My New Hobby

on January 20, 2011

Before I started seriously writing, I read a minimum of one book a week. Usually two or three books a week, in addition to school or work or raising the kids. When I was on maternity leave with my son in the summer of 2001, I read 77 books in four months. Two of those books — THE THIRD VICTIM by Lisa Gardner and THE SEARCH by Iris Johansen — jumpstarted my dormant writing. I’d put aside writing when I started having kids, because raising kids + working full time = no time for writing. I changed that in March of 2002 by giving up television.

In March of 2003 I had another baby, Brennan #4, (yes, I know how babies are made) and while my maternity leave was shorter (I didn’t have enough accrued sick and vacation time for the full four months), I still only read 4 books in two months. Four. Books. Why? Because I spent all my free time writing.

My reading dwindled down to a book a month, sometimes two. Nowhere near the five books a week I’d been reading in 2001. A few years ago, realizing that I was only reading my die hard, never fail me authors and galleys for blurbs, I committed myself to reading one book a week.

The only reason I can say I read 52 books or more each year for the last three years is because I’ve judged the RITA and the Thriller awards. I AVERAGED one book a week, but I binged–reading 5 books one week, then nothing for a month.

I’ve gotten better about this, though again, I’m back down to two books a month. I’m FIVE BOOKS behind in the JD Robb series. I used to make a personal commitment that I’d read the newest book before the next came out, and now I’m far behind.

I did read the last Lisa Gardner and Tess Gerritsen books the week they came out, but I have Robert Crais’s latest, and haven’t cracked the spine — though it’s Joe Pike and I love Joe Pike. 🙂

I buy a lot of books I don’t end up reading. I give many to my mom, and others sit on my shelf glaring at me to open them and read them. I want to. But I get lost in good books. I can’t write, I just want to finish reading the book. Which is why I read a book on every plane trip, because I read fast and if it’s good, I’ll finish it while sitting in the airport with my baggage, or right when I check into the hotel. I read ICE COLD by Tess Gerritsen flying back from Thrillerfest last year, and I had 40 pages when I got home. That night, after the kids went to bed, I finished it. I had to. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep otherwise!

To put me back on track to read one book a week, I decided that I needed a theme. Or, rather, a hobby of sorts. Okay, not so much a new hobby, as it involves reading, but I’ve embarked on a new project: I’m reading crime fiction and suspense “classics” that I missed over the years. Books that I always meant to read, but never got around to.

I started with THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1955) by Patricia Highsmith. I never saw the movie, and I had always wanted to read the book. I picked it first because she wrote it in the viewpoint of a sociopath. And she does it extremely well. I’m almost done–hope to finish this weekend. (As well as the old JD Robb I’m trying to finish in my effort to catch up!)

Next up in my classic tales of murder and crime, is A KISS BEFORE DYING (1953) by Ira Levin. Another tale of a sociopath, but this one plotting the murder of his pregnant girlfriend. (Hmm, I’m sensing a theme to my selections!) I picked this because my pal and Murderati blog mate Robert Gregory Browne recommended it a year or two ago. I bought it, then it sat on my shelf. Now, it’s at the top of my TBR pile.

Then, it’s THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER (1950) by Raymond Chandler. I picked Chandler because I hadn’t read anything by him. I’ve read several Dashiell Hammett books–THE THIN MAN, THE DAIN CURSE, and THE MALTESE FALCON) — but none by his contemporary. I picked this book because it’s a collection of short stories and I’ve been writing (and reading!) a lot of short stories lately. While I hope to get to it before the end of February, because I have a book due in March and a release at the end of February, this might have to wait until April.

And then, I’ll decide which 1940s or 50s crime classic I’ll read next.

What about you? Is there a classic book–anything published before 1960 let’s say–that you’ve always wanted to read but never did? THE ODYSSEY by Homer? (I read it in high school, then had to read THE ILIAD in Latin for third year Latin. I remember the former, but not a word of the latter.) Or THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald? (I read in high school and loved it; I think I was one of the few. It was the voice. I also had a fascination with Evelyn Waugh when I had to read THE LOVED ONE in school. A satire, but it stuck with me for years. When I first drove past Forest Lawn in L.A., 10 years after reading the book, it was the first thing I thought of!) Or maybe TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES (depressing), ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand (brilliant, if a bit over-written–I prefer the simple, straightforward ANTHEM), or THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Twain (fabulous story, I’ve read a lot of Twain. I prefer this book to TOM SAWYER, but think I like his short stories the best.)

Something else? What tickles you? What have you always wanted to read but haven’t . . . and don’t want to admit it? I promise, it’s a secret–just between us, here at Murder She Writes. Share, and I’ll enter you in a contest — I’m giving away five copies of LOVE ME TO DEATH to friends! Meaning, you win, you get to pick a friend you want to give my book to. I’ll sign it, credit you with your thoughtfulness, and send it off to your lucky buddy! You get all the credit, and I (hopefully) get a new reader.

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