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Registered Members => Book Talk => Topic started by: Mike Jung on February 15, 2009, 08:39 PM

Title: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Mike Jung on February 15, 2009, 08:39 PM
Okay, here I am again, looking at the blueboards instead of writing any kind of a book... So I just finished Ally Carter's I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU, which was great - fast-paced, fun, smart. It's also a book I never would have picked up in a million years when I was a teenager. In all honesty it's probably not a book I'd have read now if I wasn't pursuing this children's bookwriting thing in a serious, hoping-to-become-a-professional way - I want to know the market, I want to know what the successful authors are doing, I want to hone my craft, etc. and so on and so forth. I'm sure I'd still be reading all kinds of MG and YA, but the GALLAGHER GIRLS series title would just not pull any of my strings, and if the title didn't put me off, the first scene discussing the hotness of the new male teacher probably would. It would have been my loss, and I'm definitely gonna read the rest of the series, but just out of curiosity: are there children's books you read strictly for professional reasons that you might not read purely for your own enjoyment?

Killing time,
m.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: CC on February 16, 2009, 06:09 AM
LOVE this question, mike

*The Twilight saga.
*Uglies
*Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (when I flipped through it in a bookstore it seemed self-concious to me, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about -- I blame the BB for this -- from the Book Talk section) :yup
*certain "very calm" girly books that I won't mention.
* Any type of fantasy -- if I'm reading it at all it's for a higher purpose, 'cuz fantasy isn't my thing.

and if the title didn't put me off, the first scene discussing the hotness of the new male teacher probably would.

This part of your post surprised me. I like "boy" books and I've never balked at their references to girls. Hmm, funny.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Mike Jung on February 16, 2009, 07:25 AM
Hi CC, I was a little surprised by my reaction to that scene too - I've always read plenty of books with female protagonists and have never been turned off by the romance aspects, but I think it's usually been MG, or fantasy, and not YA books with such a contemporary high school setting and sensibility. I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU had plenty of the things I look for in a female protagonist - slightly oddball, wallflowerish personality, awesome skills in the art of mayhem, associates with shadowy pasts - but it also had more of a (for lack of a better word) chick-lit feel than most books I read.

I'm sure the dialogue and character development are huge, huge reasons why the series has done so well, and I thought they were done in expert, authentic fashion. But that might also be part of the issue for me, strictly on a personal level. My high school years were difficult enough that depictions of high school kids with healthier, more typical relationships with their peers is actually a little alienating to me. I engage much faster and deeper with the outsider, ugly-duckling characters.

It may also have something to do with the fact that I'm now a father, and now I can't help but see high schoolers through a filter of my-little-girl-is-gonna-be-one-of-those-someday.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Natalie on February 16, 2009, 07:41 AM
This is a great thread, Mike.

FEED by M.T. Anderson is one that I probably wouldn't have picked up had I not been curious as to what all the hype was about. The voice was spot-on and the first line is one of the best first lines in YA that I've seen. But the genre is not my favorite, and I found the voice tiring after awhile--not because it wasn't authentic, but maybe because I haven't spent that much time with a teenaged boy in years (my son is only 3) :), so the slang wore on me a bit. But that's just me, I know, since most people rave about the book. And I can see how it would appeal to teens, which is why I was "studying" as I read it.

To me, the male MC voice in STORKY was much easier to spend time with, as is the MC 's voice in S. A. Harazin's BLOOD BROTHERS.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Heidi on February 16, 2009, 08:38 AM
I love this thread, too! And since I've begun to write "seriously" (hahahah!), I've picked up LOADS of books I otherwise would never have read:

1. Twilight (I read the first and loved the concept but didn't bother to read the rest. Yikes!)
2. Most fantasy including FEED, The UGLIES, PRETTIES SPECIALS etc. and other vampire books (Which I've loved!! How cool is that?)
3. Octavian Nothing (which I LOVED) I think it's safe to say if MT Anderson writes it, I'll love it. Same goes for Zusak.
4. Lots of MG titles that I'm so so thrilled to get back into because I forgot how special the MG voice is including: MANIAC MCGEE, A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT, THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE .. and many many more. What a gift to read those authors who simply NAIL the mg voice.
5. And LOADS of biographies and adult fiction because when I'm writing I don't read any children's books -- zippo. So I read lots of cool historical, biographies, and adult fiction.

