Are We What We Read? by J Vincent

After pondering what book helped me most as a writer or a person I drew a blank. Not exactly a blank, just not a SINGLE book but many. I’m not sure what stories were read to me as a child, perhaps none were since I was number three and my mother not only had all the household chores but milking and feeding cattle, working in fields etc. But a love of reading was instilled and there were always books and magazines available.

I remember my eighth grade teacher opening the world to me by bringing a different collection of books from the public library to our small rural school each month. At about the same time I discovered my father’s stash of western books and magazines with serial stories and short stories. I have never figured out why he thought we needed to be protected from them as I don’t recall anything graphic or lurid. I found excitement and adventure and another whole world for my imagination.

In high school I devoured Reader’s Digest Condensed books. They were eagerly awaited at our home and we vied for turns at them. Today I marvel at how well those books were abridged and at what a broad spectrum of literature they offered. There were classics and modern tales like Pearle Buck’s The Good Earth and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Romances, more specifically historical and regencies which I write, didn’t come my way until I was busy raising a family. The couple of hundred that my sister loaned me could aptly be termed as Reese said, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. But they too, opened a new world to my imagination. Not only opened it but fostered characters and story lines which resulted in my turning to writing and being published.

Which set of books helped me most? All taught me vocabulary and grammar, even indirectly what not to do. How to plot and build suspense were in them too, as well as character development. All contributed to a life long and continuing hunger for the written word in fiction and nonfiction. So I quote Reese who said it very well a couple of days ago, “So today if you ask what books influenced me, I’d have to say ALL OF THEM. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I learn something from all of them.


Reese Mobley said...

I used to finish every book I started, but not anymore. If it's a bad book I stop and pick up another one. Books are subjective. What turns me off might just be the one someone else loves.

Rox Delaney said...

I think some people (such as writers) tend to internalize things we read and don't know it. Those things being structure, plot, language, how to use paragraphs, characterization, settings... The list goes on.

Melissa Robbins said...

Joan, my grandmother always had Reader's Digest books lying around her house. They always remind me of her.