The Collection


For my entire life, reading has been a constant.  Throughout school years, various jobs, one marriage and into the current, having kids, whatever, books have always been part of who I am.  One can always be found somewhere nearby, whether on my nightstand, counter top, living room, desk in my office, in my knapsack, wherever I might be, all I have to do is look up and I will see one within arm’s reach.

My relationship with books started as soon as I understood those weird black shapes on white paper meant something.  I recall very clearly my first lesson in reading out of a Dick And Jane primer, with my classmates and I gathered around our teacher, Mrs. Braswell, in a half circle.  We were in the first grade.  I was instructed to read the first page by sounding out my letters.  I remember how I gripped the book and stared down at what I now knew were words.  A “picture” version of talking.  I remember my heart racing as I read out loud to the others, sounding out the words on the page.

G-O.

D-ICK.

S-EE. D-ICK  GO!

Remember that?  Oh.  Some of you might be too young.  Anyway, that’s how I was taught.  Phonetics I believe it was called.  Once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t get enough.  Read, read, read, that’s all I wanted to do.

I went through different phases of what I liked.  From the Little House books, to my horse loving phase with My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, and National Velvet.  I read so many books it’s too hard to list them all, but I distinctly remember moving on from Little House and horse books to stories like Call Of The Wild, Old Yeller, and The Yearling.  Eventually it was Harlequin Romance.  This was around the time I was thirteen.  I wish I’d kept count of how many of those I went through.  At least three a week – for a long time.

The next genre was Horror.  I read The Exorcist when I was about fourteen and babysitting for a couple down the street from my parents.  I was so scared, I couldn’t move off the couch to go pee.  When the couple came home, I shoved the book under my coat to sneak it back home with me where I resumed my odyssey of terror into the early morning hours.  I returned it the next night – it was a weekend and they wanted me both nights – trying to remember where I’d found it.  I’d been so rattled after spending hours with it before they got home, I couldn’t recall, so I just flipped it to the back of their closet.  Which wasn’t far away enough, in my opinion.

After that I was hooked on that adrenalin rush of fear.  I bought anything and everything that said it was about “posession.”  That phase lasted until I started hearing things in my room (probably my gerbils) and having very bizarre nightmares.  I then went on to books like Sacajawea, Ride The Wind (fictionalized account of Cynthia Ann Parker’s capture by the Comanche) Long Knife, Pocahontas, Walk In My Soul and there’s no way honestly to recall all the fictionalized history books I read either.

Here is my current “collection.”  Some of these I’ve had for close to thirty five years.  (the fictionalized stories of Cynthia Ann Parker, Pocahontas, etc, for instance)  The dresser in the middle with the books?  That’s “part” of the notorious TBR pile.  Minus a few in my bedroom and one other one.

002

This is by no means, all of the books I’ve ever owned.  I’ve given away tons over the years, but many of these are hardcover I can’t bear to part with.

Despite the shifting between various genres, and my ever changing tastes, there is one author, and one author only I can honestly list as the one who hooked me for the longest – and the one I’ve bought the most books by.  Stephen King.  I have, and I just counted, thirty one.  No. Other. Author fills up my bookshelves like this.  I became enamored with him thirty three years ago.  I was pregnant with my son and a friend in the neighborhood – also pregnant – introduced me to his work when she told me about The Stand.  Most people came to know him through Carrie, but The Stand it was for me, and I was hooked.

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You can’t see two on the very end to the right.  I have a few he wrote under Richard Bachman, and one he wrote in collaboration with Peter Straub.  I think that one is called The Regulators.

And now, I have this, too:

001Oh. My. God.  Right???  I pre-ordered it and it came yesterday.  I’ve not purchased a Stephen King book in…years.  There’s something about this story though, that makes  me hope for a Cujo, or Misery, or Delores Claiborne.  A terrible story, but believable.  Not like some of his more strange works – the stuff he wrote when he was drinking mouthwash and doing other self-medicating activities.  I’m anxious.  Anxious because I SO want this book to live up to my old expectations.  I remember how excited I used to get knowing a Stephen King book was due.  I was almost like those people camping out for Black Friday sales.  I burned rubber to get to the bookstore to get my copy.  I began reading it immediately – even while I tried to “savor” it for as long as possible.  I was always sad when I finished.

I want to fall back in love again with his work.  I want to re-ignite that dry mouth, and sinking feeling I used to get as I followed his characters into hell.  I don’t want to be let down.  I’m in the middle of reading two other books at the moment, so, that much has changed too.  I haven’t even peeked at the first sentence – something I would have thought impossible thirty some odd years ago.

What author have you loved enough to buy their books by the dozens?  Is there anyone out there as prolific as Stephen King that can support your “habit?”

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20 Comments

I had a Mrs Braswell too. Though not until high school. Here’s to both good teachers and good books.

