Posts Tagged ‘books’

10 Books That Have Stuck with Me

Posted: September 6, 2014 by writingsprint in My two cents
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Name 10 books that have stuck with you over the years. It doesn’t matter what kind they are, or why you like them. They can be books you hate or books you love. These are mine. I chose books that I enjoyed and that have made an impression on my life.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. My favorite book of all time. I love Bradbury’s passion, and yet as manic as his writing style can be, the book has a compassionate heart.

Henry Reed’s Journey by Keith Robertson. The first novel that I ever read, in the fourth grade. To this day, I don’t know whether I adopted Henry’s slightly skewed sense of humor, or whether it was already there and this book just brought it out.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Other than Christmas, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the witches and the darkness in the story. My reading of it is that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth do horrible things, for different reasons, but Macbeth can’t escape his warrior honor, and Lady Macbeth can’t escape her guilt, which I read as a subtle sense of decency underneath. It gives them both layers that I like to think about. When do good people do bad things? Can they be redeemed? How far do consequences reach?

The King’s Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist. This is my favorite book out of the Riftwar and Serpentwar series. It’s gritty, fun, coming of age fantasy story with a pirate flair. What’s there not to love?

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I loved dinosaurs growing up, and it’s such a simple concept: a dinosaur theme park. The book is filled with wonder, menace, and rollicking action. If you like dinosaurs, you’ll like this book.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I read this in a weekend. It made me feel like a kid again! You know the story already, but I’ll summarize how it felt to me. Harry begins the story as an outsider. He travels to a magic castle where he finds a place to belong. A father figure. Friends. Wonders to dream about. Challenges to help him grow. And nightmares that kept him awake for six more years.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. To me this book is a prose poem, not a novel. It’s a meditation on old age, the sea, courage, compassion, love, youth, dignity, selflessness, endurance, and on, and on.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. On my bucket list, I have the goal of reading all the Ian Fleming James Bond novels. Until then, this book is my standard. It opens with a sense of mystery that moves into a sinking sense of danger. The story becomes a whirlwind of threats and plots that draws the reader in until you’re holding on for dear life, just like Bourne. I’ll never forget the scene where I realized that the book had me thinking like a spy.

The Black Company by Glen Cook. A fantasy novel about the bad guys. For someone who had only read stories with noble heroes and quests, this book broke all the rules for me. Nothing is clean. Even the good guys are bad. This book encouraged me to give the bad guys a fair shake and let nightmares into the story.


The Book Blogger Test

Posted: June 13, 2014 by writingsprint in Essay, My two cents
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books-that-is-exactly-how-they-workA fun little survey about books and you. Special thanks to Jodie Llewellyn for posting this on her blog and Brin Guivera, from whom Jodie found it in the first place.

What are your top three book pet hates?

1. Information dumps. I appreciate all the research that you did and all the planning that you did, Mr. or Ms. Author, but only tell as me as much as I need, when I need it. Take me away from the action with a page of exposition and all I’ll do is skip past it.

2. Characters who are idiots. I can live with characters undone by their egos, but even then, they should have good ideas that are undone by better ideas.

3. Rambling plots. That’s why I never started reading some fantasy series, when other readers told me that they just wouldn’t end. I’ll read a long series if I know that the author has an end game, but if they’re just picking my pocket to sell books, that’s disrespecting me as a reader.

Describe your perfect reading spot.

My favorite, ever, was sitting on a porch back in college, in a house at the top of a hill where I could watch the sun set. I sat there every night, reading and writing until the sun went down.

Tell us three book confessions.

Three? I have no idea. You already know that I write fan fictions, which means I’m a sucker for good stuff that other people write. Let’s see…

Here’s a good one. The first story that I ever wrote was a fan fiction about the original miniseries V. I put myself into the story, of course. I was so afraid that someone would read it that I threw out each page as I wrote it.

The first young adult book I ever read was Henry Reed’s Journey, and to this day I don’t know whether my sense of humor was already there or whether I adopted Henry’s as I read the book.

I’m a book hoarder. Letting me walk into a book store with cash is a very dangerous thing. I probably have thirty books waiting to be read.

