What I Read, and Why

If you've read any of my other posts, you've probably figured out a bit about my reading habits already. Still, I want to talk about it in a little more detail.


1. Horror


I've told this story before, but one of the first things I remember reading was Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. It was an oversized, illustrated edition (give me a break, I was five). This was the laying of one of the cornerstones of my reading. After that, I would get horror collections from the school library and used book stores (anybody else remember all those Alfred Hitchcock's... collections? I had something like six of those...).

At age eleven, I picked up my first Stephen King, Thinner. That was fun, but The Dark Half and Needful Things really sold me on him (they're still two of my faves). Then Koontz, and then one of my mom's friends turned me on to Lovecraft (thanks Cathy!)...

Really, though, it was something that was always going to happen. I remember looking at books about film history in my school library (I snuck into the Older Readers section) and seeing pictures of Lon Chaney in London After Midnight and Phantom of the Opera, Max Schreck in Nosferatu... Listening to older kids in the locker room talking about Freddy and Jason... Drawing creepy pictures... The list goes on.

I still read, and watch, horror, though Koontz and Lovecraft are no longer staples of mine. Okay, Lovecraft's a tricky one, because I read a LOT of stuff set in his worlds or heavily inspired by him, but very little by the man himself. King, though, I still revisit frequently.


2. Mystery


One of the other books I remember reading young was a Sherlock Holmes story, though I'm not 100% sure of  which one. My mom had a collection of all the stories, with the original Paget illustrations from The Strand. Super cool, that.

My mom is a huge mystery fan, and had trouble with me from time to time. She felt I needed more male role models, so she started me reading the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker, starting with Early Autumn. That is the one where Spenser basically adopts a boy and teaches him to be responsible and self-sufficient. My mother's real subtle.

Still, that and Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress (thanks again, Cathy!) hooked me on PI novels for good. When I'm in a reading slump, a Mosley or a Parker are still the books most likely to bust me out of it.

From those, I worked my way back to Chandler, Hammett, and Spillane, while at the same time finding newer authors like Deaver and Lehane. Whilst bored in Texas, found the Keller and Burglar books by Lawrence Block, as well as Kinky Friedman's quirky, drug-laced series, which led me to similar, though darker, works by Crumley (The Last Good Kiss still has the best opening sentence in mystery fiction, IMO).


3. Fantasy


Another genre my mom loved, and she started me on it with the Narnia books, then the Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony, then his Xanth books, as well as series by David Eddings and Mercedes Lackey. Mom's love of fantasy pushed me towards my love of short fiction as well, as, among her many DragonLance books were a couple Tales books.

But it  was Cathy, again, who introduced us to something that would hugely influenced our reading, urban fantasy. I discovered Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, and Nancy A. Collins through her. Then because of a Butcher blurb on the cover, I picked up the first Nightside novel by Simon R. Green (I now have over forty of his books).

Along the way, I had lost interest in your classic, swords-and-horses, traditional fantasy, but the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks brought me back (You want to get my attention? Assassins. The Nightfall books by Reichert, the Keller books, The Butcher's Boy... Assassins and con artists are the best ways to get me interested in your book or movie). Then came Martin and Rothfuss, and now Goodreads has gotten me interested in more series/authors than I'll ever be able to read.


4. Thrillers/Suspense


This was Stephen King's fault. In Danse Macabre and On Writing he mentioned David Morrell, whose First Blood I eventually picked up, and who later edited a collection of essays on thriller novels, which gave me a shopping list, basically.

The thing is, I'd never thought of thrillers as a discreet genre, with it's own tropes and basic structure. After reading a few of the books found in that collection, I realized that it is a great genre with great variety in subject but often a common structure. Still, I read a lot of thrillers and their less violent cousins, suspense novels.


5. Nonfiction


Easy. I like knowing things. If I like a critic or artist, I want their opinions for pointers, which has  led me to so much art that I love.

I like learning where things came from, the creative process and the history. I like seeing how things work, and how people think, and don't. And I like useless trivia.

So I have a lot of books on history and science, tons of criticism and 100 Best books, and a fair few essay collections. With the other genres, there's a general timeline I can trace, but this is much more random. I see something nifty, grab it, read it, and move on.



Jeez, this was a long one. Thanks if you made it this far! Hope you weren't bored.