I have a problem which I share with many writers: too much on the 'to read' pile. Indeed, I doubt that anyone who doesn't have that problem is really a writer at all. Reading is part of the nutrition which we all need to create the kind of links and cross-fertilisations that lead to satisfying fiction.
That said, my reading pile is worse than usual at the moment, something I blame in large measure on my fellow MNWer David Isaak, whose blog spews an endless stream of things which simply demand to be read. His current series on books about writing promises to continue the trend: Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit was full of good sound practical advice, retailed in the style I call 'American Smartmouth'. A treat from start to finish.
So what's on my reading pile at the moment? I confine myself to books I have in the house, ready to pick up, and which I haven't yet read (re-reading is important too, but would make my current decision far too difficult. How could I justify not picking up Pride and Prejudice or Emphyrio once more?).
1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow
The title says it all. For anyone with even a glancing interest in 19th century history, this can only be a fascinating topic. Sometimes history books are let down by the prose, but Zamoyski's work has drawn many plaudits. Surely this will be good!
The Gentle Axe
Maintaining the 19th century Russian theme, MNW stalwart Roger Morris takes Porfiry Petrovich, the detective from Crime and Punishment, and gives him a new case to solve. I've not yet read any of Morris' work, but I'm looking forward to trying this one.
A Quiet Belief in Angels
A 'Richard and Judy' choice, I picked it up on a 'buy one, get one free' offer with Regeneration (see below). It's set squarely in the 'literary thriller' genre which is very popular at the moment--and doesn't always work for me. Probably one for my summer holidays.
I've been meaning to read this World War One story for years. Now I can. Penguin have had the excellent idea of returning to their classic cover design for certain of their books--and when the classic design is this good, why not?
The only problem is, the cover doesn't look right on a new book. Orange Penguins should be smashed to buggery, like my copy of My Cousin Rachel.
How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction
ed. J. Williamson
As recommended by MNW's other fantasist, Matt Curran. No more need be said, and my fingers twitch every time I see the volume. This one won't be on the pile for long.
This dystopian vision of a post-apocalyptic America was not just recommended but given to me by Will, my editor. Because Crace has a sigificant reputation as a mainstream writer, he can get away with writing fantasy and seeing it published by prestige imprint like Picador. I've not read Crace before and I'm looking forward to this one.
Lord of Light/The Amber Chronicles
As recommended by David Isaak, these stories come from one of the premier stylists of SF's Golden Age. Somehow I've got to 40 without reading any of his longer fiction. This needs to change!
Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football
Over the past fifteen years, football has finally acquired a literature to rival cricket's. David Winner's offbeat but revealing Brilliant Orange, a history of Dutch football, keeps company with David Foot's more straightforward but equally intelligent Italian chronicle Calcio. The best football books are about much more than football: the world's most popular sport is a revealing prism through which to write social history. In Spain, with the eternal rivalry between Real Madrid (once Franco's house team) and Barcelona, the focal point for Catalan nationalism, one can argue that football is the county's social history. Among the fiction I'd like to write one day--for now, at the bottom of the list--is a history of a fictional European country told through its football. If nothing else, the idea is original...
* * *So, which of these should I read next? To deflate any possible narrative tension, I should say that I've already decided--but what would you read?