On expanding my literary horizons…

Until recently I’ve been pretty disappointed with some of the reading choices I’ve made. It makes me cross to invest hours only to be utterly disappointed 80,000 words. There’s some real pap out there, which makes me wonder in a competitive market how it ever made it into print. Last year I decided I needed to pull myself away from the crime fiction I love and expand my reading horizons. What else is out there that I’m missing? And I found it hard to have literary conversations with my writer buddies as my own reading list’s so restricted. And if a crime were to happen on my estate I’d be the prime suspect. Save for notes in the margins and highlighted passages of kill scenes, my bookshelves probably paint a picture of a twisted crime fanatic. Er… yeah, that’s me.

My bookshelf

My bookshelf... or at least some of it

So, not only was I going to try new genres I was also going to try new authors; it’s a habit of mine to find an author I like, read everything they’ve ever written, find another author I love and repeat. So my bookshelf is limited and my knowledge needed growing, especially if I’m to pursue my own hope of one day being a published author. And I don’t think the poem I had featured on page 187 of a poetry compendium really counts, does it?

But this year my reading choices were poor, or at least for me they were. It’s all subjective isn’t it but, for me, I like books like I like my movies; they need to have a point and be believable.

I read some bad chick lit, so bad I couldn’t bring myself to review it (research for my own novel, a genre I have a love-hate relationship with); and some ropey crime-type stuff (I couldn’t help myself  with the crime but the untried authors thing didn’t work for me. Even Patricia Cornwell’s latest, an old fave of mine from years ago, left me disappointed and a little bit angry.

But the last three books I’ve read have left me in awe. Amazing storytelling ability with an emotional depth that not only tugged at my heart strings, it pulled them tort to the brink of snapping.

And I came to realise that books, the ones that are really, really good, aren’t the ones that keep me turning pages because I want to find out whodunnit, or who the serial killer’s next victim is, or what that little bit of evidence is likely to reveal, but the ones that connect with me emotionally, striking a match in me, a warmth, a glow; something that makes me look into my soul and see my life from the inside out. Deep huh? Yeah, sorry, I don’t know what came over me, but these books move me, sometimes to tears, with their true-to-life characters and the stories that unravel around them.

The books I’m talking about – and I’m lucky to have read them back to back – are Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson, Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton and The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell.

All three were completely amazing and two of them, the latter, forced tears from my eyes which is a tad embarrassing when reading on a crowded beach. Thank God for sunglasses! The former moved me in another way, in the realisation that the things we take for granted, like our memory, make us incredibly vulnerable if we were ever to lose them. Who could we trust if we lost everything? Who’d have our back?

Anyway, reviews of the above are all in my book review section on this blog but I just felt it worthy of giving them an extra mention.

And am I pleased to be stepping away from the old forensic pathologist/detective with a ‘tude style novels? I’ll always be a crime lover and continue to try new authors and support the ones I love, but it’s been refreshing to read something different and experience new ways of writing and expression. I hope my own writing with improve because I’m better read. After all, variety is the spice of life… and I do like spicy.

Next up on my reading list is Hunter by Tom Wood, The Hating Game by Talli Roland (reading on kindle app and been meaning to get round to for an age) and this Platform Book Club choice, A Balance To Survive by Lisa W.B.

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  • Reply Buchy July 17, 2011 at 10:53 am

    It sounds like you’re going towards more literary books. I don’t mean hardcore literary ‘don’t understand a word’ stuff, I mean stuff with a more literary, thoughtful bent. I’m doing the same. I used to read stuff like this but lost touch with it as I got into vampire, werewolves etc. Which is great but had enough now. Am now back on the kinda stuff you’re reading with a vengeance and am gonna read all those books you recommended. Have you tried One Day by David Nicholls? Astounding! Water for Elephants is good too. I like Toby Litt too. And Douglas Coupland, though he’s a bit crazy!

  • Reply robynbateman July 17, 2011 at 11:38 am

    So true Buchy! Not sure I could ever go down the use-too-many-words-just-to-be-literary kind of books but I’m defo swaying towards the books are just as much about language and thought as they are about enticing plots. Glad you’re gonna read the books I’ve recommended, I reckon they’re right up your street, and I’ll be adding yours to my Amazon Wish List. Isn’t reading great?!

  • Reply lesley heardman July 18, 2011 at 8:43 am

    When I got stuck in a rut of only reading my selected authors I decided to go to the Library (probably an alien world these days) and started at A, if I liked the intro I read it. An amazing experience and would recommend anyone give it a try – from the Diamond Mines in South Africa to Clan of the Cave Bear – you never know where you are going to end up.

  • Reply robynbateman July 18, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Good idea! I haven’t been in a library for yonks but there’s something quiet endearing about used books. Think it would take a good long while for me to get to Z though!

  • Reply Hazel Cottrell August 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I just wrote a review on Patricia Cornwell Books – http://hazellcottrell.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/book-review-unnatural-exposure/
    Let me know your views?

  • Reply Review of the year: 2011 in blog posts « Robyn's Nest December 23, 2011 at 10:06 am

    […] published evening, organised by Marie Claire magazine and I reflected on my mid-year resolution to expand my literary horizons. Who knew there was more than crime fiction out there?! Oh, and I also had a taste of Milton Keynes […]

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