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Books you might not read if you weren't a writer

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Mike Jung

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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.
#1 - February 15, 2009, 08:39 PM

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.
#2 - February 16, 2009, 06:09 AM
OPEN COURT, Knopf

Mike Jung

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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.
#3 - February 16, 2009, 07:25 AM

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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.
#4 - February 16, 2009, 07:41 AM
FLYING THE DRAGON (Charlesbridge, 2012)
A LONG PITCH HOME (Charlesbridge, 2016)

www.nataliediaslorenzi.com
http://bibliolinks.wordpress.com/

Heidi

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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!
#5 - February 16, 2009, 08:38 AM

I make sure Brittney Spears stays out of movies. So yeah, you're welcome.
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1. Twilight.
2. Twilight.
3. Twilight.
4. Twilight.
5. Twilight.
6. Twilight.
7. Twilight.
8. Twilight.
9. Twilight.
10. Twilight.
 :notworking
#6 - February 16, 2009, 08:47 AM

Mike Jung

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Hmmm, I sense a theme. Funny thing is, I haven't read TWILIGHT yet...  :whistle
#7 - February 16, 2009, 08:51 AM

Twilight series!
#8 - February 16, 2009, 08:57 AM
Stained Glass Summer, Musa Publishing
Weaving Magic, YA Romance
Finders Keepers--MeeGenius Publishing
www.mindyhardwick.com

I make sure Brittney Spears stays out of movies. So yeah, you're welcome.
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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.
#9 - February 16, 2009, 08:59 AM

Reader, reader, reader...
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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 :)
#10 - February 16, 2009, 09:01 AM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

I make sure Brittney Spears stays out of movies. So yeah, you're welcome.
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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).
#11 - February 16, 2009, 09:13 AM

Heidi

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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.)
#12 - February 16, 2009, 09:14 AM

MaryWitzl

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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)
#13 - February 16, 2009, 09:36 AM

Martha Flynn

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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.

#14 - February 16, 2009, 09:41 AM

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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.

#15 - February 16, 2009, 09:45 AM

Mike Jung

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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.
#16 - February 16, 2009, 10:01 AM
« Last Edit: February 16, 2009, 10:59 AM by Mike Jung »

skarab

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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.



#17 - February 16, 2009, 10:12 AM

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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).
#18 - February 16, 2009, 10:25 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.



 
#19 - February 16, 2009, 10:41 AM

Mike Jung

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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.
#20 - February 16, 2009, 11:03 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.

#21 - February 16, 2009, 11:12 AM

Barbara Eveleth

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The CWIM. Really.


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



#22 - February 16, 2009, 11:53 AM

Traci Dee

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On Writing
When We Die
A whole slew of reference books, really.
#23 - February 16, 2009, 11:59 AM

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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.
#24 - February 16, 2009, 12:07 PM
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series (Disney-Hyperion)
SUNNY'S TOW TRUCK SAVES THE DAY (Abrams)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

mswatkins

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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.
#25 - February 16, 2009, 02:16 PM
« Last Edit: February 16, 2009, 02:20 PM by msw »

ecb

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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.
#26 - February 16, 2009, 02:24 PM

sjl

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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.
#27 - February 16, 2009, 02:28 PM

SB

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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.
#28 - February 16, 2009, 02:40 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.   
#29 - February 16, 2009, 02:56 PM
OPEN COURT, Knopf

dianebailey

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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.

#30 - February 16, 2009, 02:57 PM

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