I'm asked quite a lot about what I like to read in my spare time so, as I sit here on this sunny, autumn Sunday afternoon, I finally decided to take the time and compile a list of books for your enjoyment while you patiently wait for me to get mine together (and I really do thank you for your patience).
Firstly, I have to admit that I've gotten into the bad habit lately of not reading. I know, I know: shame on me. In order to become better at what your skills you need to practice, and part of the practice process of writing is reading. I promise I will try to be better in future, it's just: where does one find the time? Between work, editing, and a social life, I really struggle to find the time to read. However, enough about me. Here is a list of authors and their works that I've enjoyed over the years, and which should keep you plenty busy while you all wait for All That Compels the Heart to be finished:
1) The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
Although I would recommend pretty much anything written by Herself, the Outlander series is what first got me hooked on Diana's work (and this would have been way back in the late 90's/early 00's when I was probably far too young to read them). I think the thing I love the most about Jamie, Claire, and the rest of them is that they're real people. That's not to say that they're based off any real people from history, it's just that they behave like real people. I find so few writers make the reader go through their paces and take the time to get to know the people they're reading about, but Diana makes sure we see all aspects of her characters: how they love, how they fight, their petty jealousies, the things that make them good. You'll rarely find a two-dimensional character in one of her novels; even the supporting characters are incredibly fleshed out. It's probably the main reason that I've read, re-read, and watched the Starz series that's based on the novels several times. If you like history, romance, and the odd bit of time-travel, I'm sure you'll love them just as much as I do.
2) London and Sarum by Edward Rutherford.
You might begin to see a pattern evolving. What can I say? I studied history when I was in university (it's always been one of my favourite subjects) and my love of the subject bleeds into my reading-for-fun world as well. While I have read other novels by Edward Rutherford, I would have to say that London is probably my favourite, followed closely by Sarum. As mentioned above, it's no secret that I am a huge history buff, and so the fact that these novels span the history of Sarum and London from the Neolithic era to the post-modern era is right up my alley, and I hope it will be the same for you.
3) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I first came upon The Hobbit when I was in school and we had to choose a novel for our French reading class. I remember patiently waiting for my fellow students to choose books from the large stack my teacher kept along the far wall of our classroom. While everyone else took the more familiar titles like Le Petit Prince (which is also a great read if you're ever interested. I highly recommend reading it in the original language if you can, though it has been translated for any non-francophones), I found that by the time I got to the pile, there were few books left. There was something about the artwork on the cover that drew me to the book (it just goes to show how important the cover art for you novel is). I had no idea what a hobbit was in English or in French and I began to worry a bit (I had to do a presentation in French on the novel I had read, after all) but I soon found out. I loved the story so much that I tracked down an English copy of the story and re-read it, as well as the following series, The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was one of the first authors to show me all that my imagination could build; after all, if he could create an entire world with his, I could do the same with mine.
4) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
If you know me personally, you now I'm a huge fan of the Harry Potter series (and the films as well). But believe it or not, I almost never ended up reading the series. I was given the book as a present and, being the kind of person who'll give pretty much any book a fair try and the kind of person who likes fantasy novels, I immediately began to read it. I got about halfway through the first chapter of the first book and put it down. I'm a big believer in the principle that if you cannot make me care about the characters by the end of the first chapter, I will not continue to read the book. It's just not worth my time when I could be reading something better. Strangely though, I kept going back to the book and re-reading that first chapter, trying to get into it. Finally, on the fourth go around, I said "enough is enough." When I was asked by the person who had given me the book if I liked it, I confessed that I just couldn't get into it. They'd read the book and were well into the third one by that time, and they were surprised I was struggling with it, having previously thought it was a perfect fit for me. They encouraged me to keep at it, to just get past that first chapter and it would all go up from there. I'm not sure why I took their advice, but I'm sure glad I did. Once I got past the first chapter, I was hooked. It just goes to show that not only can you not judge a book by its cover, you can't always limit your expectations to the first chapter.
5) Light a Penny Candle, The Copper Beech, Circle of Friends, Tara Road, and Scarlett Feather by Maeve Binchy.
I was introduced to my first Maeve Binchy novel, Circle of Friends, by my mother when I was quite young. I have always been an avid reader, and so I'm sure it was difficult for my mother to keep me amused with new books to read all the time because I went through them so quickly. Even though I was probably too young to be reading most of the books I did when I first read them (but then again, I always was more mature for my age than most of my peers), my mother began giving me books she had read that were, by and large, not filled with too many adult themes for me to read. While Binchy's books are definitely aimed at adults and are based around adult problems and complications, she filled them with enough lightness and humour for them to be appealing to a young adult audience as well. By the time I began reading her novels, I already had a deep love for Ireland (just about all, if not all, of her books are set in her native Ireland) and her novels just enhanced my love for the country and the people in it. I just wish she were still alive so she could keep writing more of them.
6) 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion and 1921: The War for Independence by Morgan Llewelyn.
While both of these might sound a bit like academic books, I can assure you they are not. Like many of the novels I read, they're fiction based around real historical events; in this case, the beginning of what we know today as the Republic of Ireland. While I do favour 1916 over 1921 in terms of reading, both are a fascinating account of what it would have been like to live in Ireland during these turbulent times. I highly recommend them for anyone interested in either Irish History or historical fiction.
There are certainly dozens more I could recommend, but I'll leave you with this list for now, and who knows? If I find the time, I may just add to it in future.
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