I’m not one for sitting in the sun. For me, summer is just another season, but one that has longer days to allow for longer walks… and ice cream. But I’m always finding shade. And, I’m notoriously known for loving a rainy day. Because it’s a good excuse to stay in and write or pop open a book.
What I look for in a story is something I can relate to – no matter the genre or topic; from realistic to historical fiction or even fantasy to sci-fi. Of course, the characters I related to in my 20s do differ somewhat from the characters to which I relate today, in my early 40s: the period of revisiting life and relations. I’ve discovered or re-discovered stories that allow reflection and clarity, I think. Most importantly, as I started stepping into this realm of writing myself, I learned to analyze or pay attention to style and niche. And so, of course, I start my list with one of my favorite writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- Tender Is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald) – Fitzgerald’s way of capturing those silent moments between two people that manage to have an underlying conversation without speaking a word. That spoken words are only surface dialogue to what the character’s body language and eye contact tells what wants to truly be said. Fitzgerald captured it beautifully here within Nick and Rosemary’s interaction – one of my favorite exchanges between two characters. Although The Great Gatsby remains as my top favorite story, Nick and Rosemary give Tender Is the Night this spot.
- Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) – I recently read that every man should read a Jane Austen novel, and I agree. Not only will reading Austen give an understanding of what women love in stories, or how to be more chivalrous/gentlemanly, but a simple mention of Darcy in conversation will help you grab the attention of your lady friend immediately. However, the real reason I recommend this book in particular is reaction. As the story progresses, the personality of Austen’s characters seem to change or adapt based on the action or words of the other. And I admire Austen’s ability to convey this change. As her characters react with each other or respond to situations, they grow together whether they like it or not.
- Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Doystoyevsky) – Simply put, following the continuous spiral of a man’s mind as a result of a pointless action is always interesting. Any man asking himself life’s questions — “Is this necessary? Do I need to do this?” — can relate to this story. Yes, it is quite a long book, but don’t be overwhelmed. It is totally worth the read. You could plan to read it in pieces but, I’m telling you, once the story gets going, you won’t want to put it down.
- The Blunderer (Patricia Highsmith) – To shortly summarize a reason for reading this: Hitchcock-ian. Oh yes. This is another story of a downward spiraling mind of a man over one simple “blunder.” Lesson here: Dude, chill out. You look suspicious. Yes, you’ll get that same cringing feeling reading many of Highsmith’s entertaining stories including Strangers on the Train, or the Tom Ripley series.
- Corto Maltese / Ballad of the Salted Sea (Hugo Pratt) – OK, so this is a graphic novel. But there is also a novelized version of this popular comic. I added this to my list because aside from the escape with his worldly adventures, Corto Maltese is simply fun. What I like about the character is his gipsy/drifter-like peculiarity; which allows him to ignore judgement and focus solely on the matter at hand. He comes from a vague upbringing but, his travels allow him to see the world, and engage with people from all backgrounds, status and situations. He doesn’t just meet, but he immerses himself within the cultures; a clear indication of his character; which is sometimes seen as sort-of a vagabond. But, in the end, he comes out a hero; and most of the time he’s the hero in the shadows or behind the scenes. And that’s the other thing that drew me to Corto – he doesn’t need acknowledgement. He just wants to survive, and sometimes he has to help people to do so. No matter who it is, as long as he gets what is needed; which is usually a means to escape. (Great summer read.)
My upcoming novel The Love Fool is available at booksellers MARCH 13.