When was the last time you cried during a book?

I haven’t when I’ve read them. I cried while writing this scene a few months ago.

How many books are on your bedside table?

One. There are four or five on my Kindle app, too.

What is your favourite snack to eat while you’re reading?

I don’t snack while reading. I usually read right before bed.

Name three books you would recommend to everyone

Fahrenheit 451. My favorite book of all time. It’s intense, passionate, vivid, mind-blowing, sincere, and close to the heart. You’ll want to read or write after it’s done.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. A delight. You’ll remember how it feels to be a child who believes in magic — which is even more rich than being an adult who believes in magic.

The Old Man and the Sea. An intimate portrayal a man as he faces himself and nature. I like to imagine that Hemingway had a close friend like the old man and wanted to write a story that was a love note to their friendship. I’m not even a Hemingway fan — I didn’t like A Farewell to Arms — but I love this book.

Show us a picture of your favourite bookshelf on your bookcase.

Here you go.


From left to right:
Shadow of a Dark Queen by Raymond E. Feist
Timeline by Michael Crichton
Spooky Maryland by S.E. Schlosser
Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil and Katja Foglio
Haunts by Stephen Jones
Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
Secret Go the Wolves by R.D. Lawrence
The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z by Max Brooks
The Last Apocalypse and Warriors of God by James Reston
Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Paranormal by David Borgensicht and Ben H. Winters
The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose by Glen Cook
V by A.C. Crispin
Death Star by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back sketchbooks by Joe Johnston
The Art of Star Wars by Jonathan Bresman
Anomaly by Skip Brittenham and Brian Haberlin
The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Superstitions by The Diagram Group

Write how much books mean to you in just three words.

Living other lives.

What is your biggest reading secret?

I want to read more poetry. This is new, and I haven’t had a chance to move on it yet with all the other reading I need to catch up on. Poets capture passion and life in a tiny space of words. I would love to write moments that make readers’ eyes pop.

Because prose makes an impression, but it doesn’t sound as good as this!

“Books: that is exactly how they work” used without permission.

Dating Advice Between the Stacks

Posted: November 24, 2013 by writingsprint in Drama
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Dave and Lizzie lay on the floor at the library between stacks of old poetry books. They’d met in a poetry class back in college, and for some reason became good friends. They hadn’t seen each other in years, and Dave had happened to be passing through town. Lizzie worked at the library, so the other librarians didn’t mind the mess as long as they didn’t get in anyone’s way.

“Whatever happened with you and that pharmacist guy?” Dave asked.

“Still dating him.”

“Really! Good stuff. That makes it, what, three years?”

“Um-hmm. We’re talking about getting married.” Dave high-fived with her. “Maybe a destination wedding in Vermont, or the Caribbean.”

“You guys like to travel?”

“That way the in-laws stop arguing over where the wedding is.”


She tapped her temple. “Always thinkin’.” Lizzie put down a book of eighteenth-century verse. “How about you? Didn’t you meet somebody while you were on vacation?”

“It was a Halloween party. Speech therapist in a flapper dress. She liked that I could swing dance with her. I met someone else while I was on vacation in New Orleans before I met her. She lived too far away, though.”

“Do you like her?”

“Let’s say she’s teaching me lots of new oral motor skills.”

Lizzie blushed. She kicked him. “Dirty. So the sex is good. Do you like her or not?”

“I like her.”


“Remember the time you told me about your pharmacist, how the two of you finish each other’s sentences?”

Lizzie nodded. “You’re not soulmates.”

“Is that what it is?”

“It sounds like it. At least not yet.”

Dave closed a book on Lord Byron. The guy’s poetry was thick with love and romance, which Dave didn’t get at all. At least not that much. “So do I fish or cut bait?”

“That, young Jedi, depends on you. Is she a keeper or not? Or are you ready, or not?”

“What’s the difference?”

“Remember in college, when I was in love with that history major, but I just wasn’t ready for a commitment? He was a keeper, but I wasn’t ready.”

