceesarily recommending them but I am curious if any one else checking in has read them and especially what books have inspired your writer’s and reader’s world view.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. Starting with the obvious. It is brilliant. And there is no doubt that Atticus Finch has honor at his core. What I treasure the most is his quiet commitment to what is right, his love for his children and their love of him.
I, MARTHA ADAMS by Pauline Glen Winslow. This one is the other extreme. Has anyone but me read this book? Published in 1982 by St. Martins, the cover tells it all. It is the story of the surrender of the
MESSAGE FROM ABSALOM by Anne Armstrong Thompson. Thompson plays a game with the reader and showed me that honor comes forward in so many different ways. It is one of the greatest romances I have every read and it does not have single kiss in it.
REST AND BE THANKFUL by Helen McInnes. Not your typical McInnes book. It is set post World War II on a ranch in
CROSSING TO SAFETY by Wallace Stegner. Shows me, every time I read it , that honor comes in all shapes and sizes and that love is not simple and is sometimes destructive. I have yet, and probably never will, write characters as complex as Sid and Charity or as committed and loving as Sally and Larry. The book had me early on with Larry’s words: “In a way it is beautiful to be young and hard up. With the right wife, and I had her, deprivation becomes a game.”
THE COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS by Eva Ibbotson. My all time favorite heroine, an aristocratic émigré from the Bolshevik Revolution who goes to work as a maid in the home of an earl who is about to marry the wrong person. The hero never rises to her level but the character and eternal optimism of Anna Grazinsky is an inspiration personally and professionally. Marguerite, in my novel HIS LAST LOVER is my attempt to write a character with those two traits.
MEMORY by Lois McMaster Bujold. This is one of a series. All 10+ books are about one man and his family. In MEMORY Miles Vorkosigan lies and destroys his career with one false report. How he redeems himself and discovers his true self is an amazing piece of writing that inspires me every time I read it. This is a series that I do highly recommend. I included this cover so you can see that science fiction has as much trouble with covers as romance does.
Now it's your turn. What books that you read for fun, relaxation or entertainment have inspired and informed your writing.