Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I read (excluding YA)

This week's topic for Roadtrip Wednesday at YA highway (or Roadtrip Thursday, if you're on NZ time) is what we read outside of YA fiction. The real question: what don't I read?

To be honest I've even been known to find the phonebook interesting. No kidding. I like names.

When I have the energy I read literary fiction. At the moment I'm reading The River Wife by Heather Rose and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (she also wrote The Time Traveller's Wife, which is one of my favouritest books in the whole entire world ever ever ever). Also I have The Road by Cormac McCarthy sitting around waiting, and Towards Another Summer by Janet Frame, and quite a few others. When I have even more energy, I read classics. I read masses of them while I was at university but since I finished my degree I haven't had as much time, and I need to rectify that. I loved Jane Eyre and Great Expectations and Persuasion and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and at some point I need to get around to reading my lovely secondhand copy of Bleak House. And to get even older, I have Ovid's Metamorphoses somewhere, I think, but I haven't seen it since several houses ago. Possibly it has itself metamorphosed into something mysterious but I'm hoping it will metamorphose back so I can find it and read it. I love stories about transformation.

And poetry. I love lots of poetry, but I love it especially when it's by Pablo Neruda. And especially when he was going through his depressed surrealist phase and writing about nightmares and sad guitars and ghosts and despair. Good poetry it makes me feel like I'm flying. It's language at its most pure and undiluted and lovely; I think that all writers should read poetry regardless of what they write.

I read a decent number of children's books, picture books and middle grade especially. I have a good excuse in that I sell them, so I have to know them. But also because there are so many out there which are stunning.

I adore grown up fantasy but I'm horribly fussy about it. It's like I have an overly acute sense of smell when it comes to fantasy and too much of it smells like adverbs and horses. But when it smells like magic and rings true, it is very possibly the best thing ever.

And, um, other stuff. I love reading blogs. I subscribe to the NZ Listener, so I often read that, and the odd newspaper. I especially like book reviews. I will even read book reviews of books that I haven't read and am never likely to read in my life, just because I like book reviews so much.

Other than how-to-write books, I don't read as much non-fiction as I think I should. When I do I like memoirs of people's messed up childhoods, and psychology. Especially abnormal psychology, and especially multiple personality disorder. No idea why on that one. And Josh has been on at me to read Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything for ages, and I keep not getting round to it, but I will eventually. Every now and then I'll attempt one of Josh's planning related books, because I swear no one hears more about dream versions of Auckland's future railway system than me, or about planning cities around public transport and pedestrians versus planning cities around cars. To live with Josh is to learn about these things, so I might as well read about them.

Also. This is a nerdy confession, but one day when I am very rich, I'm going to buy myself a big fat Oxford dictionary. Not a normal sized one, but one of the monstrous ones that look like spell books. Preferably the monstrous ones that look like spell books that come in multiple volumes. And then I am going to sit around for ages reading it and marvelling at all the words and definitions and all the examples of sentences where a writer has used a word particularly well. And, seriously, to my demented brain it will be blissful. I sometimes used to hang out in the library at my high school so I could do exactly this. (Um, yeah. I was not one of the cool people at school, not by any stretch. I was a nerdy library person who didn't go outside enough.)

The truth is, like a lot of writers, I live off books. Without them my brain ends up starving hungry and I get depressed. When I'm sad, I shove a couple of books that I love into my bag so they keep me company throughout the day and cheer me up. Beloved books are like portable friends.

And yeah. I seriously hate to think how long this post would have been if I'd been writing about YA too.


Robbie said...

I just discovered about a week ago that Auckland Transport Blog Josh was your Josh, and I had a "ooh that's cool there's a connection there" moment.

As an aside I'm interested in Auckland and transport (especially how to fix such a screwed up infrastructure), so I've been pointed to Josh's blog many a time. I now subscribe.

Kaitlin Ward said...

Yay for loving the dictionary :)
My mom has a set of encyclopedias from like 1960 that I adore (personally, I think she should give them to me, hehe). And my thesaurus is my BFF.

Michelle Schusterman said...

I picked up Her Fearful Symmetry at the bookstore last week and did NOT want to put it down. I really need to go check that one out.

Great post, Leila! (And I'm now saying it correctly in my head – Lee and not Lay.) :)

Kristin Miller said...

Yes! I want one of those dictionaries, too! On a dark, worn wooden table in the middle of my dusty library.

I love your thoughts about fantasy - that's the way I feel, too. I mentioned that I read The Wheel of Time this year, but I didn't mention that I didn't actually like them. Bleh. Good fantasy is a tough one.

Leila Austin said...

Yay! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a thing for reference books.

@Robbie - Small world! And awesome that you subscribe to Josh's blog. And the campaign for better transport forum is good too.

@Michelle - Yeah, a lot of people assume I'm a 'Layla', especially when they see my name written down. The real version sounds the same as the character from Futurama, so if you think of her, you're fine. Although obviously I have two eyes, and I'm yet to try purple hair ;-)

@Kirstin - I'm yet to attempt the Wheel of Time. I know that it's more than ten books long and that there are characters with apostrophes in the middle of their names. I'm not sure if I'm brave enough for that yet.

It's weird. I've always written and loved fantasy, but the longer I spend writing it, the harder it gets to find fantasy that really works for me. I often find it way easier to connect with YA fantasy these days than the grown up stuff.

Anna said...

This was great! There is such joy in reading, so many different genres.

I have about six books to my left just waiting, and two authors coming out with new novels... Sigh! So many words, too little time...

dirtywhitecandy said...

I read everything. It all depends on what I'm working on. Genres I might not have touched suddenly become fascinating if I want to research a particular world - especially as I ghostwrite as well as writing my own novels.

And yes, I can be transfixed by phone books too - LOL.

Leila Austin said...

@ Anna - I know the feeling. I discover new books I want to read all the time. Need to add extra hours to the day somehow.

@ dirtywhitecandy - So I'm not alone with the phone book thing! It's amazing how stuff can suddenly become relevant. And I imagine it's especially useful to be well read if you're ghostwriting as well as doing your own stuff.

I've always really liked the word 'ghostwrite'.

Kirsten Hubbard said...

great post. I think you'll LOVE The Road. It's one of my favorites, but gawd is it ever depressing.