Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The ruination of my reading

I have always been an inveterate reader. Nothing altered that, not the passage of years or changes in my life, however substantial--until I became serious about writing. I truly believe reading is essential for good writing, but now I must devote my time to the creation of stories, and hope I did enough reading in past years to make up for the lack now.

Which is not to say I no longer read, but that I no longer grab up any book that looks like it might be interesting, or follow lists of what's new and notable. My reading now tends more and more to fall into various categories of research. (And this aside from pure research books, like guides to ship rigging or celestial navigation). Mind you, the categories are flexible, and I'm certain I'm still learning from the experts as well as enjoying filling in the information I require, but the categories of interest have certainly narrowed. Some apply more specifically than others, but all give me at least a sense of background or a flavor of a time and/or place that's relevant to The Stowaway.

On my current To Be Read list, in either paper or Kindle format (occasionally both), by the aforementioned category:


  • Coral Island, J. Michael Ballantyne (an influence on J.M. Barrie)
  • The Journal of a Disappointed Man, Wilhelm Nero Pilate Barbellion (you may be relieved to know that is the nom de plume of a man actually named Bruce Frederick Cummings)
  • The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (because I need to know if it really is likely to be Vivian's favorite book)
  • Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton-Porter 

Sadly, neither my paper nor electronic copy looks
like this. Would that one of them did.


  • Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
  • Ahab's Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund
  • Evolution's Captain, Peter Nichols (the clash of science and religion in the era preceding and influencing the Edwardians, ships)
  • The Navigator of New York, Wayne Johnston (polar exploration and ships)
  • Master and Commander and Post Captain, by Patrick O'Brian (along with Sea of Words--at a whopping 400-plus pages--a companion glossary compiled by Dean King with John B. Hattendorf and J. Worth Estes). I have the DVD of the first novel too, and I'm planning to immerse myself in a Master and Commander weekend before too much longer.

Erich Lessing in John Huston's 1954 film of Moby-Dick. This
 would make me want to read the book if I hadn't already decided to.


  • Thames: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd
  • Imagined London, Anna Quindlen

The Amazon/City of Manaus:

  • The River That God Forgot, Richard Collier
  • The Sea and the Jungle, Henry Major Tomlinson
  • The Naturalist on the River Amazon, Henry Walter Bates
  • State of Wonder, Ann Patchett


  • The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us, James W. Pennebaker (because I want to make sure I don't get James's speech wrong)

So how am I doing with all this? Well, um, I'm a third of the way through Moby-Dick and halfway through The River That God Forgot, and I've started Imagined London and Thames: A Biography. And I've read a few books that don't appear on the list. Possibly I am going to start to need to block out more designated reading time, which will include pushing those ever-present temptations of Twitter and Tumblr off to the side of the map.

Edward Gorey had the truth of it.

But lest you think I've forgone all recreational reading, I've read almost the entire Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George this year, thirteen volumes so far. (And some of them are long!) Of course they are set in locations around England, thereby possibly qualifying them as, er, research...


  1. I liked the Moonstone although I would have called it a mystery over a romance.

    1. Vivian would probably prefer your term. :-)