Tag: TBR


Smarter Writing? Read smart.*

There are only 24 hours in a day. Subtract the things that must be done, and there’s not much time left. It matters how you spend those precious moments not otherwise earmarked. As a human being, I want to enjoy them. As a writer, I want to learn from them. Good books hit both marks.

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Ready to read… any suggestions?

TRACEE: I know, I know. Everyone’s TBR pile is a mile high – as is mine. Sometimes I need a nudge toward ‘clearing’ it. And…. I’m not adverse to reading something straight from the store before it hits the pile.  I’m packing for an Ocean voyage to be followed by a few months in Europe. This means I need to decide what to take to read (while I read in other languages, it’s not the same, so the main reading plan will involve English language books).   There are a few books that I haven’t read for one reason or another, including The Nightingale, although I’ve had a dozen people tell me it have to! While traveling I like to revisit old favorites – particularly handy in a travel emergency where you aren’t sure if you are going or staying and can’t quite concentrate. For this I may take Shogun. But it’s a toss up with Lonesome Dove.  If anyone wants to point me in the right direction this is the moment. Send me your reading favorites! SUSAN: Safe travels, Tracee! Seeing Lonesome Dove and Shogun makes me think of James Michener, and I wonder how he holds up. Also The Thorn Birds. I loved The Nightingale. I read it on a trip to England and I picked it up when we took off and was still reading it when we landed. Just an incredible book. I also like to read books about the country that I’m visiting, so when I went to India I read Vikram Seth’s book, Two Lives, which is a memoir that brings together an Indian love story and the Holocaust. I also find anything by Karin Slaughter grabs my attention. PAULA:When I travel, I like to take nonfiction and fiction. The nonfiction tends to be about writing or yoga or poetry, or, as in the case of te book I took along on my last trip, all three: The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life, by Natalie Goldberg. If you haven’t read Goldberg, start with Writing Down the Bones. It’s a classic.As for fiction: I have a lot of ebooks loaded on my iPad. If I’ll be on the road awhile, I start a new series and read them in order. I read Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels this way. They’re fabulous. I also take a Jack Reacher paperback with me. I’ve read all of Lee Childs’ Reacher novels, and collect them in most all formats: ebooks, paperback, and hardcover. I like to reread them for character and action–and because they are guaranteed to distract me from the annoyances and anxieties of travel. TRACEE: I can’t agree more about the Reacher novels. There’s something about them while traveling! ALEXIA: I bring paperback books (1 or 2) that I won’t mind leaving behind when I’m done with them. I think of it as gifting it to the next traveler. Agatha Christie and Rex Stout are travel favorites. I just read my first Brother Cadfael, and loved it, so he goes on the list. After that I choose something from my TBR pile that’s small enough to slip into a large purse/tote bag. Sometimes I leave my reading choice to fate–and Hudson Booksellers–and choose something from the airport. I actually found one of my all-time favorite books that way–Han Solo at Stars End.P.S. Don’t the Cunard ships have libraries?  ROBIN: I’m like Alexia, if I travel with physical books, I leave them behind in hotel rooms when I finish them. That’s where I tuck tips for hotel maids. The number of physical books I bring depends on where I’m going and why. If it’s business or city travel and the hotel room has a safe, I’ll bring my Kindle, too. If I’m going somewhere with a beach or pool, I leave the Kindle at home and bring only physical books. The number of books depends on the duration of the trip. I’m also a sucker for Hudson Booksellers so I leave room in carry-on luggage for last minute impulse purchases. Funny that Susan brought up Michener – I read Hawaiithe first time I went to Kauai. It didn’t occur to me until just now that I do that sometimes, read fiction relevant to where I’m going. I discovered Cara Black before one of my trips to Paris. I read Joe Finder’s The Fixer on a trip to Boston and then read Paranoia on my way home. Living near San Francisco, I read a bunch of local contemporary authors and several classics like Jack London, Dashiell Hammett, Jack Kerouac, and John Steinbeck. Tracee, my parents used to love cruise ships. They would pack one suitcase dedicated to carrying their books. Usually Cold War spy novels and history for my dad, biographies and rom-com’s for my mom. Have a great trip! MICHELE: One of my favorite things about traveling is deciding which books to pack. Honestly, forget clothes and cosmetics. It’s all about what I will read, how I will write. Books, notebooks, pens, post-its, and highlighters go in the bag first. But which books to bring depends on where I am going and for how long. When I go to St. John or Mexico in the winter, I’ll pack hardcovers, paperbacks, and my Kindle Paperwhite. Titles depend. I save books for occasions like trips. I will read the latest Elizabeth George when I’m on a longer trip because her books are quite lengthy. I started Donna Tart’s The Secret History after loving The Goldfinch, but quickly realized it was too intense to read in little gulps. Sometimes I pack something light and delicious for the plane/beach.  I have a quick trip to St. John coming up. I’ll be taking Paula’s A Borrowing of Bonesand Alison’s Blessed Be the Wickedwith me. When I return, I have to dig into The Dublinersfor a course I signed up for. Happy trails, Tracee. I envy your trip and all those books you’ll get to read. TRACEE: Love all of your suggestions. I should have mentioned the 8,000 volume library shipboard which will provide over two weeks of reading material. I won’t see a single airport, which means I won’t have the joy of the airport bookstore. Although that means I could lug around heavy suitcases for months without worrying about weight allowances, I have decided I’ll use my e-reader. That way I can have a huge assortment of old favorites and new selections available at all times!  ALISON: I love the idea of browsing a library while crossing the Atlantic by ship (Tracee, please send pictures!) and packing books for winter in St. John or Mexico (Michele, what a life!). Back in the pre-Kindle/pre-smart phone days, I always packed Austen and/or Bronte when I travelled because I just love the stories. The writing is beautiful, the characters delicious, and I could rely on relatively happy endings. Now that I can bring an almost infinite number of books with me on my Kindle app, I try to make sure I have a balance of a few books in the mystery/suspense genre (Robert Galbraith springs to mind, Elizabeth George always, Linda Castillo), fiction outside my comfort zone recommended by friends , and then some non-fiction simply because it interests me. Right now, I find my knowledge of Chinese history appallingly thin, so I’m going to find a good primer for my trip to Nashville next week. Happy reading, everyone! TRACEE: Thanks everyone! I’ve been taking notes and my final reading list is coming together! Now I need to remember to pack clothes.