Now that seems to have covered absolutely everything. What did I read beforehand? I don't know. One thing's for sure. I don't dissect books anymore. I just read for pure pleasure. It's nice to get out of the academic habit!
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Brad White on February 16, 2009, 08:47 AM
1. Twilight.
2. Twilight.
3. Twilight.
4. Twilight.
5. Twilight.
6. Twilight.
7. Twilight.
8. Twilight.
9. Twilight.
10. Twilight.
 :notworking
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Mike Jung on February 16, 2009, 08:51 AM
Hmmm, I sense a theme. Funny thing is, I haven't read TWILIGHT yet...  :whistle
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: write2inspire on February 16, 2009, 08:57 AM
Twilight series!
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Brad White on February 16, 2009, 08:59 AM
Hmmm, I sense a theme. Funny thing is, I haven't read TWILIGHT yet...  :whistle
Oh you should.  So far I'm on page 170 and she's cooked dinner for her father four times.  So read and read!  Oh the places you'll go!

Well...mostly just to the kitchen.

The excitement continues.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: andracill on February 16, 2009, 09:01 AM
Fun!
1.  Twilight, though I didn't read the whole thing -- too many books out there clamoring for my attention!
2.  MG books.  I definitely am not a MG reader, but because I've wanted to read what my friends were writing, I've read a number of great books (MAGIC THIEF, TRACKING DADDY DOWN, SAVVY -- to name a few).
3.  THE ABSOLUTEY TRUE...PART-TIME INDIAN (yeah, I can't even remember the title).  I would never have picked this up, but I really enjoyed it!
4.  Contemporary YAs...I like some kind of twist, be it fantasy or paranormal or spies (I LOVE Ally Carter's books).  And if I didn't read contemporary once in a while, I'd never have read CRACKED UP TO BE, which has become one of my favorites of all time.
5.  Anything with vampires -- I'm not really a vampire/fae type person...yet I've enjoyed a number of books in this sub-genre (including Melissa Marr's and Maggie Stiefvater's).
6.  Books in verse -- which is strange, because I love poetry.  And I have yet to read a single book in verse that I didn't immediately love -- but I probably wouldn't have picked any of them up if I wasn't a writer.

I'm loving reading everyone else's lists too :)
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Brad White on February 16, 2009, 09:13 AM
Fun!
1.  Twilight, though I didn't read the whole thing -- too many books out there clamoring for my attention!
2.  MG books.  I definitely am not a MG reader, but because I've wanted to read what my friends were writing, I've read a number of great books (MAGIC THIEF, TRACKING DADDY DOWN, SAVVY -- to name a few).
3.  THE ABSOLUTEY TRUE...PART-TIME INDIAN (yeah, I can't even remember the title).  I would never have picked this up, but I really enjoyed it!
4.  Contemporary YAs...I like some kind of twist, be it fantasy or paranormal or spies (I LOVE Ally Carter's books).  And if I didn't read contemporary once in a while, I'd never have read CRACKED UP TO BE, which has become one of my favorites of all time.
5.  Anything with vampires -- I'm not really a vampire/fae type person...yet I've enjoyed a number of books in this sub-genre (including Melissa Marr's and Maggie Stiefvater's).
6.  Books in verse -- which is strange, because I love poetry.  And I have yet to read a single book in verse that I didn't immediately love -- but I probably wouldn't have picked any of them up if I wasn't a writer.

I'm loving reading everyone else's lists too :)
Oh yeah!  Wicked Lovely.  How could I forget.  I loved it.  (In a very manly way, of course).
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Heidi on February 16, 2009, 09:14 AM
Oh you should.  So far I'm on page 170 and she's cooked dinner for her father four times.  So read and read!  Oh the places you'll go!

Well...mostly just to the kitchen.

The excitement continues.

ha ha ha ha!! (Though a wasted skill on a vampire who doesn't need to eat.)
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: MaryWitzl on February 16, 2009, 09:36 AM
This is a great topic. Personally, I wouldn't have read any of Debi Gliori's Pure Dead Magic series, but I'm glad I did. 

My daughters think the Twilight series is a yawn a minute, and now I can see why:  the idea of a kid doing anything for a parent would be entirely alien to them. (Sigh)
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Martha Flynn on February 16, 2009, 09:41 AM
Ditto to Uglies, Wicked Lovely and Absolutely True Diaries (which I lurved) but throw in Graceling - basically anything not female pov contemporary ya like Zarr or Reinhardt's work or Before I Die which is one of my favorites.  I'd never really combined YA + paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi/post-apocalypse until I read Twilight and then Hunger Games which set off a whole foaming-at-the-mouth YA frenzy for me.

Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: 1846 on February 16, 2009, 09:45 AM
I had dinner with three other adults Saturday night - actual adult non kids' lit types - and I was the only one in the group who hadn't either read Twilight or seen the movie.  And none of them were impressed with it.

And not only have I not read Twilight, I haven't even read Harry Potter.

Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Mike Jung on February 16, 2009, 10:01 AM
WICKED LOVELY's another one, as is LAMENT - I've heard great things, they're in my TBR stack, and it's highly doubtful I would have gone for them if I wasn't writing. For me, faeries have always crossed the finish line behind superheroes, assassins, monsters, aliens, giant robots, mutant reptiles, murderous operatives for dystopian governments, ninjas, sentient goo, falafel-eating bananafish - and yet I'm really looking forward to both of those books, purely because of the professional reputations of the authors.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: skarab on February 16, 2009, 10:12 AM
I love YA / MG fantasy, so just about anything NOT fantasy I read to keep up with the field. Recently I read Octavian Nothing, which I would not have touched had I not wanted to read something creating a lot of buzz. And what a powerful book!! Loved it.

Twilight I read but would have anyway. Didn't care for it.



Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Jen on February 16, 2009, 10:25 AM
You know, I'm actually having a really hard time coming up with an answer to this question, because it seems like the answer should be yes, in that I can't imagine that the fact that I write has no effect on what I read, but I don't ever actively or explicitly choose to read something for writing-related purposes.  There are so many YA books that I do actively want to read, across all genres and styles, that I never pick up a book that I mentally classify only as "I'm going to read this, because it will serve some writing purpose" rather than "I'm going to read this, because it sounds cool."  I have a 70-book TBR stack of "this sounds cool" books waiting to be read, so I can't imagine foregoing that to read something that doesn't appeal to me as a reader, independent of the fact that I write.  At the same time, though, I've been trying to imagine NOT writing YA and wondering if my TBR stack would still be 70% YA... and for the life of me, I can't come up with an answer.  Possibly because I can't imagine not writing YA (and maybe also because I've never been an adult who doesn't write YA and therefore have trouble imagining what I would be like and want to read in that position).
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: hazelnut on February 16, 2009, 10:41 AM
Maniac Magee is definitely one I read and finished because of its Newbery award, but some of the book made me cringe. I couldn't stand the second "family" McGee decided to move in with for awhile; the "father" was completely irresponsible and his kids weren't much better.

Also, although I haven't done a lot of agent submissions yet, when I have, I've always read at least one book that they liked that was "new" to me.



 
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Mike Jung on February 16, 2009, 11:03 AM
Possibly because I can't imagine not writing YA (and maybe also because I've never been an adult who doesn't write YA and therefore have trouble imagining what I would be like and want to read in that position).

Interesting! I was never a teenager who wrote YA, and I was a non-YA-writing adult for...well, I'm still a non-YA-writing adult, I currently write middle grade. So I've had a couple of decades where I didn't write kidlit at all, and while I always read MG and YA during that time, it never approached anything like 70% of my stack. It was probably closer to 30%. So I never went whole hog on reading MG or YA because I was happy giving 70% of my reading space to adult fiction, non-fiction, newspapers and magazines. When I started writing my MG I knew I needed to immerse myself deeper in all kinds of children's writing, and that's when my stack started to lean heavily toward children's literature. 5 years ago I would have almost always chosen ABOUT A BOY or THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN'S UNION or THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA or MONEYBALL over, say, MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS, or THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. Now? Lisa Yee rocks, and JENNA FOX is somewhere in the stack. I read more PM, and less ESPN.com. I had to make a shift.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: missy t on February 16, 2009, 11:12 AM
i won't lie -- i strongly dislike most literary novels.  pretty much every single MG/YA literary novel i have read as an adult, i've read because i'm a writer and want to see why the book won/was nominated for an award.

in a few cases, i've been pleasantly surprised and have enjoyed the book.  however, in most cases, i have not enjoyed the book.  IMO (and i'm obviously in the minority here  :hiding ), some of the newberry winners are amongst the worst books ever published.

Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Barbara Eveleth on February 16, 2009, 11:53 AM
The CWIM. Really.


