Being that my current authorial milieu is suspense and mystery, one would be forgiven for believing that I devour mystery novel after mystery novel in my free time, searching for inspiration, etc. In point of fact, I actually read very little in the way of thrillers or mystery novels. To date, I've read three of Dan Brown's novels and a smattering of others. I've never read Stephen King or John Grisham. Can't ever recall cozying up with a James Patterson or Lee Child novel. So, why do I not read the genre that I write? On some level, it's to avoid being overly influenced by other writers and find my own voice. On another, I am such a consumer of true crime that I find myself over-analyzing most mysteries that I read to the point where it almost prevents me from enjoying the book.
So what do I like? Simply put: Give me swords, spears, bows and arrows and I'm a happy boy. Add in comprehensive world building, and I'm in heaven. And of course, this means that my god in this regard is J.R.R. Tolkien. I was barely 5 the first time my father sat down with me to read that funny titled book that I had seen around the house which I thought was a misspelling of my name. (Cuz on the old paperback, it really looked like - to my naive child's eyes, anyway - that the cover artist had meant to write Robbie and not Hobbit). By the time I was 8, our bedtime ritual revolved around jumping in bed and working our way through Lord of the Rings. Soon I was reading both books at least once a year (and still do to this day) and delving into the rest of the Tolkien mythology, familiarizing myself with the material to the point where I honestly believe I could interview to be Stephan Colbert's best friend and often argue out loud with certain Tolkien YouTubers' interpretation of the work. (To the mild bemusement of my wife). The world of Middle Earth served as a gateway to Wheel of Time and, naturally, eventually to A Song of Ice and Fire.
However, I don't just crave fantasy novels. I also enjoy historical fiction. History in itself is really just a story that we all agree on. History is not always fact and even facts aren't always true. So it's great to sit down and read an exciting novel that is set in a real historical period and, while you know the author made up what you're reading, if you have any scholastic knowledge of the events in question, you can almost allow yourself to imagine that you are reading a true account of historical events. The undisputed king of this, in my humble opinion, is Bernard Cornwell. Being that I have an affinity for Anglo European History, I have read the entire Saxon Tales Series (the basis for Netflix's series The Last Kingdom) and The Archer Tales, set during the Hundred Years War. The Warlord Chronicles, a re-imagining of Arthurian Legends, is likely up next, though I believe I will be skipping The Richard Sharpe novels, as I don't actually share the same interest in the Napoleonic Era as I do in other eras of Britain.
Aside from that, I tend to steer toward satire, history, and even politics in moderation. I believe I may have singlehandedly kept Cracked open for years and even toyed with trying to become a contributor. (Further research into stories of those who had done the same convinced me to reconsider). I'm currently reading First Principles by Thomas E. Ricks which discusses the education of our first 4 presidents and discusses the neo-classical influences on their thoughts which embedded themselves in the fabric of our government. It's pretty interesting, though, spending most of the time I'm not writing chasing around a 20 month old toddler means reading is basically confined to my morning constitutionals.
So that's about it. What are your favorite books? Would it offend your sensibilities to learn that I've never read a single Harry Potter book? Comment below.
I don't just write novels. I just like to write. This blog will not be polished, it won't be edited closely. There will be spelling and grammar errors and it might drag on in places. But it will be fun, off the cuff, genuine, and hopefully interesting to read!