Susanna here. I’m in a different time zone this weekend, on the west coast of Canada at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference—the highlight of my writing year.
This has been a busy day—I’ve moderated a panel session on world building, taught another on mining your own life for story ideas, coached some other writers through blue pencil sessions, and am now having a short break before tonight’s dinner and this evening’s “Shock Theatre” radio-play-style entertainment, in which I’ve been given a
This will, then, of necessity, be a shorter post.
But I’ve been thinking of something all day, and I thought it might be a good discussion topic here.
Last night, in his Master Class here on writing memorable fiction, agent Don Maass began by asking all of us which books we ranked as the ones that we’d never forget—the books that had touched us most deeply.
People raised their hands and started offering their choices, which at first were a fair sampling of titles…but within a few minutes, as though everyone had started to realize their choices were being judged by everyone else in the room, the titles being named began to change, and grow more weighty and more literary.
It reminded me of the time someone asked me what I was reading, years ago, and instead of telling them I was reading the Harlequin Presents novel I was actually reading, I told them I was reading Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, which I’d only made it two paragraphs into before giving up on it. But I thought The Name of the Rose sounded more impressive.
That was fresh in my mind when this morning, in the world building panel, Liza Palmer commented that when she’s constructing her characters, she likes to imagine what books they have on their coffee table versus what books they have in their bookshelves, because that tells her a lot about who they are.
So I’ve been thinking about that a lot, today.
Because now that I’m older, when somebody asks me what I’m reading, I just tell them what I’m reading. I no longer worry about whether they’re impressed with my choice—I read for my own pleasure and interest.
But for a long time, I let that unread copy of The Name of the Rose take up space in my bookshelf that could have gone to another book, thinking it made me look serious.
What were the books taking up space on your shelves that you never read?
And what books really were your most memorable reads?