Thursday, April 19, 2007

required reading

I just finished White Night by Jim Butcher. It was good--lots of explosions and cool magic and such--but sometimes when I'm reading a new book in a lengthy series, the nuances of the world get muddled in my head. I remember who all the key characters are, but I forget the inner workings of different groups of people. This series, over the past several books, has had an ongoing war between the vampires and the wizards, and at this point I've forgotten who started the war, how, and why. One of Butcher's strengths, though, is his character development, and this book didn't dissappoint. Harry Dresden is a flawed and deeply conflicted character, and that makes him unpredictable. Love that. One of these days I'll have to go back and re-read them all.

Re-reading books. There seem to be two camps, those that do and those that don't. Last Sunday I caught Stephen King's The Stand on the sci-fi channel. Ken watched a bit and said "I remember the basic premise but not the details" and I said "This follows the book almost perfectly, most of the dialogue is even the same." Ken couldn't believe I remembered the dialogue that well. When I told him I'd read The Stand at least ten times, he was like, "Why? What's the point? You know what will happen. The time is better spent reading a new book." I maintain that that is not always the case. There's something comforting about reading a book you've read before. There are still surprises, because every time I re-read a book I discover something I missed before or I see a character in a different light. The characters are like old friends, maybe, the ones that you don't talk to for three years, then pick up the phone and you talk like no time has passed. I can't wait to re-read the Harry Potter books this summer. However, I've told myself that I can't start them until I have queries for my YA book out to ten agents.

I'm starting Without Remorse by Tom Clancy tonight. My husband and I watched The Sum of All Fears with Ben Affleck the other night. Liev Schreiber played Jack Clark, the badass uber-assassin. Ken mentioned that Without Remorse is all about Clark, said he really like it, and I should read it. "What the hell," I said. "I'll give it a go." I am a fan of the international-espionage books--Robert Ludlum being my fave--and so it's not inconceivable that I'll enjoy it. It must be said, though, that I've tried Clancy in the past, and I can never make it past the first few chapters. They tend to be massive info-dumps and it's hard for my braid to eat all that technical/weapons/international relations jargon without throwing the book aside in disgust.


Paul Genesse said...


I've read a few books more than once, but nowadays I prefer to read new stuff. I just don't feel like I have enough time to reread the same stuff, though I agree with your post. I wonder if I'll reread some books from my teenage years at some point. I wonder if I'd like them this time around? Probably not all of them.

I've been watching The Dresden Files on Sci-Fi and plan on reading Jim Butcher at some point. Kerrie Hughes loves his books.

Did you look over the galleys for The Black Seraph? I haven't managed to read any stories yet--aside form my own. No errors.

Well, here's to both our stories going to the publisher on May 15!

Kelly McCullough said...


I do a lot of rereading, both because I enjoy it and because it's a fabulous exercise for a writer. With really good books (and I don't reread the ones that aren't) I always learn new things when I read them again. Two passes is the minimum because you need to read a book a second time knowing what's supposed to happen in order to understand how it happens from a writerly perspective.

Kelly Swails said...

Paul: yeah, I don't re-read much anymore because of time contraints, either. Every once in a while I re-read a book from my teenage years and I'm usually little disappointed because it doesn't speak to me like it once did. Which, I think, is an important lesson for an author--you can only write the best story that you can; the rest is up to the reader. If one reader doesn't like it isn't necessarily a reflection of your talent; it could be a reflection of their life experience. And as for Pirates, I've only looked over my story. I found a few errors that will easily be fixed. I think I almost prefer to wait until the book come out to read the others ... but my willpower may not hold.

Y: Yeah, that was a point one of my creative writing teachers made: a writer should read a book twice, once as a reader for enjoyment, once as a writer to study the craft of the novel. It's good advice that I should practice more often, because often what I do now is read a new book as a writer. This usually manages to to mangle the enjoyment of the book.

Kelly Swails said...

I've finally figured out a decent analogy for reading a book as a reader and writer all at once. It's like being on a road trip and trying to take in the scenery while looking at the map. You miss the cool rock formation to your left and you lose your place on the map.