“Oh… got it.” Dave looked at Byron’s picture on the cover of the book. Maybe the good Lord B. could teach him a thing or two about romancing his jazzy dancer. “I’ll keep fishing.”

“Good for you. And stop talking dirty about her.”

“Hey, you went there, not me.”

The Good Gatsby

Posted: October 2, 2013 by writingsprint in Essay, My two cents
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The Great GatsbyI need to work on my journaling. For a second there I had no idea what the last book I read before The Great Gatsby, was. Luckily, I’m on Goodreads (this is epically lame) and I saw that the last book I read was The Manager’s Guide to Workplace Safety. Not my normal subject matter, so I’ll let myself off the hook for forgetting. (By the way, The Manager’s Guide is actually a darned good book. It’s engagingly written and it gets you to question your assumptions about how to manage your employees.)

The Great Gatsby is also engagingly written. I would say that it’s the story of Nick Carraway, a young bonds trader who moves to Long Island to seek his fortune, but the story isn’t about Nick at all. The Great Gatsby is the story of Jay Gatsby, Nick’s fabulously wealthy neighbor, and his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, the love of his life. It’s also a peek over the fence into the life of the super rich in the 1920s. You can think of Nick as a glass of champagne that gets handed from person to person exchanging toasts at a New Year’s party. He’s there when all the action happens, but he’s never the reason why.

Without going into too much detail, Nick becomes one of Jay’s few real friends. They go to parties. They go fishing. Nick helps Jay with his romancing of Daisy. I found one of the romancing scenes to be my favorite part of the book, because it showed Gatsby as nothing more than a lonely, awkward young man in a very expensive suit.

I wish I could say that I liked The Great Gatsby more. I like history, and Gatsby was an accessible, easy to read story about life among the kinds people who could have caused the stock market crash of 1929. Some of the descriptions make you stop reading and go “wow.” (My favorite: “He stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made lovely for him.” Talk about an image that knocks your socks off.) In the end I was disappointed. I’d been looking forward the story of Nick Carraway making his way among giants. I wound up reading a story about Nick making his way among a handful of rich assholes, and trying to be friends with the one who wanted to be something better. The story about Jay and Daisy got off the ground, fluttered, and awkwardly made it back down to Earth, like a gull with a wounded wing. Gatsby’s fate seemed contrived. In the end, I thought it was anticlimactic compared to the rest of the book.

But then again, in the end it’s a story about disappointment, isn’t it?

Be Subversive: Read

Posted: September 23, 2013 by writingsprint in Essay
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bannedIn celebration of Banned Books Week, I want to give talk about some banned books I’ve read and what they meant to me.

The Call of the Wild. Burned by the Nazis in the ’30’s for being too radical, and challenged today for being too mature for young readers. Make no mistake, some of The Call of the Wild is violent. Turn of the century – er, turn of the last century Alaska was a dangerous place to live. Parts of it aren’t safe today, either. I love it because the stories tie people inextricably to nature and our animal sides. Man gets put his proper place a few rungs below the top of the food chain, a seat reserved for mother Nature herself.

Fahrenheit 451. Edited in 1953 with all the “hells” and “damns” blacked out. Well, damn me, but what the happy hell is that all about? Fahrenheit 451 is a damned fine book, and I’ll go to hell in a handbasket before I read a watered down version of it, damn it. Seriously, Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite book of all time. I love the sheer passion of Bradbury’s writing, the way the words drip off the page. Any lover of books would want to reach into Guy Montag’s world and save the book – just one! – from being burned. The idea of the enforcer learning to think with his heart spoke to me in my teens, too. Today, when I want to shut all the electronic crap off and go someplace still, I flip to the scene when Montag is drifting down the river, and finally has time to think.

The Great Gatsby. Challenged at the Baptist College in South Carolina because of its language and references to sex. Well, go hide the freshmen. We can’t eighteen-year-olds thinking people are making babies, now, can we? I’m actually reading this one now. It’s a cool book! I’m embarrassed to admit that I picked it up in an airport because I needed something good to read while I was waiting for my flight. It put a smile on my face to see the lewd behavior, and to imagine what a mature conversation about it would look like at the high school level.

