Trash or Treasure

Last week a woman, who works at a senior center close to where I live, 'edited' the trash out of the shelves of books available there for people to read. It wasn't the torn books that went. It was the romance books--over sixty of them. I saw one that the young man who was directed to trash them brought home. It was slick and newish. That the woman couldn't understand that trash to her was hope and family feelings to others is deplorable, but it got me to thinking. And reading.

I went to my treasure closet (lined with shelves like a miniature library) and started reading. Intentionally from first book to the eighth of a famous writer's work. Then, another writer and first to fifth. And, another writer, different genre, first to ninth. All best-selling authors. And what did I discover in my treasure trove? Trash.

Yup. Trash. Are you wondering what kind? One author offered the traditional skirts-over-her-head trash. But the other two did not. Yet...trash. Because, my writerly friends, any over-indulgence of one thing is not very fun. I loved those books. Each. Individually. As they came from wherever I found them. One at a time. Treasure. Reading only one author incessantly, constantly, infuriatingly, is not an experience I want to endure again--even for research. But, what does it mean?

"It means," she whispered, "don't read one after another of your favorite author or non-favorite for that matter." But it also means, you will get very tired of your own work. Your work may not be best-selling, but if you only expose yourself to your own work you will become disenchanted with it. Dissatisfied. Sure you're only putting out drivel. Well fear not, you're probably not nearly as horrible as your fatigued brain thinks.

Put work in perspective. Read a best selling author's work and then go find some of her early works. The difference is amazing. Read some of your earliest work, then some of your recent. I'm sure you'll find the difference is amazing.

So don't just read your own work. Read others. Read a variety. Read for pleasure. Read for research. Read to make grammar smoother by developing your internal ear. Read for hope. Read for style. Read.

Come back to your own work refreshed. Come back and see the treasure in your trash.


Pat Davids said...

You are a WARA treasure. What a beautiful and insightful blog. Thank you.

Rox Delaney said...

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

My youngest told me last night that I have too many books. Funny, but I have a big box in my trunk ready to be dropped off at the Art Museum for the Art & Book Fair during Riverfest. There'll be more later when I have time to sort. And I don't even have all of my books here! There are more boxes at the farm.

Let's face it. Books are my friends. :)

Rox Delaney said...


I kind of like reading all of the books by one author, one after another. I did that last year with Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books. Or when there's a series (category romance) that comes out only a few months apart, I save them to read all at once.

The problem is that there hasn't been a lot of reading time lately, but I intend to remedy that soon!

Becky A said...

I used to find myself reading several same-author books in a row and then would kind of go, ugh. So I would switch from sci-fi to romance, to mystery, to some of my favorites from years long ago and that way they kept their freshness. Some I read so many times that I knew which ones were similar and could avoid reading two in a row. I guess I wasn't terribly adventurous in my author picks. Thanks for the great blog Miss Nina, you always make us think.

Joan Vincent said...

Reading does reinvigorate, Nina! I read every night when I go to bed. Be it historical, regency, mystery, futuristic, modern romance something about reading soothes me, lets me settle down. I love words. I love to see how other people play with them. As you said there are always new things to discover and apply to your own writing when you read others. Thanks for pointing that out-- a very timely reminder. Winter is my heaviest reading time or when I indulge the most!
Rox, if anyone has too many books it's me. My kids no longer even bother to shake their heads. Two even gave me money at Christmas to buy more. (Were they thinking reverse psychology? Nope, I'm a hopeless bookaholic.)Granted, most of mine are research but I have sets of all of various authors. Heyer of course, and Jo Beverley, Eliz. Peters Amelia Peabody series, Sylvia Thorpe, J D Robb, Diane Davidson Motts Goldy Shulz mysteries to name a few.
I second and third it--Read. Read. Read.

Nina Sipes said...

Pat, thanks for the kind words.
It sounds like we are all book-addicted. I'm pretty sure between beloved and me, our upper floor will end up in the basement. Earlier this year we needed to paint and I decided we didn't need ANOTHER bookcase, so I purged seven large brown paper grocery sacks of books out of my stacks. Beloved let five books go. He didn't have to move them for painting, I did, so I guess he could be forgiven for slacking.

I used to keep shallow boxes of books all alphabetized by author to re-read because the writers I liked didn't keep up. Now, I'm much more discerning on what I actually keep in long term storage of 'friends'. I don't apologize to anyone for having books for friends. They are always there when I need them at any time day or night, they never borrow money, they never give my beloved the eye, they never go to sleep while I'm visiting, and I can always depend upon them to alter my mood and engage my interest. What more do you want in a friend? And I get to eat ALL the chocolate!!

Oh and books also insulate against the cold and heat and protect against drive by shootings in questionable neighborhoods.

I have re-read some of my favorite authors in groups before, but only a couple or so at a time. It was quite enjoyable and usually happens when a new one comes out and then I revisit a couple of ones I've had for a while. Just to keep the mood going.

I have met two writers who didn't read. I don't understand how a person can have a burning desire to write and share themselves without a desire to read too. Someday, I may get to the bottom of that one.

Nina Sipes said...

I'll tell you a secret. I always have a romance to read just before falling asleep. They can be of any period, but they calm me so that I can sleep with peaceful dreams. I like scary shows. Romances take the icky away. Kind of like a warm scented bath for the spirit after a stressful day.

Nina Sipes said...

My idea of dream vacations are reading in exotic locations. Do I want to ski in Baden-Baden. No, I want to read next to the fire as I watch snow fall and someone, the dark-eyed mysterious waiter perhaps, fetches me some snow-bunny hot drink and I slyly, but appreciatingly, ogle the waiter--occasionally.

Starla Kaye said...

Yes, what someone considers trash is often considered a treasure by someone else. We all have our opinions, which is great.

I keep all of the books of about 10 of my favorite authors, and some of others. I always see myself as one day re-reading those favorites (and occasionally I have), but it really isn't that likely to happen. Still, I'm not letting those "loves" go until the very end.

I have become pretty selective about what paperbacks or hard back books I buy now that I have a Kindle. If it's a favorite author, I may buy both versions. If it's someone new or I don't just love to death, I'll buy a Kindle version and then probably dump it back to the archives when I'm done with it. Anymore, though, I buy many more online publishers book downloads than I do anything paper.

I have a ton of paperbacks in my "to read" bookshelf (probably a couple hundred). Occasionally I go through those and sift out what looked good when I bought it but now doesn't appeal to me.

But books are my friends, too.

Penny Rader said...

She threw away 60 books! That just makes my heart hurt. I can't imagine life without books. That would just be too sad.