Some facts about fiction

Posted: September 11, 2014 in All things literary, Personal
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Do you re-read books?

I assumed that re-reading books was normal, but I’ve learned that there are many people who only read a book once.  After that, they never check it out again from the library or, if they own the book, it goes to the used bookstore, to the library sale, or is passed on to a friend or relative.  I’d like to think that few books are so awful that they deserve to be thrown away, but I’ve sadly learned that’s a false hope.

So yes, I re-read books.  Not just once, but often.  And I collect books by my favorite authors, which is part of the reason I need a room filled with shelves that functions as a library, although I don’t have one yet.  But I digress.  What I really want to talk about are authors I enjoy that you might enjoy.  First, a few caveats.  I don’t like books filled with foul language, although I can sometime tolerate it if necessary to make the characters real or if the story is good enough.  My beliefs about foul language are (in no particular order), a) it’s often used just to be edgy or make people think the author is cool, b) it shows lack of vocabulary skills (or lack of desire to use them), c) it shows lack of imagination and d) if you use it all the time, what do you use when something is really horrible?  (There are excellent writers who love to use “language.”  That’s fine.  I just don’t like to read them.)

Secondly, I tend to like stories that aren’t morbid and that have people I like.  There’s not much worse than reading a book, even a good one, about people you detest.  Thirdly, I think most sex scenes are thrown in just to attract readers, which doesn’t really work in my case.  Again, have a good story, hint at what’s happening and let the adults imagine what they want.  Many English authors use this technique well.  They know that if they say two people are having an affair or the action moves into the bedroom, we can all imagine what we like and if we want more, we can read a sex manual or the Kama Sutra.  As in real life, less overt is often more tantalizing.  Finally, I’m not a big fan of horror, although some Stephen King books have made me wary of going into the dark, even when I in no way believe his premises.

So what DO I like?

Almost 2 1/2 years ago, when almost no one was reading my blog, I shared my love for the books of Helen MacInnes.  Her books are a great way to learn about the  Cold War and WWII by reading about the impact of real events on imaginary people.  MacInnes had the background to write authoritatively about these issues and her books are being reprinted.  She throws in mystery, suspense and a healthy dose of romance, although it’s not all happy times and endings.  Her books take place in Europe and the US and are the type of stories you know actually happened somewhere and at some time.

How about an author of Regency Romance whose fictional book about Waterloo was (don’t know that it still is) required reading at Sandhurst, England’s Royal Military Academy?  That would be Georgette Heyer, the queen of Regency romance and the Regency period of history.  Let me hasten to say that although I like romance, I don’t read “romance” novels, the kind that made my girls ask when they were little and we were at the library, “Mom, why don’t those people have many clothes on?”   Heyer’s romances are in a completely different category and even my husband loves them.  The history and mores of the time are spot-on and the dialogue sparkles. There are strong, sassy female characters who often are at odds, at least for a good part of the book, with the strong males.   Humor abounds and we’ve found ourselves literally laughing 0utloud while reading.  Start with “The Grand Sophy” and move on from there.  Heyer also wrote mysteries which are also enjoyable, very English mystery.

When we went to France earlier this year, I took along as many books in English as I could fit into my suitcase.  After all, my s-i-l would love reading them and I’d have space for wine or other souvenirs on the way home.  One of the books I took along was a duplicate of one I already owned of the mysteries written by Patricia Moyes (English, again), about Scotland Yard’s Henry Tibbett.  As with many authors of that age, she has an interesting background that she brings to her books.  These are mysteries of the cozy English type and I hope you’ll like the Tibbetts as much as I and my s-i-l do.  Henry’s “nose” helps him solve crimes and skiing and sailing feature in many of the novels.  Henry’s unassuming, but too many make the mistake of underestimating him.

Finally, lest you think I only like dead, female, English authors, let me recommend a dead, male, American author, Tony Hillerman.  Hillerman wrote about the American Southwest and the Navajos who live there with love and the spare prose of a former newspaper writer, which he was.  His protagonists, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, started out as the main characters in an every-other-book format until he finally answered my prayers and started writing about them both each time.  Hillerman was probably as much of an expert in the Dineh (Navajo) as any white man and beloved of them as well.  Read the linked bio for a look at the makings of a writer.  Start his novels with the first, The Blessing Way, and don’t look back.

That’s it for this time.  I hope you pick up a book by one of these authors and if you do, let me know how you like it.  They may not be pushing every envelope to the limit in order to get your attention, but then again, they don’t have to.  Plot, characters, and action more than suffice.  Hillerman’s books are easy to find as are Heyer’s and MacInnes’s.  Moyes’ may be a bit more difficult.  It depends on your library.  But among the four authors, you should have plenty reading material to keep you occupied for many weeks or months.  Happy reading!

 

Comments
  1. Franky says:

    I am not much of a reader. I am still developing that hobby. One of my hobbies is watching movies and when watching movies is a hobby, you want to watch as many movies as you possibly can. I love some movies, hate some and want to forget some and never. There are genres I prefer over other genres. I re-watch only those movies which inspire me a LOT like GOT and Devil wears prada and Iron man. The reason I never re watch most of the movies is because there is always the next movie I haven’t watched waiting on my “To See” list. So I guess that’s how things go with books too. Nice article!

    • Good morning, Franky. I feel the same way about books–I want to read as many as possible (in fact, “So many books, so little time” could have been said by me), but just as I re-watch movies I love, I re-read books I love. Comfort reading might be a good phrase for it. To come back to a book I love is similar to spending time with a good friend. But I know that not everyone feels that way and that’s fine, too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      janet

  2. prior says:

    I don;t re-read – but some I will reskim – it that makes sense. ha! nice post – peace

  3. Su Leslie says:

    I had to smile at your opening lines. I re-read books multiple times too. It’s comforting, like talking to an old friend. In fact there are times when I know that only a pre-read book will do because I’m too fragile for something new. The boy-child is – if possible – even more of a serial reader than me. He has every book that’s ever been bought for him and every now and then I find stuff in his room that he loved when he first started reading chapter books, like the Roald Dahl books. I think I may have become a serial re-reader by circumstance; we just didn’t that many books at home when I was growing up and trips to the library were often on foot or by bus and there are only so many books a kid can carry home! With the boy-child, scarcity certainly hasn’t been the issue so I suspect he’s gone straight to the comfort reading thing. 🙂

    • “Comfort reading”, Su, is exactly the phrase I was thinking of this morning that I should have used. Re-reading is just like talking with an old friend. When I’ve burned out a bit on the thrillers or mysteries that are more edgy and graphic, these old friends are the break I need. I still maintain that a well-written book doesn’t have to be graphic to be excellent; it just leaves more up to your imagination. These days, that’s unusual, and TV is as bad or worse.

      Glad your son loves reading, too. We read aloud to our girls even into high school, when Bill would read sci-fi to them. I recently started listening to books-on-cd while on long drives. Not sure why I didn’t before and of course, many of these comfort books aren’t on cd, but we’ve listened to the 13-hour set of LOTR every year when driving to Wyoming for at least 20 years. We all still love it.

      janet

  4. I turned my back on Georgette Heyer when I first heard of her from a new friend because she described her as romance. UGH. But then I mentioned Heyer to an author friend of mine who responded immediately with “Read her! She got me through my adolescence!” And I found the books lovely, literate, little gems.

  5. I sometimes re-read book, specially when a new one comes out from a book series. I like Helen MacInnes, think the Salzburg Connection is a book I will re-read now :o)

  6. I wouldn’t normally re-read books as there are so many new ones to enjoy all the time and so little time. I love Tony Hillerman and have read most of his books (many several times).. along the same line let me suggest Donna Leon’s books about Venice and Barbara Nadal’s books about Istanbul.. also Peter Robinson’s series on Inspector Banks are great reading..some of those I have read several times. Another author I do not mind re-reading is Murakami.. his books are gems (though slightly surreal).. Currently I’, reading an amazing book called Captain Corelli’s mandolin… amazing read… but as I said.. there are so many books — so rereading one means missing the opportunity of a new book…

    • I love Donna Leon and have read the Inspector Banks books, too. Haven’t read Nadal or Murakami. I’ll have to look them up. Re-reading to me is like visiting with an old friend but I certainly agree there are plenty new books, too. It becomes a balancing act as does so much else.

      janet

  7. JackieP says:

    I love Heyer’s books. I found them when I was a late teen, early 20’s and I think I’ve read every one of them, some of them a second time. They taught me a lot about English history, but it was fun learning. I also love Agatha Christy.

    • Agatha Christie is great, too, Jackie, and prolific, which is great for a reader. We love the David Suchet Poirot’s on BBC and some of the Miss Marples, although I generally don’t like movies or TV shows better than books and often won’t watch them.

      janet

      • JackieP says:

        I very rarely watch tv or movies and such, but those I will as they are very good and true to the books for the most part. We have good taste Janet 😉

  8. I’m a re-reader too, Janet. 🙂 Sometimes it is to remember what happened before the next book in a series, sometimes it is to enjoy the writers skill after I’ve flown through a good story.

  9. Thanks for the tips! Sounds like we have similar likes in books. I don’t reread fiction usually but I do rewatch old movies. Hmmm. I’ve added several more books now to my Goodreads list! So many books, so little time! 😀

  10. Thanks for your recommendations. I’m a particular fan of Helen MacInnes, and Tony Hillerman’s books gave an additional flavor to one summer when I went camping on Navajo land. I was intrigued to go into a small grocery store and hear the patrons speaking a “foreign language”‘ Navajo, which was how they foiled the Japanese during WWII. They were called Code-Talkers.

  11. For me, I don’t usually re-read, but I’m definitely not averse to it. I am in the camp of those who don’t have enough time to read all the books I like or should or “need to” read, so I almost feel I can’t justify re-reading something. That said, absolutely there are books, stories, poems, and other creative pieces that I return to, at least in my mind, quite often. I must admit, your comments and the link you shared on Hillerman made me much more interested in his writing than I would typically be in straight-ahead crime novels, and I usually can’t stomach true-crime novels, though I used to read a good deal of horror. Nowadays, I usually read in the nonfiction, literary fiction, poetry, or speculative fiction genres.

  12. Swoosieque says:

    Stories never held my attention too well, maybe I was reading bad authors or, more than likely, I am a very fussy reader. I like specific styles of writing, like Vonnegut, Michener, A.C. Clarke, Sidney Sheldon… and, yes, I love King’s writing style, not all of his stories, but his style – yes.

    Great post, started me thinking and am anxious to read your recommendation on Hillerman’s collection. 😀

  13. vastlycurious.com says:

    Before blogging and bike riding and so many other things I was a voracious reader although rarely twice. I have become much more visually stimulated although my mind can conjure up some wild visuals. Just a switch in priorites I guess! Have a great week!

  14. I do re-read occasionally, if the book or series is a favourite. I have far too many books to read even once, really, so it doesn’t happen often!

    I’ve just started re-reading the Narnia series from the start, so that I have something “really easy” to delve into when I want to read but am nearly comatose with fatigue. When that hits, I just can’t process “normal” novels.

    I’ll also re-read if I need a refresher before reading a sequel, and/or if I want to share a book I’ve read as a Recommended Read on our blog but have not previously reviewed it on Goodreads.

    Thanks for your recommendations!

    • Good morning, Joanna (at least here.) Thanks for popping in. I hope you get a chance to try one or two of the authors and then let me know how you like them. Nothing like what you and Ron like, but variety is the spice of life (says the woman who reads mostly mysteries.) 🙂 Your re-reading of the Narnia books is often why I re-read what I do–comfort reading. I’m not saying they’re not good stories or not well-written, but they’re something to relax into and enjoy.

      janet

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