Moby-Dick. Banned from AP English in Texas for conflicting with “community values” in 1996. There are a couple of spots in here that might rub some people the wrong way. Ishmael has a chummy sleeping partner in Queequeg. Out of respect for Queequeg’s traditions, Ishmael, a Christian, joins him in making offerings to Queequeg’s idol – and has a pretty interesting theological rationale for it, too. I found myself fidgeting when I read the chapter about the color white, and how it had come to symbolize power. I wondered how differently that chapter would have been written today. I never finished Moby-Dick because I got frustrated during one of Melville’s diversions between chapters.

A Streetcar Named Desire. The strong sexual content of the play was censored when they were making the movie. I never saw the movie, and I didn’t have a problem with the book. To put myself in the director’s shoes, I think that if I were going to make a movie based on a play or a book, I would want to stay true to the spirit of it. If there’s sex, give them sex. If there’s violence, give them violence. Which is why I could never direct A Clockwork Orange. I don’t have the stomach for it.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Challenged for being degrading, profane, racist, and promoting white supremacy. I remember disliking the book the first time I tried to read it, because I thought, “What kind of a children’s story is this? The second half is all serious!” It’s filled with racist slurs and mature themes. It’s also an honest portrayal of what life used to be like in some parts of our country, and how hard it can be to find justice.

How we read books is a mirror into our souls. We have to be willing to look at the reflection.

book pickings

From Brain Pickings blog!

“The Best Books on Writing, NYC, Animals, and More: A Collaboration with the New York Public Library” by Maria Popova

This post at Brain Pickings combines writing, books, libraries, great design, creativity, dogs, cats, adventure, travel, children’s literacy, and the list goes on.

That’s One

Posted: November 8, 2011 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff, My two cents, postaday2011, postaweek2011
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Stack of booksRecently I was going through my book shelf and I put all the books I haven’t read yet in one place. Some people are pack rats for music, some for shoes, some even for office supplies. With me, it’s books. I realized that I had 33 books, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, that I had put on my list to read someday. There are children’s books, classics, graphic novels, teen novels, how-to’s, inspirational stories, historical adventure, ghost stories, mysteries, annnd… I think that covers it.

I realized that if I don’t start now, I’ll never get there. Challenge accepted!

The plan is to read one book a month for the next 33 months. I put my foot on the gas about two weeks ago and just finished Under the Dome by Stephen King. Next up, Roving Mars by Steve Squyres.

Titles from the list include, in no particular order:

Three Cups of Tea
Touching the Void
Roving Mars
Spooky Maryland
The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook
Forbidden Knowledge
Batman Handbook
The Natural Navigator
I Feel Great and You Can Too
Creating a Life Worth Living
I’ve Got Your Back
Henry Reed books (2)
The Playful Brain
No Plot, No Problem
On Writing Well
Fearless Creating
Making Money Freelance Writing
Room to Write
The Right to Write
Writing Science Fiction
Under the Dome
Runny Babbit
By Royal Command
Kill Shakespeare
Worlds That Weren’t
The Iliad
Run Silent, Run Deep
A Game of Lies

Wish me luck!

Dom Perignon said, “Come quickly, I am tasting stars!” Today’s exercise is to experience the world around me through taste.

PGW is working on our street again. I still remember the vanilla hard candy flavor of my teeth rattling from when they were jackhammering last week. They aren’t there yet, but for now but a portable generator is running, and something is hissing. Snakes hiss; I hear snake meat tastes like chicken. The taste of vapor from the sewer, being pulled up into a pressurized container, would probably be something like sucking on an old, rusty pipe wrench: the sweet taste of the metal, the crunch of the rust flaking off, and the flat, tasteless taste of sterilized water, where you don’t want to know where it’s been and what was sterilized out of it.

