Everywhere I go, I get asked what I'm reading or who are my favourite authors. Below are some books I've read recently:
The Art of the Novel - Henry James - Required reading for every writer, beginner to master. Perhaps the most brilliant book about the craft I have ever read. It helps immensely if you have read the novels he writes about.
The Way We Live Now - Anthony Trollope - A fascinating story that would not get published today. Trollope head hops not only within chapters and pages but within the same paragraph. As writers we need to ask ourselves why this novel is still read hundreds of years after publication.
A Spy Among Us- Ben McIntyre - Kim Philby's treasonous life is portrayed in deadly detail. A first rank traitor who sent many to their deaths. Well written non-fiction.
Not in God's Name - Rabbi Jonathan Sacks - Theology, philosophy, and politics come together in this brilliant insight into today's ongoing religious conflicts around the world. New biblical interpretations from Rabbi Sacks are well worth studying.
Pere Goriot - Balzac - Comparisons to King Lear have been made that I'm not sure hold up. What is the meaning of the final paragraph? Does he rejoin society?
The Toymaker - Chuck Barrett - some interesting action sequences
The Red and the Black - Stendhal - So Julien can memorize the entire Bible and not learn a thing. I found the novel somewhat unbelievable.
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo - This epic novel has to be among the first order of literature. Three of the great themes in western thought, love truth, and justice, run throughout the novel. Of course, Jean's quest for redemption is paramount. A must read for all.
I SNIPER - S. Hunter - should be a good action/ adventure but I didn't feel much tension
Memisis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature - Eric Aurerbach - This is hard work to read and understand but well worth the effort. The entire history of literature is here, beginning with the Greeks and the Bible. For those of us who ask of our reading: What's the point? This is the book for you. I will never write anything the same after reading this book.
The Art and Craft of Novel Writing - Oakley Hall - Must read for all writers no matter whether a beginner or published pro.
The Middle Ages Unlocked - Gillian Pollack - An interesting historical sweep of life in the middles ages.
The Prelude - W. Wordsworth - here we are in the first order of the English canon. Without getting too long winded I can only say that this is a must read for all aspiring writers and thinkers.
Stoner - J Williams - Beautiful prose with very real characters. Did Stoner fail his family?
Bird by Bird - Lamont - I didn't see anything earth shaking about writing. This is a good book for beginners.
Officer and a Spy - Robert Harris - Interesting story, straight forward prose.
The President Is Missing - Bill Clinton/ James Patterson - fun while your reading it.
The Demonoligist - Andrew Pyper - I don't usually read this genre but I found this interesting.
A Legacy of Spies - John Le Carre - Once a writer has reached the heights of Smiley's People everything is compared and everything comes up short.
Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - Brilliant historical fiction with memorable characters under intense stress. A classic.
Passage To India - E.M. Forster's masterpiece. A must read for those interested in the English canon. The novel is accessible for all readers. What really happened in the Marabar Caves?
Aspects of a Novel - E.M. Forster's view on the structure of novels. Well worth the read for authors who have a few published novels under their belt.
Room With a View - E.M. Forster at the top of his game. Brilliant novel showing a a young girl's journey toward freedom.
Traitor's Knot by Cryssa Bazos - wonderful tale, well written. Romantic Historical Fiction that will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Winter's Tale - Shakespeare - it has everything - murder, deception, faith, love, and even a resurrection. Brilliant! The whole world can be seen in Shakespeare.
Hagseed - M. Atwood - Brilliant adaptation of the Bard's Tempest. A must read.
The Tempest - Shakespeare - Tremendous story with lots of literary devices for writers to learn.
I read the other companion books in the Eleana Ferrante quartet. Interesting but I would not say classic.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone- JK Rowling - All my literary friends will disparage the writing but the story is fantastic. Give credit where it is due. She has a cat reading a map within the first three pages!
My Brilliant Friend - Eleana Ferrante - This is the first book of four in the series. An interesting coming of age story set in Naples. Worth the read.
My The Unlikely Journey of Harold Fry - by Rachel Joyce - An average guy does something very surprising. He decides to act as if he matters and walks a long way to redemption.
At The Sharp End - Tim Cook is a very readable account of Canada's efforts in WW 1 right up to just before the battle of Vimy Ridge.
