How many books do you read in a year? In his classic book On Writing Stephen King wrote: “I take a book with me almost everywhere …” And in answer to the question, What do you read? he writes: “Almost anything I can get my hands on.”
And the book goes on to give a list of some books he read between 2010 and 2019. These included Kate Atkinson, William Boyd, Robert Harris, John Le Carre, Hilary Mantel, Somerset Maugham, J K Rowling, Leo Tolstoy, Sarah Waters, Emile Zola and a whole host of American authors. For him a Prime Rule is “Write a lot and read a lot.”
For me poetry has often proved to be difficult but I’ve just finished a biography of a 17th century poet which is so good that I keep going back to it. The poet is Dr John Donne, the author is Katherine Rundell and the title Super-Infinite. The cover proclaims that Donne “was a scholar of law, a sea adventurer, an MP, a priest, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral – and perhaps the greatest love poet in the history of the English language”.
The author succeeds in “unveiling Donne as the most remarkable mind and as a lesson in living”. While his poetry was often obscured by clever puns and hidden meanings, Katherine Rundell has got under his skin with panache. The book starts with a bang – “The power of John Donne’s words nearly killed a man.” – and proceeds apace.
This kind of bravado storytelling has stirred my creative juices. While I will probably never be a poet I hope my thrillers have a literary lilt.
So, we all need to read widely and as often as we can – we don’t have to follow the lead of author and Shedunnit podcaster Caroline Crampton who read 103 books in 2022 having set herself a goal of 100. I reckon that 25-50 books is good going in a year!
By the way, Slim Chance by J M Halberg (my Swedish great grandmother’s maiden name) is still with our beta readers. We are currently researching literary agents and publishers to approach when our readers have come back to us.
So, what about your reading and writing?