Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Do You Read?

Here is our question of the week, posed before we knew what we’d be doing now. Posed before we were in hiding from an unseen enemy. Before….

Reading: We all have favorite sub-genres in crime fiction, but do you venture beyond them in your personal (ie. not research) reading? If so, what do you read that’s not necessarily your usual cup of tea, and why?

Terry here.

I normally read all kinds of things that have nothing to do with what would be called mystery novels. But I find even when I read non-fiction that the best non-fiction or fiction writers infuse their books with a sense of mystery—some kind of discovery that is lurking under the surface. The best authors mine this since of mystery at the heart of what they are writing and reveal it just like you would reveal “whodunnit” in a mystery. I like to read science because I love the sense of discovery. A good science writer makes it seem like the reader is discovering right along with the scientists.

This sense of discovery is especially important in biography, when I know what the end is. I know what happened. I read biography to discover what kind of life the subject had—what led them to become the people they became, what they discovered along the way that was of value to them. How their lives changed over the years and through their personal journeys, for better or worse.

In short, writing that appeals to me is about discovery that comes from events, not from the events themselves.

When I read satisfying mysteries, I often don’t remember exactly what happened in a story. I don’t remember the actual victories or missteps. I remember the characters—what they were like, what they learned, what they taught others, their compassion or lack of, their intentions, what their victories or missteps meant to them.

Right now, in Covid time, I am not being very successful at reading. I find that I am very restless about the books I choose. For the first couple of quarantine weeks I could only read tough-guy fiction. I wanted butts to be kicked. I wanted mayhem and strong resolutions. Joe Ide, Robert Crais, Meg Gardiner.

What I find I cannot bear to read is anything with a protagonist who whines. I finally had to put down one such book, even though the writing was poetic and it got terrific reviews. I just didn’t want to hear whining.

 I find these days that I also enjoy a really good cozy read, not always my go-to reads. I picked up Rhys Bowen’s latest, Above the Bay of Angels, a cozy historical set at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth  and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was that thing about characters. The character was young and kept learning things about herself that engaged me.

So now to go off topic, I want to say a word about reading. Even if you don’t normally buy books, you don’t have much to spend money on these days, so buy some books! Buy books of debut authors. They have put their hearts and souls into their books and were excited to finally have their dreams realized. And now they don’t get the in-person launch parties, the bookstore events, the library events they dreamed about and maybe had already set up. 

Here's a debut book I highly recommend. It is supposedly about baseball, but it's about so much more. It's about discovery. I loved it! 

Buy books to help bookstores stay afloat. Many of them have on-line purchasing. Buy a book! And finally, but books for your own self. For the joy of getting outside yourself and remember what life was life…and what it will be again. Maybe changed, but certainly out in the open again.

Be safe, be well. And practice serenity:

No comments: