I’m reading tonight through all the many comments my loyal blog readers left today on what they’re reading right now. I was up till 1:30 AM last night trying to finish DIES THE FIRE, but finally went to bed because I had to get some tax work done today with my accountant, and I thought it would be a little uncouth to fall asleep while looking at Form 1040. That would be very uncool. I did finish the book today, and I gather there’s a sequel or two, so I need to look for those.
I’m also rereading through the Harry Potter series, this time reading them aloud to my kids. That’s an old family tradition with us, reading out loud. They’re way past the age when they need to be read aloud to, but we all still like it.
I am reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Set in the 1100’s, it’s an enthralling, one thousand page book about a boring subject: the building of a cathedral. In that sense alone, it’s a marvel. It took the author over three years to write it. It was a major departure from his spy novels. Many thought it was a risk to his career. But it is now considered his greatest work.
Randy sez: That’s one of my favorite books–it’s on my top five list (which actually has about 15 books on it, because some of them are series). The sequel, WORLD WITHOUT END, came out last year and I really enjoyed that one, although I thought it didn’t have quite the magic for me that the first one did. I can’t say exactly why. Certainly, it was a fascinating look at life in a medieval English town.
The most memorable one I’ve read lately is A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini. Wow. Can that man ever write. If you have never read KITE RUNNER (his first one) I highly recommend it. He is a beautiful writer.
Randy sez: Yes, I thought THE KITE RUNNER was terrific. I’ve been meaning to read A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, but there’s only so many hours in the day.
Randy, the technology-gone book you’re reading sounds like the same sort of premise as Terri Blackstock’s Restoration series: Last Light, Night Light etc?
Randy sez: Terri’s book is named LAST LIGHT and is the beginning of a series. I think Terri got the idea at roughly the same idea as the author of DIES THE FIRE. She emailed me at the time and asked what could cause all the lights to go out all over the planet, and I suggested EMP (electromagnetic pulse) although I wasn’t sure if it could work planet-wide. So the way Terri wrote it was to leave it unexplained, and have some of her characters wonder whether it was EMP that caused it, but never really say for sure. And that’s pretty much how S.M. Stirling played it too. I’m pretty sure neither Terri nor Stirling have ever heard of each other — they got the idea independently, and their plots are very different. This actually happens quite often, and it’s one reason why “someone stealing your idea” is not a particularly big thing to worry about, although most beginning writers fret about it a lot. Ideas are all over the place, and different writers will develop them very differently. Now if somebody steals your words, you should take action, because that’s plagiarism. But ideas are free as the wind.
My daughter gave me The Splitting Storm by Rene Gutteridge. I assume that Rene is female, so it interests me that her protagonist is a male.
Randy sez: Yes, Rene is a friend of mine, so I can say with some confidence that she is very likely female. She’s done quite well with male protagonists. A little-known fact: Rene is about five feet tall, but she was an All-State basketball player in high school. She once went on a writing-conference cruise while five months pregnant and met an editor who was six feet tall. Naturally, Rene challenged him to a game of “Horse” (it’s a game where you attempt difficult shots with the basketball and if you make it, your opponent has to make the same shot or lose a point.) Of course, Rene won in a landslide and she has never let this editor forget it.
OK, my next question is: What nonfiction book are you reading right now? I’ll go first. I’m reading an e-book named “Google Analytics” which I bought off the web the other day. It’s a short book that gets into the “how-to” of making Google Analytics work. This is rather an odd choice for me. The last non-fiction book I read was “Collective Intelligence” which is all about how to do data-mining on the information that comes from people interacting with a web site, but it has many other uses too. This is a book only a math guy could love. I’m a math guy, so I read it twice. I thought it was really good.
Christophe Desmecht says
Non-fiction book? Ha, get ready to go “huh?”
