Friday, April 24, 2009

Blog Chain - I Love Me Some Books

Okay, Kate started this chain with this: This time...I'd like to focus on the flip side of the writing coin - reading. Specifically, what books have influenced you? This can be books that influenced you as a writer, or simply books that touched you as a human being. If you want to talk about one book, a top three, ten, or even twenty go right ahead.

Annie posted before me and Terri is up next. Everyone's been going all crazy about how they could go on and on about this topic.

Um, me? Not so much. See, I don't read to learn something new. About life, about the chemical reactions of copper and peroxide, about myself, about anything. To me, that's not what reading is for. I can Google if I want to learn something new. Or ask someone who already knows. Or just by trial and error. But reading? Pshaw. That takes the whole point of reading away. Because reading should be...well, keep reading. *winks*

I'm what you'd call a shallow reader. I read for fun. The end.

So books that have touched me? *scratches head*

Influenced me as a writer? *panic face*

Don't get me wrong, I love me some books. I've always loved books, but not in the way that they can teach me a lesson and/or influence my life. More like in the way that I can escape to a new place, experience something cool or get caught up in a romance that leaves me breathless. Reading, for me, has never been about the writing. It's been about the stories, the people, the places.

Only recently (translation: when I tried writing myself) did the books I read have any other purpose other than to entertain me. So if you're looking for something deep here, um, maybe you better go back to Archy's post. Or Christine's. Or Annie's. Or pretty much anyone else in this chain.

My list of books I love randomly changes based on what I've recently read that I love. Ha! Go figure. I've blogged about some of these before, but here's my best shot. You should note that these books are on my list for their entertainment value. Now, before you go all ballistic on me, that doesn't mean they're not written well. I just didn't happen to be paying attention to that at the time.

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
2. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
3. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Heck, anything this man writes is pure entertainment for me. (And good writing.)
4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
5. Percy Jackson and The Olympians by Rick Riordan
6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
7. Maximum Ride by James Patterson
8. Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
9. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

These books I love because of the way the author wove words together. Some of them I didn't actually finish, because I wasn't entertained enough to do so. But the writing? Brilliant. I have pages folded down, images I've scrawled on post-its and happy faces in the margins of especially poignant sentences. This all came about after I decided to be a writer. I do think these books have helped me become a better writer, simply by helping me define what kind of writer I want to be.

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
3. Anything by Nancy Farmer or Cornelia Funke
4. Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
6. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Notice there are no classics in either list. Um, that's not fun reading. At least not for me. Heck, I was on the Academic Olympiad in high school *insert geek song of your choice*. We even had these totally schweet T-shirts and everything. I don't think any of my former geekalicious Olympiad's read this blog so I can say this out loud: I didn't read the books we were supposed to for the competition. Why? Cuz A Tale of Two Cities and Huckleberry Finn are NOT entertaining reading! That is not my idea of a fun time.

But reading about magic and moving staircases and hoverboards? Oh, yeah. Djinn and faeries and alternate realms? Bring it on. The first kiss and riding in the Sun God's chariot and jumping out the window of a fifty-story building and unfurling your wings? Yes, yes, YES!

There are also only young adult and middle grade books on my list. That's what I like to read (and write), because it's fun.

So I read for entertainment. Funnily enough, that's also why I write.

Can you answer Kate's question? What books have influenced you? And maybe just because they were a good yarn that kept you turning pages way past your bedtime.


Anonymous said...

I love your posts Elana...and yes, I laughed through the whole thing!!!

I read for entertainment as well...I just happen to also find my inspiration for many life things through books *wink*.


Windsong said...

I'm with you on reading for enjoyment. I do like the books to have layers generally, although cotton candy reading is good too!

WindyA said...

Well put!

I actually recently had a conversation with a friend and she was saying that everyone she knows was reading one of the books written by Pres. Obama. And she couldn't bring herself to even give the cover a second glance.

I agreed. I read as an escape. The last thing I want to read before I go to bed is a non-fiction about the Great Depression era economics! (Have a friend who's a big fan of economic non-fiction. *shudders*)

Will have to continue this blog chain soon as I get back home. And have more time! Thanks for throwing this out there!

Rebecca said...

Finally someone who gets what I like to read!

No really, it's awesome to see a list like this. I love your honesty because I think people are sometimes afraid to say they don't like the classics. Sure there are a few pieces of literature I dig but really my heart is in the same place as yours.

I admire people that truly do love to read books that fall into the classic world but for me I would rather be swept up in some incredible place full of excitement and magic. Moving staircases and hoverboards - I second that!

No wonder I love to read your blog so much!

PurpleClover said...

I can actually tell you a few that made a HUGE difference for me in high school and opened my eyes.

First the research and understanding placed into Sophocles Oedipus Rex and whether or not Sophocles subscribed to predestination...critics were torn. It is interesting to see the argument unfold.

But the two stories that totally threw me into a whole new world of perspective was Beowulf followed by GRENDEL by John Gardner.

I remember my English teacher asking us after Beowulf what we thought and we hated Beowulf so much. Detested. Abhorred.