Portrait of Novel by Michael Corra about the writing of Portrait of a Lady. Insightful especially for aspiring authors.
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James - the resistance to desire and freedom to choose carries the novel through to the finish. Another novel from James about lives unlived.
Finished Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse - Lovely sentences but I did not get much new out of it.
Finished Melville's, Bartelby. Do you think the main character was aware, conscious?
Reading Old Enough to Fight - did you know that 15,000 boy soldiers went off to fight for Canada in WW1.
Finished Melville's Billy Budd - wonderful characterization.
Reading a Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor. So far I'm underwhelmed. What's her point?
Just finished The Ambassadors by Henry James. Brilliant characterization. If anyone can explain the ending to me, I would appreciate it.
Moved on to Twelfth Night [Or What You Will] Of course, it's brilliant. Makes me think I should not read anything but Shakespeare until I die!
Now reading Hard Times - more Dickens. This is perhaps one of the most interesting books I've ever read. Not a major protagonist to be found. Is Sissy at the novel's centre?
Finished TRUST YOUR EYES by Linwood Barclay - loads of entertainment.
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - Just started this novel. For the time he is writing, this is a fairly fast paced work.
Finished Great Expectations! Brilliant novel! Pip understands the injustice of his sister through the justice of Joe. The gentleman he thought he wanted to be, Estella's version, turned out to be not his goal. He gave up his great expectations, to realize his true goal - his own version of a gentleman based the great example of Joe.
The last few paragraphs are what Dickens called a pretty piece of writing. Substitute the "threat" for "shadow" in the last paragraph and let me know what you think it means. It has been the subject of great debate over many years.
Capital in Flames by Robert Malcoms - Every 1812er needs to read this book.
The Civil War of 1812 by Alan Taylor [no relation!] Taylor points out that Federalist were as much opposed as British Loaylists. Enjoyable read.
Eugene Onegin by Pushkin - spectacular Russian poetry. Extrodinarily self-reflexive.
Sharpe's Sword - Great description of the Battle from a bird's eye view! Of it's by the master of historical fiction, Bernard Cornwell.
The Devil by Tolstoy
What is Art ? by Tolstoy Insightful and original but in places I found it to be silly.
Brock and Tecumseh by James Laxer
The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman - Turned out to be a great book for writers.
Back to The Last Crossing which I never finished.
Finished The Clown, a novel about postwar Germany. With the Nazis in power, many people simply conformed and got on with their lives. Now the Nazis are gone and those same people conform again to the new realities of German life. The clown himself seems to be against conformity and ends up a beggar for his principles.
Now reading the Clown.
I have just started The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe. The writing is wonderful.
Seven Basic Plots: why we tell stories by Christopher Booker was illuminating at times but on the whole I found many of his conclusions a stretch.
The Confession of Brother Haluin by Ellis Peters shows brilliant characterization.
Reading The Poems of Paul Celan.
If you want to know about the Battle of Stoney Creek, Strange Fatality is a great place to start.
Started Strange Fatality by James Elliot. It's about the battle of Stoney Creek.
The Pregnant Widow was a hoot. I am now reading Dianne Graves, In the Midst of Alarms. A book about women in the War of 1812.
I have started reading The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis. He is considered to be one of the technically great writers of the day. Hopefully i will learn something.
I finished Cornwell's Harlequin. What a great story. It must have been a bloody time to be soldier. No wonder so many died of poor health.
October 4th [two days before Brock's Birthday!] Back to reading my favourite author. Just started on Harlequin, the first of Cornwell's Holy Grail Quest series. I am also reading Macbeth for my reading circle.
I am currently re reading a book called Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell
This master of military historical fiction has always taught that good historical fiction makes the fictional story prominent over the historical background. " If someone wanted a history book they would buy one." This is why Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series is so well loved around the globe: the stories themselves , the characters, and the world they live in are brilliant.
When people ask me how to write historical fiction, I tell them to read Cornwell. He's the best in the business. Start with SHARPE'S TIGER and observe the structure of the novel. Tear it apart - do some work! I did.
I finished SHARPE'S TIGER, one of Cornwell's best, and now I'm reading Othello by that other English writer.