“The C++ Programming Language” by Bjarne Stroustrup. I’ve actually gone through it a couple of times already, and I don’t think it qualifies as “reading” 🙂
Somehow, I get the feeling that’s not the kind of non-fiction book that you meant, Randy 😉
ML Eqatin says
There are three NF books on my short stack: Dreamweaver by Tarin Towers. For lighter fare, I have Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean: the rise of Islam to 1700. (We HF writers are research droids.) And then for a snack, I’m re-reading Made to Stick: why some ideas survive and others die, by Chip and Dan Heath. That one stood me in good stead at my last talk, so I’m mining it for ways to keep a horde of middle- and high-schoolers enthralled.
Daan Van der Merwe says
I’ve read “The Pillars of the Earth” at least 20 times during the past 15 years and every time I have the same P.E.E.
A few weeks ago I read a non-fiction book in Afrikaans. It’s English title would be “The Demytholization of the Bible”, written by some disturbed heretic.
According to this comedian, the Bible is full of myths. To mention a few:
1. Adam and Eve were mythological characters.
2. There is no being like the Devil, Satan, Lucifer or whatever. You know, that evil looking dude with the trident and obnoxious horns sprouting from his head.
More disturbing is the allegation that the prophet Jonah could never have survived for three days in the belly of a fish. A man needs oxygen right? Ask Randall Ingermanson and John Olson. What’s more, a fish also has a digestive system. So how is poor old Jonah to dodge all these chemical digestive matter for three days? Without oxygen to boot?
To justify every difficult question with “God is omnipotent and almighty” is too simplistic and therefore unacceptable.
After about 30 pages I became angry, confused, outraged, nauseas and disturbed. I closed the book and said to myself: “God is omnipotent and almighty and he helped Jonah to survive the three days in the fish.
And you know what? My Christian faith and believes are stronger than ever.
Carrie Neuman says
I’m almost done with Dialogue by Gloria Kempton to work on my weak point. I’m also halfway through Writing a Great Movie by Jeff Kitchen. I know, I’m writing novels, not movies. However, his reverse cause and effect method of plotting is brilliant, the idea of plotting in related sequences is really helping, and the chapter on Enneagrams alone is worth the price of admission.
Instead of just touching on basic character types like most books, he gives a list of healthy, average, and unhealthy traits. It’s helping me remember to give my characters a variety of traits, good and bad. My good guys will have something for readers to hate and my villains something to admire.
Aha! I was hoping you’d ask that question, Randy. I am reading Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, per your recommendation. It took me a while to get my hands on a copy, so I am carefully studying it, taking notes, etc. I had started working on a plan for a novel using your snowflake method last fall, but had to stop to focus on marketing my non-fiction book. Now that I’m reading Swain’s book I’m both more intimidated about writing a novel and psyched to get started on it. If nothing else, I’m counting this as prep for NaNoWriMo next November.
I will say that Swain’s writing is sometimes dry and technical. Many an evening I have drifted off mid-sentence. But I still dive back in the next day, excited to get back to it. I think, dry & technical aside, this book is so incredibly practical. It’s worth a couple of readings, with a lot of writing practice in between. And I’m looking forward to reading a good novel with a critical eye for the stuff that Swain talks about.
Lynn Squire says
I am reading Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer as well. I’m also methodically going through Characters, Emotions, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress.
Swain’s book requires me to go back several times to different points. I have a notebook beside me to jot down significant details I want to remember or incorporate, and find myself referring to it at different times while I’m writing.
Kress’s book is a much easier read. The first few chapters were great, but I’m finding the ones I’m reading now are not packed with the same useful information. That is not to say it isn’t helpful. When I’m done this book I will move on to Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins.
Andrew Cooper says
I’m reading, Your First Novel, by Anne Rittenburg. At least I think that’s the author’s name. I’ve read enough of these things that I sometimes get them mixed and matched. The foreword was by Dennis Lehane though. I remember that because I’d just finished a couple of his novels and really liked them. Anne is/was his agent and his foreword was all about establishing relationship and being faithful to them versus jumping ship whenever you think a better offer comes around. Good book all around.
