I think the saying goes, ‘to be a good writer you have to be a good reader‘, or something along those lines.
My own experience with reading has been at first voracious and then a little lapsed. When I was younger, I read everything. It was reading that made me want to write in the first place – every writer has a book or author they aspire to, who they may imitate or admire. My first was ‘The Wind Singer’, by William Nicholson. As I got older, it was ‘Sabriel’ by Garth Nix (to this day, I would always say I aspire to be Garth Nix who, not only has the best real name in the world, but it a precise and fluent writer). A few years ago, it was ‘The Killing Joke’, Alan Moore’s epic Batman graphic novel in 46 perfect pages.
During my time as an English Literature student, my reading slipped. I foolishly thought my degree would leave ample time to read for pleasure, which was a naive notion. I managed only to read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in the entire three year period. Someone also once said that the study of literature ruins your reading experience for the rest of your life. I don’t necessarily agree. Yes, you look for things you’ve been trained to look for, and I find nine times out of ten it gives you a better view of the author’s intention (or what may not be their intention, as I will discuss later, rather a happy accident) and a better appreciation of the craft.
I have begun to read again now my job allows me hour-long lunch break. I devoured ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, and then, to my utter delight, I discovered ‘The Hunger Games’.
Now, don’t sneer. Don’t turn your noses up. It’s children’s literature’s latest flavour of the month, I know. But for all the right reasons, refreshingly. The protagonist is no whiny Bella Swan – she can hold her own, makes you proud to be a strong woman. The story is brutal and compelling and quickly told. The narration is oh so clever and perfectly pitched.
I love this book. I won’t lie to you. I finished it today, and I suddenly wanted to write. I wanted to write something as good as ‘The Hunger Games’. I wanted a strong, sturdy female character (although I would argue I have plenty of them). I came straight home and wrote a good 5 pages of Son of Songs.
It feels good to have a book make that impression on me again. It feels good to have that churning in your gut when you stop at an exciting part. It feels good to care about every single character.
So this is an applause for two things. One, for books like ‘The Hunger Games’ which restore your faith in the Young Adult market after all this Twilight nonsense. And two, for books that make you glad you’re a writer.