I am always in the process of reading and re-reading a number of things.
I have just this second finished a short story collection called Dreaming of Djinn edited by Liz Gryzb. It is the most mouthwatering collection of stories merging speculative fiction with the Arabian Nights. Right up my alley subject wise, and I mean it quite literally when I said it was mouthwatering. The food descriptions are just so sensuous and evocative that they pleased me aesthetically and made me salivate with longing. And there is belly dancing that ranges from dangerously potent to hilarious.
I have also just finished Peter Heller’s beautiful and incredibly touching The Dog Stars. It is one of those books where I have a strong desire to read it again immediately. I met Peter when we were on a panel at the Albany and Perth Writers Festivals and he was such a wonderful speaker that I was inspired to read his book. He is actually a writer of travel and survival texts, and this is his first novel. I could not have imagined how much I would love it. Even talking about it makes me want to reread it. The voice was so beautifully fleshed out and real. I can’t wait to see what he will do next.
I am a big re-reader. I remember hearing an interview with an elderly and much revered author years ago, who said in this gentle rather self-effacing way that he was no longer reading anything new. He was indulging himself in the joy of re-reading books he had loved in his life. His words struck such a strong chord in me—I thought how wonderful it is to re-read a book you have loved. On the spot I resolved to always be a re-reader as well as a reader, and I can imagine that moment when I am very old (if I live long enough to be very old), when I too will resolve thereafter only to read books I have read and loved. But I am also a re-reader now, and for several different reasons.
I re-read books that have inspired me as a writer, for one reason or another. Certainly Peter Heller’s did, because the voice in his story was so strong. My literary hero is the incomparable Ursula Le Guin, and her character voice in a novel or story is always arresting. I am re-reading her brilliant The Left Hand of Darkness. Quite simply, reading her makes me a better human being and a better writer. (Another writer I like very much and re-read regularly is Sheri S. Tepper who wrote such wonderful books as Grass and Beauty and the magnificent Raising the Stones. I plan to re-read one of her very early series soon. They are sitting on my bedside table, having been piled there in readiness a few weeks back.)
I also listen to a lot of audiobooks too. Right now I am listening to Empire Day by Diane Armstrong, recorded by Bolinda Books. She wrote one of my all time favourite books in A Winter Journey. I actually listened to this and that made me want to hear more of her books as audio stories. I recommend both as wonderful stories and sublime performances. Empire Day is exquisitely interpreted by the wonderful talented actress, Deirdre Rubenstein. She is so good that, seeing her name as the reader is enough to incline me to want to hear it. One funny quirk I have is that if I hear a book first, and like it, I usually like to listen to all the other books by that author, as well, rather than getting the books and reading them. The mystery thriller writers Jenny Siler and Lisa Unger are also writers I prefer to hear read aloud as audio books, perhaps because they are just so well done. I tend to draw when I listen, or do some boring drudgery around the house or, best of all, go for a long drive. I think I could drive forever listening to audio books, the longer the better. I loath abridged audio books with a passion, and that is another of the reasons I love Bolinda Books—they almost never abridge anything.
There are books I love so much that, having read them, I want to hear them because you hear a book differently than you read it. I would say you hear more. I am right now hunting for an audio version of Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars. I guess I want more and somehow hearing an audiobook of a book you have loved as a print book, especially when it is well done, seems to offer more—maybe because it takes longer, as a rule, and so you hear all the bits your eyes might skip over when your mind wanders, as minds do.
I am just about to re-read a book I loved by Elizabeth Moon, who is a recent discovery as an author. I do so love to discover a new author with a really solid backlist, and she is just such a one. I am trying to slowly work my way through her books. My favourite so far is The Speed of Darkness which was such an incredible read that I actually feel I need to read it again very soon. In a way that is easy because I have it on Kindle, and while I love real print books and audio books, for travel a kindle cannot be beaten because you have a library of books in your pocket.
It may sound as if I love everything I read. In fact, I do, perhaps because I choose what new books I will read very carefully. But of course I do sometimes read books I don’t like. I just set aside Bonetti’s Mountains in My Life because while it was very interesting on an historical and autobiographical level, I found the actual descriptions of the climb too utilitarian and lacking in poetry to read the whole book. I am also rather struggling with Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, which is the sequel to his The Passage, and which I enjoyed in some ways but found very oddly and rather disruptively structured. In fact, I am pretty close to setting this aside.
Waiting to be read next is Raymond Chandler’s Killer in the Rain, which has been around a long time, and contains writing that was produced in other forms or absorbed by other more polished later work. But his writing is just so very honed and clever that the stories almost don’t matter. I expect to love this.
Isobelle Carmody began the first of her highly acclaimed Obernewtyn Chronicles while she was still at high school. She has since written many award winning stories for adults and younger readers. Isobelle currently divides her time between her home on the Great Ocean Road in Australia and the Czech Republic with her partner and daughter.
14 Jun 13 at 16:53
Wow, what a list. I also loved The Dog Stars and found it even better the second time around. Unlike you, I found The Twelve unputdownable, though I do see what you mean about the structure – there are a number of enormous leaps which ask a lot of the reader. There are many books here I do’t know and some I will look up – thanks for the recommendations.