I am reading “Thousands…Not Billions” by Don DeYoung. DeYoung reports some of the facinating discoveries by the RATE project, sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research. Of particular interest was the borehole project conducted by Los Alamos National Lab. In granite taken at 1,000 m, they found Helium in Zircon, which should have diffused out of the crystals many millions of years ago. The Zircon crystals held 58% of the total He generated by past nuclear decay (from U-238) with most of the diffused 42% found in the immediately surrounding biotite. By their calculations, the rock underlying New Mexico is 6,000 yrs. old instead of 1.5 billion.
Sonja Hutchinson says
I’m reading James N Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Mystery. Does it count as non-fiction if it’s about writing fiction? I’m also trying to read How to Start A Home-Based Writing Business, but it’s hard to get into that when I’ve got 24 fiction titles sitting on my desk begging to be opened.
Pamela Cosel says
I have just finished reading “Switching Time,” a book written by a psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Baer, his first book. It is a fascinating account of a patient he treated for years with Multiple Personality Disorder — she had developed 17 different personalities as a result of major childhood abuse, some of it Satanic ritual. I highly recommend it as a study of what the human mind is capable of.
On a personal note, Richard and I have known each other since we were age 12 through high school. We recently got back in touch with each other via the Internet, and I’m proud of his accomplishment via this book.
We writers think our fictionalized characters are capable of some crazy actions–never so much as what real humans can do sometimes. “Switching Time” is a great read. (Richard had returned to school to get an MFA degree and did not use a ghost writer for this project. Psychiatrist turned writer.)
I forgot to pipe in yesterday, but as far as nonfiction:
Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright, a book right up my alley about the resurrection and how Christian’s have lost the zest of our hope because we’ve forgotten about the ultimate redemption of ourselves (including our bodes) and of the earth.
I’m also reading Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld. I’m really enjoying this book because it gets to the heart of issues and offers practical advice.
*The Writer’s Conference Survival Guide, a spine-tingling, non-fiction e-book produced by the Fiction Fix It Shop, ironically. It was a steal.
The opening line is a classic:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single-minded writer in possession of a small fortune must be in want of a writer’s conference.”
*I have 12 bookmarked, dog-eared books on writing inches from my keyboard at all times, if that counts. I moved Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages and Renni Browne’s Self-editing for Fiction Writer’s to the top of the stack as I and my wip are currently in edit mode.
bonne friesen says
Sign me up for the Techniques of the Selling Writer club! I found the first few chapters really difficult ~ my copy has a small font and a textbook visual feel to it, which is intimidating. It got easier, though. As I kept rolling through on the strength of Randy’s enthusiasm, I was repeatedly floored by the powerful tools that he explains. Many of them I’ve been able to use right away as I work through my second draft of my Nano Novel. There’s so much to absorb, I know I’m going to finish it and then start at chapter one again. What great stuff!
Simulataneously, I’m reading “The Practice of the Presence of God” by the humble little monk brother Lawrence. Skinny little $5 book that has done more for my relationship with God than I could ever tell.
Jeffrey Ellis says
I’m reading “Roadshow: Landscape with Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle”, by Rush drummer and lyricist (and author of 4 books) Neil Peart. His books have been described as “existential travelogues” and they are all great.
Sheila Deeth says
Christ in the Feast of Pentecost (Brickner and Robinson), ’cause I’ve already read Passover and Tabernacles and was eager to read more.
The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins) – he migtht be upset to learn it was his River out of Eden that finally convinced me Adam and Eve were real.
Battles of the Bible (Herzog and Gichon) ’cause I’ve written some stories about people in Genesis, and now I’m moving on to Judges and Kings.
And The First Five Pages (Noah Lukeman), but haven’t learned enough to keep me out of the rejection pile yet.
Paul D says
Nobody has said The Bible! Tsk tsk.
