In The Writer's World

Writers are readers. One of Stephen King’s foremost instructions to writers is READ READ READ! Recently, King published his list of top picks for 2010. Now it’s my turn.

One of my goals for 2010 was to read more books. I completed 34 books in 2009, and in 2010, 46–a significant gain. Obviously, some were better than others. I actually read to the end several books I wasn’t crazy about, hoping perhaps that these acts of self-discipline would make me a better person–or at least a more conscious writer. In addition, four books were started and quickly rejected.

So, what did I read?

The best part of any reading experience is the discovery. Early in the year I began Stieg Larsson ‘s Millennium Trilogy–and found myself easily hooked. Larsson was in imperfect writer. The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo is  150 pages too long, ponderous and boring in more spots than one can count, and very poorly edited. More than once I found myself thinking it was really two novels–novels that didn’t go particularly well together.

But…but…Larsson created memorable characters that were worthy of more adventures than his first hefty volume could allow. His mysterywas complex and to me credible. And, barring those extraneous pages (a lot to get through, but I am a patient person), the book was a page-turner.

I kept going, and by the opening of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Larsson had hit his stride. The characters were fully formed, the action non-stop. It is a top-notch thriller, and I only wish we had more to anticipate. An additional treat: the Swedish movies based on the novels capture them to a “T”.

In stark comparison was Nora Roberts’ The Villa. Roberts is one of the most popular fiction writers in the world right now, and arguably one of the richest. She is not to my taste. I read the book because it was about wineries and vineyards and I wanted to see how she did it.

The information was all there, researched well enough, but without depth or passion or grit. The characters, almost without exception (I recall enjoying the children), were rich, thin, and vapid. As I slogged through it I realized that no matter what, I would not want to write a book like this one. And that is not to say it’s a bad book. It isn’t. Nora Roberts reaches and entertains millions of readers and for that I applaud her.

Coming next: the books I couldn’t finish plus more discoveries!

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