Then she had us read GRENDEL. We. Were. Floored.

That was probably the first time I realized my opinions were not "correct" but just one person's viewpoint. There are always three sides of the story. The third being "the truth".

So it taught me a lot and changed the person I was. It was amazing and I loved that my teacher introduced us. She had a passion for literature and she wanted us to also.

Sandra said...

The science geek says, "There's nothing wrong with reading for entertainment." That's part of why I love SF/Fantasy--it's more entertaining to me than "mundane" fiction.

Lisa and Laura said...

It's interesting because there are books that I read that are completely aspirational, meaning the writers write in a way that I wish I could, books like The Book Thief or The Lovely Bones or Love Walked In. But then there are the books that I read that made me realize, hey I can actually do this. I could write a book just like that, or maybe even BETTER than that. Books like Pretty Little Liars, Twilight, Gossip Girl, etc. I think both are important for me as a writer because when you read a story like Stephenie Meyers you're inspired, you feel like you can attain this crazy goal. But if I only read books like The Book Thief, I think I'd be terrified to ever write, knowing that I could never be that good.

Annie Louden said...

I totally forgot Speak by Lauria Halse Anderson in my list! Gah!

Your post is great, Elana! Obviously, to each her/his own in what they enjoy reading. And some classics are a bit of work to get through. Like, I skipped quite a few books in college. I could never get into Jane Austen, for example, but I know a lot of people who love her.

But, I can still be swept up in a classic, and I can find lots of layers and meaning in so-called "shallow" reading. To me, that is the whole problem with genres. I think books should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Like, I'm reading Steinbeck's East of Eden right now, and there is some twisted stuff going on, and it's not a horror, but I have to say, it's reminding me a bit of a Stephen King novel.

Kat Harris said...

Great post!

This is definitely where the subjectivity comes in. My taste in stories is way different than yours. (As a matter of fact, Harry Potter and Wicked Lovely are the only ones we've both read.)

And I thought reading Huckleberry Finn was a riot to read. (But not nearly as fun as Tom Sawyer.)

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Great post! I know what you mean about "the classics", while there are some that I love, there are others (like I tried to read Lolita a few years back, and couldn't get through it) that just don't do it for me.

Although I have to agree with PurpleClover that reading a classic in school with a good teacher or professor can really open your eyes to it. This is how I came to love The Scarlet Letter, and other books that I never would have given a chance on my own.

Michelle McLean said...

hehe nope, I'm with you. I read for escape, I don't want to think about it. Probably why I didn't really like any of the classics until grad school (the movies yes, reading the books, no). And yes, I read biographies, but that is fun for me :D

I'm reading Ravens of Avalon right now. Marion Zimmer Bradley (well, based on her stuff)...gotta love her!

beth said...

The kind of writer I want to be like:

The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak (like you!)
The Giver, Lois Lowrey
The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

Suzette Saxton said...

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Beautiful, beautiful. (And nothing like the goofy Frankenstein we see in the movies.)

Katie said...

Okay. I loved many on your lists. But recently I read an adult novel (egads!) that is totally out of the style that I write, but the author's metaphors were freaking brilliant! And I think that book single handedly changed my revision process forever.

And I couldn't put it down.

It is called THE HELP by a debut author - Kathryn Stockett. and as far as debuts, this girl has hit the big one. Her book has already been featured in Us magazine, People, the Today show and I predict Oprah will pick it up soon. Not to mention the fact that she optioned the screenplay before it even came out. Whew! Go read it. It's very southern.

We listened to it on CD which was even better.

Oh! And it's only been out a few months.

Katie said...

I forgot how much I loved the HUNGER GAMES too!

Cereal Girl said...

Hi Elana. I came across your blog when I was looking for a wordcount metre and I have to say we have a lot in common. I love all the YA books I recognize on your list and our tastes seem so similar, I should be looking up the other ones.

I love to read too. I'm a teacher too. I'm an aspiring novelist too. We just haveso much in common.

I'm in Canada, though, so you'll probably notice we don't spell everthing the same.

How do I follow you on the new Blogger widget?

Janyece said...

I totally read for entertainment first, but I will pick up a book and read to learn as well and I do find the classics entertaining. I love the style of of that old language. I swear I was born in the wrong era!

I'll tell you what though, I can't handle reality. If a book is sad or lots of my favorite characters get killed, I won't read it ever again. EVER! If it doesn't have a happy ending, you can forget it! Spoiler ahead: That was my problem with Tantalize. I suppose some women would LOVE that strong, independent type of ending but I'm a hopeless romantic. It just didn't satisfy for me. You're right about the word weaving though. She was very good at that. I loved the whole Italian cuisine theme as well.

Anonymous said...

Now that I have been liberated from school, I can read what I choose. If a book doesn't capture my imagination (i.e., entertain me,) I won't finish it - so I can't be inspired by it or learn from it. I've chosen to read some classics, and enjoyed them very much.

Marcia Calhoun Forecki
Better Than Magic

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