I don’t multitask with books, so I’m not reading any NF now since I’m reading a fiction book.
Mary Hake says
I have a bunch of blogs to catch up on since I’ve been out of commission with heart problems lately. Had an angiogram Wed. and there was no blockage. PTL! Since I’ve been under doctor’s orders to take it easy, I have more time to read, but have not been able to concentrate as well.
I usually read several books at once, including the Bible daily, of course. I finished Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas this week, and highly recommend it. Yesterday I began Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead because Gary Thomas’ references to her writing and life intrigued me.
I’m also going through a 1988 edition of The Writer’s Handbook, loaned me by a friend. It’s packed with good info from well-published authors in a variety of genres.
Forgive the long post, but I have to respond to the dilemma of Jonah in the fish. I have read and seen photos of two different accounts in modern times of this actually happening. I think one man was found by Japanese fishermen. You could probably find info in a search, but I need to go rest again.
I was reading “Techniques of a Selling Writer” because you have mentioned it so often. I had to give it back to the library, though. They wouldn’t let me renew it anymore. 🙂 I finally bit the bullet and bought it. It should arrive in a few days. I was amazed that a book first published in 1965 was $25. I found it used for $16, but with shipping it was still $20. It is worth it, though. It is full of wonderful information. And I only got a third of the way through the book!
I got several other writing books out of the library while I wait for “Techniques” to arrive and am working through “The First Five Pages”. And I am working through “Writer’s Conference Survival Guide”. Oh, and, Paul, I read my Bible every day :). It’s such a given, though, if I hadn’t read your comment, I wouldn’t have mentioned it.
Linda Harris says
I didn’t get in on yesterday’s post, but it would have been Mary DeMuth’s Wishing on Dandelions. (Okay, I sort of snuck that in there!)
I just finished reading The Beautiful Fight by Gary Thomas. Like the rest of his books, it is wonderful, but this one went deeper than the others. I especially appreciate his emphasis on Jesus’ ascension. It’s because Jesus is ascended that we have the power to fight the beautiful fight.
I’m also reading Writer Mama by Christina Katz. Though I’ve been a freelancer for almost 30 years and my children are grown, I still don’t have an empty nest, and I’m learning from her book. I especially appreciate Wendy Burt’s accountability sheet. It asks questions that keep a writer on track.
Sally Ferguson says
Just finished: “WriterSpeaker.com” by Carmen Leal (oodles of tips) and “For the Write Reason” – Marybeth Whalen, General Editor (third time thru in a year!).
Wading through: “Woe Is I” by Patricia T. O’Conner and rereading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.
Melissa Stroh says
Currently I’m reading “Cattle-Lords and Clansmen” by Nerys Patterson. It’s a bit on the dry side but contains much of the historical information on Ireland that I have been unable to find elsewhere in my research, so I have to give credit where credit is due.
I know we’re on the non-fiction kick right now, but since I missed the fiction blog, I just wanted to mention that I’m currently reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas. I’ve wanted to read it for the longest time because it’s such a great classic. And for those who may not have read it, I can vouch that it does not dissapoint!
Katie Hart says
I’m reading Stein on Writing – bits and pieces at a time so I can understand the advice and apply it instead of breezing through the book.
I’ve read all the Harry Potter books aloud twice, and lots of other books too. I don’t really need to either, but it’s fun.
Right now I’m reading a book entitled What’s The Matter With Kansas… it’s probably why I’m overly obsessed with politics at the moment.
Pam Halter says
I’ve just started The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference from the editors of Writer’s Digest. A friend gave it to me for my birthday because she wanted to encourage me in my fantasy writing. Wasn’t that nice?
Robert Grant says
‘The World Without Us’ by Alan Weisman which is a fascinating look at how the earth would revert if man was wiped out. And ‘cos I missed the last one, ‘The Lies Of Locke Lamora’ by Scott Lynch – the best fiction work I’ve read in 6 months!