Read Any Good Books Lately?

I read a book yesterday. Now, this may not sound like anyone’s definition of a great accomplishment, and it usually doesn’t meet mine, but given that I have not read and finished—from cover to cover—a novel in more than a year, it is bordering on a real accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, I read all the time. I read technical reference manuals, educational books, management theory books as well as technical articles from around 30 different publications and of course, the news. I just have not had the time with all that I am reading to squeeze a novel into the mix. Until, that is, yesterday.

I have been a reader as long as I can remember. I have had a collection of novels in every bedroom I have occupied since I was 10. When I was young, I would look forward to the scholastic book fair coming to the school, where I could count on getting at least one new novel. My mother subscribed me to a children’s book club but I found the books to simplistic and boring. She then subscribed me to a teen book club with titles like My Friend Flicka and Black Beauty. The problem was that genre did not interest me in the least. I found the Science Fiction book club on my own and ordered many titles and quickly found myself up to my eyeballs in books. So many, in fact, that I couldn’t read them all. It was my fault though. It seems the rules of the club were that they would send a flyer with the next month’s selections and if you did not want them, then you marked “NO” on the card and sent it back before the ship date. I never sent the dern fool card back, so I got lots of books I did not really want.

When I was in the Boy Scouts, I was at a Jamboree and I had a copy of Peter Benchley’s Jaws. A friend asked if he could borrow it while I worked the booth. Three hours later, I found him reading in the back of a truck. He almost had it finished! I was dumbstruck. How could anyone read so fast? I told myself that one day, I would read that fast too.

Later, after my mother cancelled my membership in the Sci Fi club, I joined the Military Book Club, which had the same rules and thus the same problem. My mom cancelled that one too; but not before my library began to rival the New York Public Library. All the while, I was still buying paper backs from the Ben Franklin down the street or B. Daltons and Waldenbooks in the mall. As a teenager, I preferred novelizations of movies and TV shows over more esoteric works. I used to get into trouble at school because I would be reading a book when I was supposed to be working on class work.

I was about 15 when I discovered Stephen King. Salem’s Lot was the first book that I read that scared me. I have read almost everything he has written, at least up until Misery. After his accident, his writing changed somewhat. Either that, or my tastes did. I continued to read off and on all my life, even to the point that I could read a full length novel in about 5 or 6 hours. I had finally achieved my goal of speed reading, and I even had full comprehension and recitation. This served me well when I seriously went back to college.

So, is it a big deal to read? For a writer it is. A writer who doesn’t read is like a cook who doesn’t eat. We have to keep ourselves immersed in the language if we are to use the language to convey ideas or stimulate discussion. As I said, that I finished a novel is a big deal. I only hope my poor tired eyes forgive me. It’s bad enough I strain them writing on this netbook, but to then follow that up with reading for 4 or more hours straight is bordering on abuse.

What did I read? Doctor Who: Autonomy. Big Doctor Who fan here. I even got my wife hooked on the show. Good story, but the writer needs a bit of work with plot flow and syntax. Of course, he’s British, and the rules vary over there. That’s one of the joys of writing. What’s right and correct here is considered bad form across the pond and vice versa.

But even with that, I may even buy another Doctor Who novel. Most of what comes out of the big American publishing houses is drivel anyway. That is, until my book gets published.

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