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The overflowing nightstand aka TBR stack

 TRACEE: Give us an update of your nightstand and the TBR stack for summer. Are you going light and easy or diving into meaty questions? Mine is a mix….. and I think I see a few in the pile that have been read but are kept on hand for reasons that exist only in the depths of my subconscious. My dog nosed his way into the picture of my nightstand TBR pile, the expression on his face says: I can’t believe you would show anyone this mess.  I just finished Roger Johns’ “River of Secrets” in specially bound preview form…. Everyone mark the August appearance in bookstores in your BUY calendar. Currently I’m finishing “The Geographer’s Library” by Jon Fasman and “A Necessary Evil” by Abir Mukherjee. I’m also re-reading Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz.” Elizabeth George’s “The Punishment She Deserves” will likely be next. It is too high on the stack to be in the photo which means it is perched precariously on top of the more orderly books. Must be read next or the entire assembly will collapse. Of course I also watched Wim Wenders movie “The American Friend” a few days ago, starring Dennis Hopper as Tom Ripley. I confess to pulling a few Patricia Highsmith books off the shelf thinking maybe this is what I’d like to read….. ROBIN: Let’s see, I just finished Chris Holm’s “The Killing Kind,” which had been on top of the TBR stack for a while. Now I’m reading “Death in D Minor” by our own Alexia Gordon. Next up, I’ve got “The Undertaker’s Daughter” by Sara Blaedel, “Hacked” by Ray Daniel, “Into The Black Nowhere” by Meg Gardiner, and “The Force” by Don Winslow. So, you know, light and easy 🙂   SUSAN: I am attaching a picture of my nightstand with books upon it, mainly because I just got the nightstand and I don’t think I’ve had one for my adult life. Usually I’ve gone with a pile of books on the floor. Anyway, on this fabulous new stand is Nancy Pickard’s The Virgin of Small Plains, Martin Edwards, “The Golden Age of Murder,” Ann Cleeves, “The Glass Room,” James Scott’s, “The Kept,” David Starkey’s, “Six Wives,” Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories,” Marilyn Robinson’s “Gilead” and Eric Metaxas’ bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’m almost done with two of them, as long as I don’t put anything else on the pile. MICHELE: My TBR pile was so tall, I worried it would topple off my nightstand and crush me so I placed the books in a stand where they stare at me begging to be next. Of course, there’s still the queue on my Kindle and Audible.   PAULA: If only I could call my TBR pile a “pile” and not two rooms full of books and manuscripts and devices loaded up with stories.But I wouldn’t have it any other way….  ALISON: My TBR stack is also on the floor for the obvious reasons. I’m almost finished with Laura Griffin’s “At Close Range.” When I’m done, I’ll be on to Elizabeth George’s “The Punishment She Deserves.” Come July 10th, it will be Linda Castillo’s “A Gathering of Secrets.” I’m also reading for background research, which includes the “1823 View of the Hebrews,” the “Book of Mormon” (again), and non-fiction focused on collecting rare books and making bombs (don’t ask!).    TRACEE: Alison, you can’t throw out a teaser like rare books and making bombs then say don’t ask! Now I have to ask another question to get our minds off this.  Does anyone else find that when the book is on Kindle it can REALLY get lost and nearly forgotten?  ROBIN: Yes! I have to remind myself to go through my Kindle library for TBR’s (there are 4). I balance out eBooks and physical books to avoid the towering stack syndrome.  ALEXIA: My TBR pile defies words. And logic. (Yes, all of those. Plus more I couldn’t squeeze into the shot)  Were we supposed to count eBooks, too? In that case, I’m going to have to live to 210 in order to make a dent. 276 eBooks on Nook (some, but not most, in the read pile), 80 on Kindle app, 5 on Aldiko. Chicago U Press and Tor/Forge keep giving away free eBooks and they add up. And the Audible audio books. Forgot those. TRACEE: Alexia, I hope that there is a correlation between the TBR stack and longevity….. maybe we will all live to 210 in order to finish! I am going to look through my digital ‘stack’ now…. 443 titles. Hopefully most are read (I confess that some are duplicates of favorite books so they are always available when I’m traveling). But there are sure to be a few treasures waiting for my full attention.           

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