Oh you mean books for kids??????



Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Traci Dee on February 16, 2009, 11:59 AM
On Writing
When We Die
A whole slew of reference books, really.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Anne Marie on February 16, 2009, 12:07 PM
Hard to say.  I think I'm more tuned in to mid-list books than I would have been otherwise.  I imagine I would have read the ones that get lots of buzz (when I was teaching, I always read the Newbery books, for example), but perhaps not the lesser-publicized releases.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: mswatkins on February 16, 2009, 02:16 PM
Since no one else mentioned it I'll just throw Twilight out there.  LOL!!!!!  I read the first two, but I don't see myself finishing the series.  I simply hate the MC.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: ecb on February 16, 2009, 02:24 PM
You know, I'm actually having a really hard time coming up with an answer to this question, because it seems like the answer should be yes, in that I can't imagine that the fact that I write has no effect on what I read, but I don't ever actively or explicitly choose to read something for writing-related purposes. 

What Jen said. :yup 

But in another way, EVERYTHING I read is for "writing-related purposes:" If I don't think it will help me tune in to the book I'm writing, right now, it doesn't get read.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: sjl on February 16, 2009, 02:28 PM
This thread is such a huge relief to me. I've been wondering if I was the only one who feels this way.

I write YA and I love writing YA - maybe because professionally I'm a teen counselor and I have a lot of teen voices in my head - but much of the YA I read is to learn my craft. I won't say I never like it but it wouldn't be my brand of choice. My favorite recent book, The Book of Negroes. My favorite book of all time A Fine Balance or Brothers Karamazov. I've yet to read a teen novel that comes close to those books (including my own  :yup).

I won't mention the teen books I really had to force myself to get through out of empathy for the writers. People write and read for different reasons. I may not understand why someone would voluntarily give up several hours of their life to read a Harlequin Romance with vampires - not mentioning any titles here - but I watch Desperate Housewives so I'm not in a strong position to criticize anyone's choice of entertainment.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: SB on February 16, 2009, 02:40 PM
I figure all reading I do is related to my endeavors as a writer -- sometimes to check the zeitgeist, sometimes to explore what all is possible in a novel.  I can't think of a more satisfying way to spend my time.

However.  I have picked up some books because there was a huge buzz and I wanted to see what the buzz was about.  (Every writer wants to understand buzz, right?)  "Looking for Alaska" was one such book.  And though something must have been working for me -- I finished it in one sitting -- I didn't understand the buzz.  To me, the whole story was precious and contrived and the characters annoying and unsympathetic.  (Yet many people have loved this book just as strongly as I didn't love it.)  I have another of his books in my TBR pile, because I do want to understand all the fuss, but it's looming like a chore.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: CC on February 16, 2009, 02:56 PM
I have picked up some books because there was a huge buzz and I wanted to see what the buzz was about.  (Every writer wants to understand buzz, right?)  "Looking for Alaska" was one such book.  And though something must have been working for me -- I finished it in one sitting -- I didn't understand the buzz.  To me, the whole story was precious and contrived and the characters annoying and unsympathetic. 

Ha! I avoided this book for a very long time. I hated the cover and thought the title sucked. Then I read it and now it's probably my fav YA. Buzz is good and bad, I guess, though I usually end up hating books others buzz about.   
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: dianebailey on February 16, 2009, 02:57 PM
I think it comes down to awareness, too. If I wasn't a writer, I would still be aware of "Twilight" and I would have read it. But I was finished with that series after the first book, and I think it would be that way whether I was a writer or not.

There are plenty of other books that I wouldn't have known about if I wasn't working in this business. I do make a point to read books that I might not have picked up otherwise, but it's not because I think it's going to be a chore, it's simply that I make the effort to get them. For example, I've read several Blueboarders books simply because I found out about them and wanted to know what my peers were doing.

One book I read ONLY because I was a writer and felt I needed to have SOME knowledge of, even though I had ZERO interest in it, was Gossip Girls. I hated it, and I won't read another, but I felt like I should expose myself to at least one. I also recently read The Secret Garden, for the first time. I didn't really care, but it's a classic, and my friends talked about it, and it just seemed like a hole in my overall literary background. (There are plenty of holes, of course, but this one seemed easy enough to fill :) )

I doubt I would have picked up Will Hobbs on my own, but when my kids were reading him in school, I decided to give him a shot although if I was selling insurance by day I probably would have skipped it.

