Monday, 9 August 2010

The Importance Of Reading - Lucy Coats

We all know about the importance of reading. Our children's education depends on them being able to do it. Sales of our books would be nil without readers. Reading is key in so many more senses than just those two examples.  But for the purposes of this post, forget all that.  What I'd like you to think about is the importance of reading to a writer--and by that I mean the personal sort of reading for pleasure, not the research kind. 

We are all, at some time in our writing careers, asked to give advice to would-be writers (in my case usually kids). I don't think I would be exaggerating if I said that 99.9% of us would tell them to read.  In fact, that's pretty much what it says on my own website under FAQs...'Read. Read read read and read some more. Read widely—diaries, letters, biographies, novels, travel, non-fiction. Read everything you can lay your hands on.'  But, given the pressures of a time-poor modern life, do we take our own advice? I wonder how many of US read as much as we used to--and when we do read, whether we keep up with what's being published in our own industry.  This was brought home to me last year in particular, when I took part in several rounds of the annual Kids' Lit Quiz.  I realised that although I was pretty ok on children's and YA books of the past, there were great gaping holes in my more recent knowledge.  Of course I'd read the 'biggies'--Garth Nix, Pullman, Rowling etc--mostly because they were what my own kids liked.  But there was a lot I'd missed.  So I set myself a task earlier this year, because I knew I was going to be flat on my back for a couple of months.  I would catch up on YA novels in particular and try to fill in some of those gaps.  So I'm now up to speed with Louis Sachar and Patrick Ness and Skulduggery Pleasant and many more.  I've also read a lot of new stuff published this year, including some fabulous reads by other members of the Scattered Authors' Society. In the process I've learned that there are a great many good books out there and a lot of talent.  I've also had a huge amount of fun (though I've spent far and away above what I should have on the book budget). But I'm sure I've missed masses too.  So if any of you out there have any suggestions for a 'non-obvious' and amazing recent  book you think I absolutely HAVE to read, then please tell me in the comments below or tweet me at @lucycoats.  I'm on a reading roll!

15 comments:

catdownunder said...

Diana Wynne Jones - I liked The Pinhoe Egg but there is also Enchanted Glass.

Rhiannon said...

Good question, Lucy.

I read as much as I ever did, I average a book a day. But I probably don't read as much YA as I used to.

There are two reasons for that. One is that I'm reading more non-fiction. I never used to read non-fiction for pleasure but as I get older I find myself more interested in facts - as well as fiction.

The other is that I'm no longer living with a well known reviewer of YA so fewer books come plopping through my letterbox. Boo!

Recommendations would be welcome here for current YA writers.

Elen Caldecott said...

I think I read as much as ever - at least I've always got a long list on reservation at the library.
I like to look at book review sites (Guardian, Achuka, Ultimate Book Guide mainly) and if I see anything cool, I pop it straight onto my library list and just wait for it to arrive. By the time it comes I've often forgotten I'd ordered it and it comes as a nice surprise!
Some recent YA recommendations:
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Inside My Head by Jim Carrington
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Enjoy!

Linda said...

I loved ''Fallen Grace'' by Mary Hooper (fascinating insight into Victorian England), and the ''Time Riders'' series by Alex Scarrow (a bit gruesome but an intriguing concept). For light-hearted, joyous fun, anything by Eoin Colfer or Elen Caldecott!

Leila said...

I find Garry Kilworth's books really intriguing. They're all different, very inventive ideas, and they're somehow old-fashioned and good in that way.
I loved 'Three ways to snog an alien' by Graham Joyce - hilarious and clever, and also it's a comedy romance for boys!
And I recently also loved 'Sky Wolves' by Livi Michael. Just so well-written and has such a classic feel about it.

Lucy Coats said...

Ooh, excellent. A nice list building already. I absolutely endorse your DWJ choices, Cat. Definitely on my list of recent favourites.

adele said...

THE MUSEUM OF MARY CHILD by Cassandra Golds is astonishingly good and alas only available from Penguin Australia....but should be gettable from amazon. Also loved a book called KING DORK by Frank Portman (Puffin) and Cathy McPhail's GRASS which was on the shortlist for Lancashire Book Award is very good as well.
And if you haven't read Jennifer Donnelly's A GATHERING LIGHT, do read that too! She has a new book coming out soon from Bloomsbury called REVOLUTION which looks wonderful.
And Linda Newbery's SET IN STONE is ace...I could go on. Patricia Elliott's MURKMERE is a favourite of mine and I second the vote for Mary Hooper!
And Kath Langrish..loved her last book. And Leslie Wilson...

adele said...

And forgot to mention Nicola Morgan's WASTED and Ann Turnbull's ALICE IN LOVE AND WAR.

Lucy Coats said...

Yes--read Cassandra's, Linda's, Leslie's, Kath's and Nicola's books and agree they are all really excellent.. The rest will go on my list. Thanks, Adele!

Linda Strachan said...

Aside from those already mentioned,
Theresa Breslin - Prisoner of the Inquisition,
Auslander - Paul Dowswell,
Patrick Ness - The Ask and the Answer
Rachel Ward- Numbers

Katherine Roberts said...

If you enjoy dark YA fiction, try Sarwat Chadda's "Devil's Kiss"... imagine a cross between Dan Brown and Stephen King... this one gives adult horror writers a run for their money!

Lucy Coats said...

Just reading last in Patrick Ness series, Linda--thanks for others. Katherine--yes, I love Sarwat and can't wait for Billi Sangreal 3, which I gather he is just writing...

bookwitch said...

And how much time do you have?

Lucy Coats said...

Not as much as I would like, Bookwitch. For some reason, my family do not consider reading to be proper 'work'. How wrong they are!

Sally said...

The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mulls is absolutely fantastic. I also recommend Jessica Day George to anyone who loves fantasy and fairy tale, particularly Dragon Slippers and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. Oh, and Kate Coombs's The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon are laugh-out-loud hilarious.