With the amount of travelling I’ve done this year, it’s no wonder I’ve started (or resumed) reading so many books. Typically, the normal book for me would be something technical (e.g. a Training Kit for SQL Server, for example) and for a long while I actually banned myself from reading fiction, so I could concentrate on picking up my professional development.
Lately though, I yearned for some fiction/fantasy or historical/fiction which I tend to enjoy.
In the past I’ve read an amazing array of authors over a large and varied taxonomy of genres, including Tom Clancy, Bryce Courtenay, Michael Crichton, Jack Higgins, Alistair Maclean, Patrick O’Brian, Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer, Patrick Harris, Wilbur Smith, James Clavell,, Clive Cussler, Bill Bryson (A great travel writer), Dan Brown, Scott Adams (Dilbert) and Gary Larson (The Far Side) to name but a few. One of my favourite books (and later, movie), “The Hunt for Red October” was lucky enough to fall into my hands as a honest-to-god first edition (printed by the Naval Institute Press) which made my day.
Yes, some of these authors or novels might be considered nothing more than the literary equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster (all style, no substance) and yet I still manage to take something away from each book I’ve read. I’ve also got to try and make time to read some more Science Fiction, the last (I think) I read was Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
I’ve always enjoyed the classics though, including Shakespeare (one of the best playwrights in history), Charles Dickens and some specific works which captured my attention – To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Heart of Darkness etc. I’ve also enjoyed a wide range of biographies and autobiographies.
One of my most favourite authors presently is Bernard Cornwell, who has created a history/fiction hybrid which is very captivating. The meld of historical re-enactment and a strong (but fictitious) lead character creates a most intriguing blend, giving meat to the otherwise bland bones of historical significance.
If you like a bit of history/fiction, and especially if you have enjoyed any of Patrick O’Brian’s (Aubrey/Maturin series) books you might enjoy the Richard Sharpe linage of books based on times before, during and after the Peninsula War (Napoleonic Era). He also has a series of superior English history/fiction books such as the Grail Quest, Saxon and Arthur series. It’s all good.
When I was routing via Seoul (South Korea) I went looking for a book to purchase (having left my copy of Bryce Courtenay’s “The Potato Factory” o’seas) and I ended up picking up – of all things – the last Harry Potter book, the Deathly Hollows. Given the popularity and success of the movies, it seemed logical to sample the writing and also to conclude the series without waiting for the subsequent film(s). I’ve got to say I was most impressed with the story arcs and the detail.
It is rather unfortunate (but nevertheless, not terribly surprising) that with literacy falling there are less people reading and more people consuming “convenient media”. Without books, there wouldn’t be as many great movies, since so many draw their inspiration (“based on”) from ground breaking novels. Even as computer animation opens the door to the “un-filmable” novels, there is still no way to condense a really great (epic) novel into a 2 hour movie format without losing substantial detail. There are exceptions, mostly enabled courtesy of an epic of the 80s – the mini series.
Hopefully we can look forward to a continued future of great writing, perhaps supported by platforms such as the Internet, while accessing and enjoying classic works many of which are available via the Project Gutenberg. The project makes available (in electronic format) the collected works of many authors which have managed the long journey into the public domain. For an example, you can read many of Charles Dickens’ works including A Tale of Two Cities. Recently added titles are listed here. You’d be surprised what is now available!