I walked downstairs into the kitchen to get some water. The first floor is five degrees colder than the second, and the air down by my feet is ten degrees colder than that. The cold air tastes like a water ice with no flavor. Refreshing. Awakening. A jolt if you’re not ready for it. The layers of cold remind me of a frozen vanilla layer cake from the grocery store, freshly thawed, different textures of the same cold taste. The cold wrapping around my feet would be like tasting the icing, the coldest part. It’s also like ice cubes with ice water. Taking a cue from this, that’s what I drink. The water smothers my mouth and tongue and teeth in cold, then the ice presses against my lips and wraps the taste in another layer.

The hiss of the rushing air outside gives way to a short, low, electric humming sound, then cuts off. The low, warm sound tastes like a chocolate cake on a summer day. The cutting off is the first forkful slicing through the piece of it, getting ready to eat.

I went back upstairs and put my feet up on the coffee table, under a stack of books, to brace my feet to write. Writing tastes like chewing on books. When you’re multitasking and carrying a book around in your mouth so that your hands are free to pick up a tray or a bin loaded with other stuff from around the house, you learn what you like and what you don’t in the way of palatable literature. Magazines taste like scotch tape, from all the chemicals and glossy ink. Old, rough-paged books taste more like wheat bread. Getting back to the original question, I ran it by my wife, and she said that writing has different flavors depending on how it feels. She’s completely right! She said that writing at its worst tastes like copper and salt – blood and sweat.

For me, introspective writing, like this, tastes like something with layers of layers. It’s easier to describe like music, because every time I write I can feel or hear dozens of layers weaving with each other at the same time. The closest thing to it might be salsa or really good guacamole. Tastes don’t usually last for hours, though, and a mouthful of food doesn’t change in taste from one moment to the next. Salsa dancing tastes like salsa, and watching football in San Diego tastes like guacamole. Firecracker writing, something that pops, could taste like salsa. A good interview or deep, thoughtful piece exploring something cool and strange would taste like guacamole.

I’ll pick one. Introspective writing tastes like good gourmet honey without looking at the label. The flavor is a mystery. First you taste the sweetness, but then as you savor it, you pick up where it came from. Strawberries, maybe, or wildflowers. You don’t know, and as you let it linger, it changes.

Better than coffee?

Posted: January 24, 2011 by writingsprint in postaday2011, postaweek2011, Writing
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Continuing the story of Frank, the garage watchman. The last line I wrote was “Frank read books. So far, he hadn’t watched any DVD’s at the garage, yet.” Picking up where I left off…

He put down his duffel bag behind his desk, sat down, and unpacked The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson, and, after rush hour was done, and he didn’t expect to see anyone until close to lunch, he was reading Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris. He also liked comic books. There weren’t any series running that had his interest now, though, and the new editions weren’t coming out for another two weeks. Today Frank was feeling a little too tired to start off with Friedman, so he went to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. He was about halfway through and loving it.

About half an hour rolled by fast. UPS stopped by to drop off a box for his boss. The guy chit chatted for a minute, then got back on the road. UPS kept their guys on a clock, so Frank heard somewhere. Frank smiled and watched the guy go, then put his head down over the desk and went back to butt-kicking his way through Sweden alongside Lisbeth Salander. He could become totally absorbed in the books these days, like studying for a test. In this case, studying for a test on how to kick ass. It was better than coffee!

Frank remembered the smell of coffee, in this room. It had mingled with the old, library smell of the carpet and the tinny smell of the desk in a wall that tasted funny, but he’d liked. He hadn’t had a cup in three years. His doctor made him stop drinking it because the caffeine was bad for his heart. Frank had almost told him to kiss off, that he would drink it anyway and drop dead. His near heart attack had changed Frank’s mind. He would still linger in the coffee aisle at the grocery store, and he liked going into Starbucks, with his wife, so that he could get the coffee smell but she would be there as his conscience to keep him from drinking.

Seven o’clock. Rush hour was starting. Frank locked the door of the office and put up a sign that said “back in 10 minutes.” There were trash cans on each floor that had to get emptied, daily. Frank had never seen one that was more full than a grocery store bag, but rules were rules. If it sat for a week or more it could get gross, one, and two, the last thing he needed was for some smart aleck to go dumping a huge pile of garbage that he’d have to clean up.