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I can remember learning to read from the good Sisters at Catholic primary school. First grade, as I recall, was in some open basement space because the school was so crowded. I soon began reading voraciously and it was mostly boys adventure-type stuff. I had a collection of Hardy Boys novels. My mother was supportive and gave me books that I don’t think she read since some didn’t seem appropriate for my age at the time (S-E-X). It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I began to love capital-L literature. I had an excellent teacher. From then on I was hooked. Now I can’t go back and read the lighter stuff; I just don’t have the patience for it any more. i’ve been in a reading group for the last 25 years that takes on the big stuff. (We took two years to work our way through Moby Dick!) Somewhere along the line, probably 30 years ago, I first read Philip Roth’s novel The Ghost Writer. I’ve read it probably 25 times since then; I’ve lost count. He is the novelist who I’ve read very work by. I have the complete set on my shelves (including a first edition of Portnoy’s Complaint). He is my favorite writer. When I read his sentences, I know that every word, every bit of punctuation was specifically chosen and exactly right. He alleges that he’s no longer writing, but I don’t believe that. I’ve also read the complete novels of Iris Murdoch. Read most of Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad. A lot of Faulkner. Borges. Alvaro Mutis. Thoreau. I’ve read everything by the natural history writer Sue Hubbell (though she is not writing any longer either). What an adventure!

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    The works you list are definitely heavy weights. Cerebral writing, is what I call it. Two years on MOBY DICK means there must have been in-depth analysis on the story, and tons of discussion about technique. I did a “report” for my book club on THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. It was interesting to go through it years after reading it in high school. I actually enjoyed it more, although some of it was rather tedious, and I thought the internal monologue rather cheesy.

    When we consider the classics, it’s almost other worldly writing, isn’t it? It’s funny what you say about not having the patience for the light weight stuff, b/c I’d probably not have the patience for the heavier, except, your comment about Philip Roth’s THE GHOST WRITER makes me want to check that out. Back to the heavier stuff, I think McCarthy’s SUTTREE is a heavy read and was a bit of a slog in some areas for me. Teri Carter said I’ll need the dictionary for BLOOD MERIDIAN too. (like SUTTREE) I’m giving myself sometime in between McCarthy’s works. If you like Faulkner – you’d like McCarthy. Can’t recall if you’ve read any of his work?

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      If you’re going to try Roth, The Ghost Writer is the best place to start. It’s really a minor classic, especially meaningful to a writer.

      The only McCarthy I’ve read is The Road. Not sure I have it in me to read more of him. Maybe someday.

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      I’ve read THE ROAD too. It’s not like the other two I’ve read thus far – CHILD OF GOD, and SUTTREE. I still have BLOOD and OUTER DARK on my nightstand. I’m not sure which other one I’d say to go to if you decide to try him again. Teri Carter said her husband is a big McCarthy fan, and I’ve heard great stuff about BLOOD MERIDIAN and ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.

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Ooh, the new Stephen King! Lucky!

Your bookshelves are lovely. Currently, most of my books are packed up in boxes. We have rudimentary plans to turn an ancillary room off the kitchen into the library but no book shelves just yet, and there’s a danged dining room table and buffet in the way! One day, it’ll happen.

I think the first Stephen King I read was The Shining. I bought it for a quarter at a neighborhood garage sale and snuck it home. I was 10, and pretty sure I “wasn’t supposed to” read Stephen King, though in truth my reading was never censored. The Stand is my favorite book by him, but in general, Early King™ is my wheelhouse.

I’m woefully behind in my reading; I’ve kept track on and off again for a few years how many books I read, and this year I’m only at about 60 or so. Normally it’s more like 200 (I work at the library, thank God), but I guess it’s an earmark of having become more serious about my writing.

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    Those bookshelves are in my “office” and honestly, I”d love to have a nice built in bookcase against that wall – which my husband could do, but we have other renovation stuff to worry about. 🙂

    Early King™ …yes! I have a couple current works of his – but even those are several years old. (LISEY’S STORY and DUMA KEY.) Wow! 200 books a year! I used to read at the level of volume in my teens/early twenties…now, b/c I tend to only read at night, it’s more like one book every two weeks -so a VERY low volume in comparison to you. I try to read only stories relevant to current projects and in some ways I wish I could read in the middle of the day, but something doesn’t seem right about that. Like I’m goofing off.

    Right now b/c I’m sort of in limbo, I am actually reading for just pleasure. I just finished BOYS OF MY YOUTH – which I loved. REVIVAL is next on the list, (b/c I’m anxious to see how King’s writing has changed – or not) and I still have two McCarthy books aside from all those others in that never shrinking TBR pile.

    Work at the library! I think I’d be in heaven!

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Oh Lord how I used to read, book after book, sometimes two and three at a time. Now I spend so much time writing, reading has become my, just before I fall asleep panacea.
Yes, on KING as my all-time favorite for a scare and for those bits of writing that just take your breath away.
Somewhere along the line, many years ago, I picked up a book from an author I was not familiar with, Dean Koontz. The book, WATCHERS. The opening pages of that book are the best and most riveting, grab ahold, you are in for the ride of your life, openers ever written. Like a hungry pike I was hooked in an instant. I devoured the man’s books and yet I haven’t read him, or King in years.
Another author I latched onto by happenstance, and it was also because of his opening, per Kindle sample, is Hugh Howey. WOOL was the book. His series is a wonderful self-pub story of success, now in traditional form. The guy is amazing. If you never actually want to read him, (Sci-Fi), just read the opening of WOOL. It sets a tone, is descriptive, without being boring. I just HAD to know what happened.
Jeez-Louise, now I want to go read. Oh well, proposal calls.

