On my book shelf this summer

I haven’t posted much about what I read, mostly because I’ve been so focussed on my writing for the last six months. As my draft is coming to the real pointy end, I’m looking forward to taking some time out to read a bit more. My book club, which has been really quiet this year, is also reconvening. For a change, I thought I’d share what’s on my To Be Read (TBR) pile.

I read a relatively wide variety of books, though my favourites are usually contemporary fiction. On my bedside table I always have a stack of books that I want to get through. Always fiction, maybe a re-read, sometimes a memoir or non-fiction and quite often, something a little spiritual or thought-provoking.

At the moment, I have three books on the bedside table, another three eBooks on my phone and four I need to track down over the coming months. So, here’s my list:

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This was a book club pick from months and months ago. I’ll admit, I started it some time ago but I just couldn’t get into it. I’ve seen the TV series and I think it was done so wonderfully that I can’t help but feel let down by the book. However, had I read the book first I probably would have loved it as well as the show.
  2. Those Faraday Girls by Monica McInerney. I’m a huge MM fan and have read most of her books. I’ve actually read this one, too, but it was years ago. I found it at my parents house recently and decided to bring it home to devour again. I’d like to model my own writing on MM. I think she’s a master story teller; I’ve got a long way to go.
  3. Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez. This is the sequel to a book we read in the first year of my book club, some four years ago now. I’m not sure I’ll get to it anytime soon. When I do, I know it’ll be quick and easy, and wonderful to be back in the Middle East with a group of strong, intelligent and resilient women.
  4. True Refuge by Annabelle McInnes. This post-apocalyptic romance was written by my fellow masterclasser and friend, Annabelle. I’ve only just started it and though it’s not the type of book I’d usually pick up, I’m enjoying the fast pace and unnerving premise. It’s only the first in a trilogy so I’ll no doubt be dipping into this world for quite a while yet.
  5. The Tea Gardens by Fiona McIntosh. I love tea and the kind of fiction that takes me on an armchair journey across the world (and into the past). I’m sure I’ll love this.
  6. A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester. This came up as a free eBook through iTunes just the other day and I couldn’t resist snapping it up. I’ve long followed Natasha on Twitter and her blog, and I’m sure I’ll love her books. I bought her most recent, Her Mother’s Secret, for a friend earlier this year (and I’m waiting for it to boomerang back to me ;P).

Upcoming Book Club picks:

Mine is See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. I read an article Sarah wrote about the research that went into this book, including a stay at the house where the murder actually took place (it’s now a BnB), and I just knew I had to read it.

My other clubbers have chosen, What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton, History of Wolves by Emily Fredlund and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

 

Phew! That’s my list… What’s on your TBR pile at the moment?

Plot vs Prose aka the fight to be taken seriously

I recently read an article criticising, well, critics, for labelling Liane Moriarty’s books as “best selling fluff.” To be honest, I was surprised that Moriarty’s work was even considered fluff. I’ve only read Big Little Lies (pre-miniseries) and I really loved it. The book dealt with some very serious topics, in what I thought was a clever, sensitive and entertaining way. Though the plot is framed by a murder that’s not what the crux of the novel is. It’s about women, friendship and motherhood. It touches on domestic violence and bullying in a very realistic way. It’s a best-seller yes. But it’s hardly what I would consider “fluff.”

So why are the critics hating on Moriarty?

Well for one thing, Moriarty writes commercial fiction. *Gasp*. I say this tongue in cheek of course, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with CF. It’s my preferred genre to read, and it’s what I hope to be published in someday soon.The problem is that it seems literary critics think CF isn’t worthy of the time of day it’s given. According to a great number of articles and reviews, it seems that commercial fiction is synonymous with simple sentence structure, poor prose and a lack of seriousness.

On the other hand, literary fiction is said to be the opposite of all of the above. It is serious. Its words are carefully selected and arranged into sentences that read like poetry and make the reader want to bleed the very blood of which it was constructed. In my opinion, literary fiction is actually less focused on plot and far more derived of powerful, poignant prose.

I like to read great prose. I read literary works because I think it will make me a better writer. Because it makes me think and feel in a different kind of way. I take down notes in the margins of literary books. But I don’t become immersed in them. I don’t finish a page and feel a rush of emotions. Sometimes I even struggle to finish them, because the engagement of a great story just isn’t there.

But that’s just me. Someone else might revel in the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Zadie Smith and Ernest Hemingway.

I couldn’t get into the Twilight books either, and even a recount of any shade of grey makes me cringe. But again, that’s just me. There are millions of people who loves those books. People who are serious about reading, and love those books.

And to that I say, great.

At least they are reading. Because at the end of the day, isn’t the reason we write because we want to be read? Isn’t being read by someone (other than your mum/best friend/partner) the greatest achievement for a writer? That’s what I consider being taken seriously.

No matter what or why people read, whether it’s to escape, to laugh, to think or to feel, we should be grateful that there are still millions of people buying books and reading ferociously. Because without readers, there would be no reason for us to write.