In order to keep me able to determine just which books I’ve gone through over the course of the year – slow a reader as I can be – I’ll be updating at the end of each month with the books I’ve read over that month, along with a brief summary and impression of each. That was I not only have a list I can more easily look back on, but I have a record of my thoughts on them at the time (or close to the time). In case anybody might wonder about the books I like, or what I’m doing when I’m not working on my own writing projects.
Enough of that, to the books!
In order of being read:
On Writing by Stephen King
I’ve read On Writing before, about this time last year as a matter of fact. I finished it about the time I was starting to work on my current novel, and it provided a great bit of inspiration to get the words down in the first place. Reading about how he got his start as a writer between the school newspaper, local paper, and even his older brother’s semi-regular release of The Rag, King describes finding his voice, his approach to writing, and how nobody should do it for the money (though coincidentally, he’s made a metric ass-ton of cash doing his thing).
I love this book, and I love the useful advice that’s put into practice throughout. It’s not simply “here’s how I write”, King provides what most books about the craft actually don’t address at all: context. It’s not about making money, or about publishing, but about the writing itself and how it’s helped in shaping his life. Reading it through once is a neat journey; reading through a second time I could see how he put his own advice into the writing of his book about writing. And as a result, within the massive messenger bag I drag from place to place with my work AND writing materials, this is one of the ever-present books that travel with me.
If you fancy yourself a writer of any kind, read On Writing. Just do it.
Super Mario Brothers 2 by Jon Irwin
I’m a fan of what Boss Fight Books is trying to accomplish: memoirs not about the video games themselves, but allowing the games to be a catalyst for telling the story. The title itself is meant to offer background, and not be the entire story. In this case, Super Mario Brothers 2 isn’t really much of a memoir of life events, but the story of how the game fits into the larger Mario narrative and its origins as the “let’s make a Mario-ish game”, Doki Doki Panic.
It’s a fast, brief read – only about 100 pages or so – and it covers much of the history I already knew, but it’s a nice refresher. I wish there was more to it than the feeling of a history lesson, but oh well. It did the trick for the video game aficionado I am.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Oh, Kurt Vonnegut. Twentieth-century Mark Twain, both in storytelling quality and a wit that even the firebombing of Dresden couldn’t burn away. Slaughterhouse-Five is not a plot-driven story, but rather a story of a life during war told from the point of view of a high-caliber fool, Billy Pilgrim (and a little bit of time travel, of course). Billy is a wishy-washy pushover who’s found himself in a situation he just allows to happen. So it goes. He sees the horrors of war, what it does to people and the damage it brings, and even to a degree how it does those things. This really is an anti-war book as told through a soldier who might be the single worst soldier in the history of soldierdom. So it goes.
With his writing style, I would read the letters he wrote to his critics and publishers (oh wait, I can and I do). His blunt language and dark-humor make me smile, and even at the most violent acts of the book it’s tough to feel depressed. It’s like reading/watching a fight, where the bloodied victim is constantly making jokes at their own expense. You want to laugh, you want to step in and help, you may even want to cry, but you’re compelled to try to keep all of the things to yourself.
I don’t know what number of books I “should” be reading through a month, and again I’m a fairly slow reader. When it’s interesting I’ll gobble it up – I read the back-half, about 115 pages, of Slaughterhouse-Five in an evening – but it has to be something special to keep me interested for a few hours an evening. If you have any recommendations for books I’ll keep them in mind, I’m hoping to plow through at least 15 different books this year (might not sound like a lot, but it’s more than I normally would) and I’m always looking for something to grab my attention.
Stand tall, friends. Use a few books if it helps!