If you want to write, you have to read. Garth Marenghi may be very proud to be the only author ‘who’s written more books than he’s read’, but the rest of us writers, in order to write a lot, have to read even more.
Usually, this isn’t an issue: most authors become infected with a love for the written word by reading, not writing, and often from an early age. Many was the summer vacation when I maxed out my library card, only to have to resort to the books my parents, brother and sister brought even before the first week of camping was over.
Even in my college years, and now in my working years, I try to keep the reading going at a good pace: despite many cess pits and temptations (looking at you, Red Dead Redemption 2), I decide on reading targets. The last few years, for instance, I’ve had the target to read 40 books a year.
Most years, this target is just too difficult. Last year, for instance, I ‘only’ read 35 books. Even so, the target pushed me to read and enjoy more books than I would have, otherwise. And there are ancillary goals to this target, as well: to minimise the number of re-reads; to look beyond the borders of genre literature at ‘proper’ literature (whatever that is); to try new authors, new genres; to read more in Dutch; to read standalones and short stories instead of just series.
Here, then, is my 2018 fuel:
Re-reads and Series
Guilty, guilty, thrice guilty. Sometimes the known and familiar is just too comfortable. Besides, I had some unfinished business, for instance, with the Sandman series. If I was finally going to read the fourth and final volume, what better preparation than to re-read numbers one to three? And reading more Pratchett, Hobb, Sapkowski, Lynch and Cornwell is never a bad thing.
The six Tolkien-books I devoured last year, for instance: both the ones edited by Christopher Tolkien, Beren & Luthien and The Children of Hurin – still waiting for a paperback of The Fall of Gondolin to complete the set – but also the four ‘lesser’ works of Tolkien himself, bought together in a fancy box set: Roverandom, Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major, the Adventures of Tom Bombadil. I also read the final canonical Twin Peaks-work, The Final Dossier, by creatorr Mark Frost himself, and to top it all I read a very curious work about fandom: Ready Player One, a Young Adult targeting, by its nostalgic references, people in their thirties to forties, yet somehow becoming a (movie) sensation for much younger people. As I said: curious.
Well, I promised myself I would start to read more classics. Last couple of years had me pull up a volume of literature teacher-approved quality every once in a while, but I wanted to up my game: and seen as how the average contemporary Dutch work of literature is the intellectual equivalent of a reality TV-show, I aimed for English works, preferably from a century or two or three ago: The Great Gatsby and Gulliver’s Travels, but also Treasure Island by Stevenson and The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales van Edgar Allen Poe. All had merit, but the adventurism and macabre of Stevenson and Poe respectively did more for me than the reflections on America and satire of Gatsby and Gulliver. Oh, and I read Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, a book I did not enjoy as much as Dick’s Man in the High Castle, Ubik of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. 2019 will, at the very least, have more Stevenson, Poe and Lovecraft for me.
Welcome to Nightvale, Dogs of War and The Sisters Brothers. All three of them books I bought ‘on a whim’. Of The Sisters Brothers I knew a movie had been announced, but little more, of the other two I knew even less. Although Dogs of War was by far the best written of the bunch and Welcome to Night Vale (based on a podcast) seriously struggled with what it wanted to be, I enoyed all three of these books. I also read Een Olifant voor Karel de Grote (An Elephant for Charlemagne), translated to Dutch from German. This book, however, did not escape the trappings of mediocre historical fiction.
Another of my goals: to read more Dutch works. This in effect meant I read more anthologies: EdgeZero editions 2016 and 2017, Achterblijvers (Those Who Stay Behind) and Conquistador. This last title is a collection of short stories by Johan Klein Haneveld, one of Holland’s most productive writers with an obvious love for the genre of science fiction, while the other titles, notably the EdgeZero’s, offered a caleidoscopic view of the different skills and qualities of multiple Dutch authors. I also read Schaduwwezen (Shadow Creature) by starting author Karin Kramer-ten-Velde.
2019 looks like a promising year for me to work on my writing and reading both. A year in which to devour fantasy, horror, science fiction and traditional literature and to create amazing stories. And speaking of promising years: last year I also read Help! Ik heb mijn vrouw zwanger gemaakt (Help! I knocked up my wife), by Kluun. So it looks like I’m all set for creating amazing things in 2019!