Hey Donna, no word yet, still on tenterhooks.

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    Oooo, I’m intrigued now by this beginning of Koontz’s. I’ve heard of WATCHERS. Matter of fact, I think my daughter read a lot of his stuff. She might have it – or make that – I might have it, since a lot of her books are still upstairs in a closet. I’ll have to look.

    I’ve heard about Hugh Howey too – and WOOL. Funny thing with him…just as an aside – I read a few weeks back on Chuck Wendig’s blog something about HH making negative comments about Wendig’s writing style. Which he (Chuck) said was odd b/c HH was nice to him f2f, and vice versa. You know, one author pats back of other author. The negative was in some interview HH was giving and I can’t recall if he was asked about CW or what, but HH’s comment had to do with Wendig’s “voice,” and HH seemed to believe it was like a “schtick.” And speculated during this interview how that would be carried off when CW was older. Anyway, CW was kinda/sorta pissed – can’t blame him. So, yeah, SF isn’t my thing, but maybe if I can read the opening….I love to read anything that shows great writing.

    As to the no word yet, any info as to how long? As in, “got this, back to you soon.” Or just auto-confirm/or nothing?

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      No word yet as in fell off the end of the earth. Which is odd because she was so quick to grab the ball and run. I feel like I’m in one of J’s blog questions.
      Gee, did she get my writing, gee maybe it’s in spam-world, gee WTF over.

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      Get this…I go upstairs…and I have Koontz’s WATCHERS. It’s in the bookcase pic on the shelves to the left – funny what I have and don’t even know it. AND, in my daughter’s pile in the closet? Eight others…TICK TOCK, PHANTOM, and I can’t remember what else. I might need to read some of his stuff for some mind jogging inspiration.

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      Well, you know and I know it will take a while. Despite the fact it’s a different breed in of itself (non-f aspect). It’s hard to settle in…after the adrenalin rush of the initial response and directions as to how/when to send. All you can do is hunker down and wait.

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Love this post! My go-to’s, whose books I own a bunch of are Jodi Picoult and previously John Grisham. There’s nothing like the feel of a new book in your hand! And the view of shelves of beloved books!

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    Thanks, Jennine!

    Ah, Jodi Picoult and John Grisham…both prolific like King. Question for you…have you noticed a change in Grisham’s writing style? I’ve read a handful of his books, and there have been years in between each one, so maybe it’s just me.

    For instance, my all time fave was A PAINTED HOUSE, but I was extraordinarily disappointed with SYCAMORE ROW. The writing style between those stories seemed almost like two different people wrote them.

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      He changed his whole formula. When he started writing non-lawyer related books, I stopped reading him. The switch in storyline didn’t work for me, but I think it had something to so with expectations. I’d come to look for certain types of stories from him and it totally changed up.

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      Oh my…and I preferred the non-lawyer book! But…A PAINTED HOUSE was the only one I was familiar with…so if he wrote others that are non-lawyerly, then…maybe I’ll give those a try. For me, and especially with SYCAMORE ROW, the book was filled with the proceedings of what a lawyer does in a court room and before to prepare for a trial. I mean page after page after page of explaining the process – usually as dialogue between characters. I was like, “Geez, get on with it! Who cares???” 🙂 It was too much of that for my taste – not enough action.

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      Sycamore Row is one of his new ones. I’ve only read his older books. And I think it was only because he had become so known for his lawyer books that when he broke the mold, it was weird or confusing for his regular readers. The whole expectations thing. If I had read his non-lawyer books first, I wouldn’t have had that problem I think.

      His other non lawyer books are Bleachers, Calico Joe, Playing for Pizza, and Skipping Christmas (which was made into a movie).

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I want that Stephen King novel! It’s been a very long time and of course Delores Claiborne is at the top of the list. But, since I write Women’s Fiction, I tend to read more in that genre. I love Cathy Lamb books with her quirky, fun, and endearing characters. Although, at this moment I have just finished the trilogy “The Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness (soooo many pages!) and tonight I will finish “The Virgin Queen’s Daughter” by Ella March Chase. Both were so good and very much out of my genre, but helped me with my writing. Always have to step out of the norm to have the growth needed to succeed. 🙂

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    Oh, I hope the book is good! I’ll have to do a review of it when I’m done – but you’ll probably be through it, and on to whatever by the time I finish since I tend to only read at night.

    I also read in the genre I’m writing in as well. Originally I was reading books like Secret Life of Bees, Bastard Out of Carolina, Ellen Foster, b/c my first book was a coming of age novel. Then Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier) and Gap Creek (Robert Morgan) influenced my second novel.

    With this third project, Joe, (Larry Brown) and Mystic River (Lehane) I think were my biggest influences. I guess this latest Stephen King thing might influence my fourth. IDK. I’m still looking for my story! 🙂

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