Writers often get asked what books they’re reading. It makes sense. It shows our influences, and if you like what we write, maybe you’ll like what we read. No guarantees, but it’s not a bad place to start.
The truth is that I don’t read as much as I used to. Part of this is just a change in culture. There’s a ton of media vying for our attention. I used to watch a heck of a lot more TV as well. I’m more unforgiving of my media than I used to be. Stuff that would’ve kept me engaged ten years ago doesn’t always make the cut.
The other part is that as a writer, I’m busier writing novels, meaning reading is often on the back burner.
And the other part though is that I’ve never had much of a tolerance for long books. And series that last for dozens of books…yeah, I can’t get into those. I’ve never touched A Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings for that reason. I can’t work up the enthusiasm for epic series. It’s cool that they exist, and they tell stories that shorter novels can’t tell. But at the end of the day, I can’t push my way through them.
When I was younger, I read mostly superhero comic books. That’s probably obvious, given my tendency toward anything-goes weirdness in my novels. I will always mention Walt Simonson’s legendary run on The Mighty Thor, one of the first titles I collected regularly and that has had a huge influence on my own writing. But growing up, I read tons of comic books. (Mostly Marvel, not so much by choice as habbit.) It’s difficult to imagine, given that comic books are now pretty expensive, but at the time, they were cheap, easily available entertainment that offered a brand of fantasy I adore. I started reading comics because I could walk over to the local convenience store and drop seventy-five cents for a couple of titles to keep me entertained for an afternoon.
Times have changed. Getting into all the shifting dynamics of the comic book industry is way too complicated. There are better sources out there. But there are a lot of hurdles to being a comic book reader these days, for better or worse of the medium in general.
Beyond comics, I read a lot of off beat science fiction / fantasy. The staples: Robert Asprin’s Myth series, Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide, Mel Gilden’s Zoot Marlowe novels.
Over time, I found myself less interested in fiction and started reading a lot of non-fiction. I still do though I’m circling back to fiction.
My current tastes are towards old school mysteries and noir novels. I don’t know why. They tend to be shorter, easy to find at used book stores, and the good ones have a terrific crackling pop in their narration and dialogue.
But if you’re interested in the stuff that I would recommend, here’s just a small list of books and comic books I think are worth checking out:
MARVEL VISIONARIES: WALT SIMONSON THOR: Published across several volumes, it encompasses Simonson’s classic run with the character. It remains one of my favorite comic book runs of all time. If you’re familiar with Thor from the MCU films, there are a lot of influences from Simonson’s run, but the films pale in comparison. Bombastic, absurd, amazing, melodramatic, and mythic. It’s everything I’ve loved about superheroes.
PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL by DAN ARIELY: Non-fiction about behavioral economics. One of my favorite reads that actually gets into how people behave, and how it is both predictable and surprising (in that we don’t really know how we behave). A great read.
TARZAN OF THE APES / THE RETURN OF TARZAN by EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS: I love Tarzan. These books are old and come with some of that baggage. Burroughs isn’t the most subtle writer, and the premise is ridiculous. Even Burroughs thought so, expecting to write only three novels before having to retire the character. Little did he know it would become his defining character. Tarzan is such a fantastic character in so many regards, much more brutal and animalistic than he is in nearly any adaptation. I always recommend with caution, but if you’re in the right frame of mind, it is a wonderful read.
FRACTURED TIDE by LESLIE LUTZ: A new book on this list. Confession: Leslie is a friend of mine and this is her debut novel. I’d rather not get too deep into the details because there’s a lot of cool stuff in the book, but if the idea of desert island survival, sea monsters, and space-time manipulation sound good to you, then this is definitely worth checking out.
THE BIG FINISH by BROOKE FOSSEY: Another debut by a friend, this isn’t a science fiction story. It feels like a coming of age story, though in this case the protagonist is near the end of his life. Still, alternately funny, absurd, and touching, I found this novel comes the closest to being “literary” while still being something I can enjoy.
MADE TO STICK by CHIP and DAN HEATH: Non-fiction about why some ideas stick around and others are forgotten. It’s not technically a book about writing, but it is one of the best on the craft I’ve ever read. That’s why I like to recommend it. But even if you’re not interested in writing, it’s a great exploration of the concept of ideas and how they survive.
THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE by CARRIE RYAN and JOHN PARKE DAVIS: A charming opening to a series about a ship sailing a magical river in pursuit of the pieces of an enchanted map. I stumbled upon the first book by accident, but I enjoyed it immensely with its creative ideas and fun characters.
TEXAS GOTHIC by ROSEMARY CLEMENT-MOORE: Magical sisters, ghosts, supernatural mystery. I don’t want to say any more. While not a direct sequel, SPIRIT AND DUST also features the Goodnight sisters.
If you have a question or comment, maybe one you’d like me to address on this very blog, you can reach me at Hipstercthulhu@hotmail.com.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT, WRITING THE GOOD WRITE,