Reading improves writing, just ask Mr. King.

Before I took my blog hiatus I had a lot of issues actually finishing books. I would start one, get part way through, run low on time, set it aside, and repeat. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the books — I just never felt like I had the time to devote to reading one. But after I started my blogging hiatus, and before I started NaNoWriMo, I finished four books. FOUR. I was really proud of myself, and it felt good. And even through NaNo, I made sure to keep reading. Partly because of one of the books I read: “On Writing” by Stephen King.

Mr. King pointed out that people can’t be good writers without reading, and that every time you read, you were studying the craft of writing. After reading that, something clicked. I figured if I couldn’t make time for reading, my writing wouldn’t ever improve. (Remember, I was trying to write my novel at this point.) Since then, I’ve made a point to make time to read nearly every day. And I want to continue, so I decided to integrate my reading into the blog, instead of adding something extra to my to-do list. So every month, I’ll go through and comment on all the books I read and listened to. (I listen to audio books at work a lot to pass the time… it’s great!)

So without further ado, here are the books I finished in January.

The bookstore had just gotten it in when I asked for it — they hadn’t even put it on the shelves yet!

“The Shining” by Stephen King. I got “Doctor Sleep” for Christmas, so I decided I needed to actually read “The Shining” before reading its sequel. And I’m very glad I did. I’ve only seen the movie once, and even though it was enjoyable it wasn’t as scary or memorable as I expected, given the cult following the movie seems to have. Since reading “On Writing”, I’ve been on a Stephen King kick, so I was excited to read one of his most famous works. And it didn’t disappoint. It was significantly different from the movie in several ways. The biggest and most important were the differences in Jack, Danny and Wendy Torrance. The characters are much deeper and more developed, and King makes sure the reader understands exactly why the human characters make their decisions. And in the book I would also count the hotel as a character itself. The ghosts and creepy phenomenons are clearly controlled by the hotel, which is a much more sinister character in the book, and not just a creepy setting. But to be clear, I’m not saying the movie was a bad adaptation. It is not. But there is so much depth to the book, it would be almost impossible to have translate it to the screen. King’s detail is incredible, his writing is easy to follow, and the plot it ingenious. I found myself understanding and feeling sorry for the Torrences more so than I did watching the movie. And I also found myself getting more spooked than I did while watching the movie. Overall, “The Shining” was riveting, entertaining and very enjoyable. (Also, for those who have seen the movie: it even ends differently! And Wendy is supposed to be a hot blonde…)

I didn’t see the face at first…

“Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King. I started “Doctor Sleep” almost immediately after finishing “The Shining” and finished it in less than a week. I read it every spare moment I had, and stayed up much later than I should have multiple times. So you know I thought it was good. “The Shining” touched on little Danny Torrence’s ability to see ghosts, know what his parents were thinking, and other crazy things. But they weren’t really the focus of the book. They were important, yes, but not as important as they are in “Doctor Sleep”, where the powers are actually the center of the novel. I also particularly enjoyed that “Doctor Sleep” tied up some loose ends left by its prequel (what happened to Danny and his mom?), and showed the effects of Danny’s childhood had on his life. On some levels, it’s easy to tell the two books were written years and years apart, but I think it added to the story. King isn’t the same author he was when he wrote “The Shining”, and it adds to the story. After all, Danny isn’t the same boy he was. Both lived many years in between the novels. But anyways, as a story “Doctor Sleep” is very different than “The Shining”, and I think I liked it more. It was dramatic, entertaining and scary, but not because of ghosts. Instead, King created new human-like monsters who murder little children. Scary, but not in the same way the Overlook Hotel was. A more real scary, in my opinion. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil it, but the little girl Danny helps, Abra, is spunky and likeable… even if she’s a little intense at times. And she’s even more powerful than Danny was as a kid, which is pretty incredible. Overall it was a quick read, fun and very good.

A very long audio book…

“A Clash of Kings” by George R. R. Martin. I started listening to the audiobook version on Audible back in… November? I don’t remember when I started, but I finally finished it in January. I had tried to read it on multiple occassions, but I would always end up setting it aside for something else… or nothing else. I just couldn’t get through it. Probably because I’m completely caught up with HBO’s “A Game of Thrones”, so I knew mostly what happened in the book. And I’m not really a huge fan of George R. R. Martin’s writing style. But the audiobook turned out to be manageable, and a good way to pass time at work. Unfortunately, I still got bored listening to it, which is why it took me so long to finish. I’d often choose to listen to MTG podcasts and streams instead. I finished it, though, and so far the next one is far more entertaining. Not that I didn’t like the story in “A Clash of Kings” … I really enjoy HBO’s adaptation, and think that, for the most part, it’s a good story. I just also think it was longer than it really needed to be, and that Martin adds a lot of things I really don’t care about. Who knows, though, maybe they’re important later. But right now I think all of his books are much longer than they really need to be.

So that’s it. Those are the books I finished in January. Only three, but that’s definitely better than September, when I think I barely finished one. I’m obviously on a Stephen King kick at the moment (I’m currently reading “The Green Mile”), but it’s only cause he’s great.

What did you read this month? Any suggestions for February?

All for now,
Bale

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3 responses to “Reading improves writing, just ask Mr. King.

  1. I feel like I’ve read more magazines/newspapers than anything else this month, BUT I did finish two books — “A Thousand Acres” and “Girl, Interrupted.” Not sure I’d actually recommend either to people. Jane Smiley is a great writer, but halfway through, the plot turns SUPER-creepy, and it’s just hard to shake the heebie-jeebies you get from it. (No spoilers.) I did a lot of picking up/putting down of “Girl, Interrupted,” so that didn’t help me get into it, but it was also easy to pick back up again, for what it’s worth. The last thing I read that I REALLY liked was “Gone Girl,” if you haven’t already read it 🙂

    • I hadn’t heard of “Gone Girl”, but I just googled it. Sounds really intriguing… and I do love mysterious/ dark books, so I might have to check it out! “A Thousand Acres” sounds like it could be depressing… maybe I’ll skip it. But if I’m feeling like it, maybe I’ll try it. It does have good reviews, it seems.

      As always, thanks for reading 🙂 – B

  2. Stephen King’s “On Writing” is hands down one of the best books about writing I’ve ever read.

    If you find yourself having trouble finishing whole novels, try short story collections. Mr. King has several great ones (I recommend Everything’s Eventual). I also love Ray Bradbury’s R is for Rocket. Having an e-reader has definitely opened my eyes to some great short collections too.

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