What do you read… when not reading mysteries?

Writers are readers first. Reading is what drew us to writing and helps us hone our craft.

When I’m not reading books in my genre, I try to read all the major best sellers on the fiction list for the year–somewhat for entertainment, but more because I want to analyze what it was about them that was so appealing to the masses and how I can bring some of that magic to my own work.

I also read non-fiction. In the past thirty days, I’ve read: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe, which was pretty illuminating. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, and Educated by Tara Westover. 

I also read A Borrowing of Bones by our very own agent extraordinaire Paula Munier! Tell No One by Harlan Coben, Breath by Tim Winton, and–for my kids–The Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. 

For this week’s question, I asked the MissDemeanors what’s on their bookshelves besides mysteries and thrillers. Here’s what they said.

Tracee de Hahn: I recently read a biography about one of the last empresses of China: Cixi. A fascinating  and complex woman negotiating a traditional power structure, usually effectively. History is my go-to for books outside the genre!

C. Michele Dorsey: I’m plodding through The Mueller Files, which really reads like a story and what a story! I recently listened to Where the Crawdads Sing, which was beautifully performed. I’m presently reading Mrs Dalloway for a course I’m taking. I’m sure my fellow Miss Demeanors will appreciate how I’m hearing the voice of our agent, Paula Munier, while reading it. “What? You can’t change point of view like that!” “Backstory in second paragraph? Get rid of it” “Six new characters on one page. What are you thinking?” I keep wondering how Virginia Woolf got away with it.

Susan Breen: I’ve been reading through the Bible. Last year I read through the entire King James Bible (from one of those read the Bible in a year books.) The language was beautiful, of course, but I didn’t understand half of it. This year I’m reading through the Eugene Peterson translation, which is very easy to understand but not at all magical. I’m also reading lots of mysteries.

Alexia Gordon: I read/listen to true crime, not always about murder, though. Fraud fascinates me–what story did the fraudster tell and why did so many people believe him/her without question? I recently finished Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou. I loved it–the gullibility of some smart, respected people was jaw-dropping, seemingly because the person conning them was blonde, blue-eyed, and pedigreed. I binge-watched both Fyre Festival documentaries. If there’s a book about that debacle, let me know and it goes to the top of my TBR pile. I read The Billionaire’s Vinegar several years ago and enjoyed it–it’s about wine fraud, greed, and ego. I’m listening to the Drilled podcast which is about the con that the fossil fuel industry is running on all of us.

I also read some sci-fi but not as much as I did when I was a kid. My favorite series is the Retief series by Keith Laumer. It’s as much a satirical take on government bureaucracy as it is about aliens and lasers. I also like The Space Merchants by Cyril Kornbluth and Frederick Pohl, a satirical take on big business and marketing. I started The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin but it was so dark I had to put it aside until I was in a more uplifted mood. I’ve got Octavia Butler in my TBR pile but haven’t read her yet for the same reason. That much darkness requires me to be in a happy place so I don’t end up hating everybody. Summertime reading, not something for the dead of winter. 

Robin Stuart: Cate, I do the same thing – I study best sellers. If it’s so good that I get caught up and just read it without reverse engineering it along the way, I’ll go back and read it again more carefully. I read all kinds of genres, pretty much everything but sci-fi/fantasy. Real/realistic people are more fascinating to me, I guess 🙂

Right now, besides reading a couple of books in my genre (Tennison by Lynda la Plante and Fault Lines: Stories by Northern California Crime Writers), I’m also reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. It was recommended to me by one of my crime-fighting mentors to gain insights into human motivations and, therefore, understanding why criminals are able to take advantage (and how we can turn the tables on them). It’s also giving me all kinds of ideas for a new WIP I’m just starting, where the two central characters aren’t what they seem.

D.A. Bartley: I’m reading Jane Harper’s The Dry right now.  When I’m not reading my default genre, I read everything, but there’s a substantial chunk that’s about either fashion or political philosophy. Not both together (but one can hope!). Now that I think about it, I have a book on Soviet fashion–a gift, no less–so, I do read fashion and political philosophy!

Paula Munier: As an agent I read for a living, So what I read for pleasure has to do double duty. I try to read the category killers to see what’s trending, and I try to read the nominees for the big awards across all genres. Then I read what I love: crime fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction, poetry, and mind/body/spirit. Which means right now my pleasure pile is stacked with The Gentleman from Moscow by Amor Towles, Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin, A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie, and 
The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins, among others. 

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