Years ago, I set out to read most, if not all, of the Newberrys, and that was strictly because I wanted the history. If I wasn't doing this seriously, I could have lived quite happily without reading Miss Hickory (is that what it was called?) or Miracles on Maple Hill.

Interestingly, this year I picked up the Graveyard Book before I knew a single thing about it (except it was Neil Gaiman) and then it went on to win.

Hmmm, I could go on, but those of you who have read this far are probably already bored of my ramblings... so I'll stop.

Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Mike Jung on February 16, 2009, 09:17 PM
I do agree with everyone who says that whatever they read informs their writing - my experiences and interests, literary or otherwise, are the single biggest well of story material available to me. But sometimes there are specific things I want to be more aware of, or to get better at. For example, my first book originally had a female MC. Felt like the way to go, but I wasn't at all confident about my ability to write a female protagonist, so for a while all I read were books with female protagonists (which is not how I usually make my reading choices). Diane, I did similar things to what you did, picking out books with commercial or critical success, or status as recognized classics that were new to me, or buzz in various places, including here. So I read ARTEMIS FOWL (meh), and DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (funny in unexpected ways), and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (my choked-up reaction in no way diminishes my rugged manhood), and THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO (awesome!).

Awareness is a big part of it for me too - I didn't pay all that much ATTENTION to the children's market, I just read stuff as I heard about it instead of actively seeking it out.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: sjl on February 17, 2009, 04:26 AM
I really get the trepidation with crossing genders. My current mc is male and even though I have teenage sons and spend a lot of time around boys I also feel the need to immerse myself in books with a male mc. Even great writers struggle with this I think. I just finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (or something like that). It won the Pulitzer and it was a great read but the author switched back and forth between several voices and I felt the short section that was narrated by a female character was strikingly less inspired than the sections with a male narrator. I really don't feel he got inside the female mind. It seemed a shallow rendition compared to the rest of the book.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Just Jodi on February 17, 2009, 10:36 AM
Everyone has mentioned lots of great choices here.  In addition to those, I also wanted to add Life Is Funny by  ER Frank.  Very interesting "shorts" that all tie together as you discover the characters' relationships with one another.  I also loved Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Thanks Mike for starting this thread. I am also working on a YA and am trying to read a ton of it to familiarize myself with what's out there.  This has been very helpful to me as well! 

Hugs, Jodi  :love
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: AnneB on February 17, 2009, 11:24 AM
Twilight, New Moon, A Curse Dark as Gold, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Savvy...Thirteen Reasons Why, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett...you get the picture.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: JessicaLee on February 17, 2009, 12:15 PM
These replies have been fun to read!  Like Anne Marie, I've tuned in more to mid-list books. I was never a huge fantasy fan growing up, but I've opened up my mind considerably and have been quite delighted. 

~Jessica
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: C.K. on February 17, 2009, 01:32 PM
Just recently, The Hunger Games and I loved it.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Mandy Hubbard on February 17, 2009, 03:13 PM
I read a Harlequin-Nascar romance about a 40-something empty-nester. Harlequin sent it to me as a "sample" to help me decide if I should sub to their line.

TOTALLY NOT  my style.
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Tabitha on February 17, 2009, 04:12 PM
What a great topic!

I'd never have read anything by Meg Cabot.  Her book covers are so pink and froo-froo, and that is just NOT my thing.  And yet, I've thoroughly enjoyed many of her books. 

Before I realized I wanted to write for kids, I had that ridiculous notion that I shouldn't be reading YA or MG because I was no longer a young adult.  Go ahead, point and laugh at me - I deserve it.  :D  But now, I read all the YA and MG I could get my hands on.  So, I guess you could say that most of the things I'm reading now are things I definitely would not have read if I weren't writing for kids.  And I would be seriously missing out.  :)

Tabitha
Title: Re: Books you might not read if you weren't a writer
Post by: Melissa on February 17, 2009, 11:04 PM
I don't think there are any I read bc I write.  I read a bunch solely bc I taught or had to read to prep for a new course (some of which were painful to read).

I read a stack solely bc I'm a mom (a few of which were stick-a-sharp-thing-in-my-eye experiences) & co-read w the kids.

I've discovered books bc of knowing authors or reading reviews or industry chatter, but I can't think of any that I actually read bc I write.  If it doesn't appeal to me, I'm not reading.  I've had to do enough of that as a mom. *represses memories of some books*