Read widely. It’s on nearly every writing how-to article out there. But while it is always my intention to explore new genres and vary my reading, I end up sticking to the same type of books I always read.
So, I invented a regimented system, specifying the exact order in which I would read different genres. It’s reflected in the books below. Ultimately, it proved too constraining. The truth is I love reading horror right now and the thought of deviating to another genre seems wrong.
But the reason why “read widely” is such common advice is because it’s necessary to grow as a writer. For now, I’ll follow two rules:
- Read at least one different genre every four books.
- Read at least one anthology/collection every four books.
Hopefully, I’ll gain the courage to read even wider.
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
I picked up a battered copy of this novel by chance at an old, decrepit bookstore. On the back cover, Charlaine Harris describes it as “one of the best first novels I’ve ever read.” I can attest to that—at least in horror. The prose is ridiculously clean while keeping me riveted to the characters and their actions. Set in Depression-era Georgia (a setting that Buehlman paints masterfully), a couple moves to a small town that has a dark secret across the river. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it lacked the spark to differentiate it from so many other good horror novels.
SuperGhost by Scott Cole
I love the New Bizarro Author Series put out by Eraserhead Press, either to discover new authors or see where established authors got their start. This book fit into the latter category. I had never read Scott Cole, but I knew of his standing in the bizarro community. This slim volume tells of a mad scientist collecting phantom limbs to build a “SuperGhost.” It had just the right amount of quirkiness and the ending was deliciously bizarre. It may not go on my list of top 25 bizarro books, but it was certainly a fun ride.
The Soulforge by Margaret Weis
I had one of those days where I needed to escape to another world and what better place than the land of Krynn—the setting for Dragonlance. This book explores the origin story of Raistlin, a favorite character of mine in the series. While it is one of the best written books of the franchise, most of the characters felt like caricatures. After all, the book was wedged into an established story. Still, they were given ample time to develop, but in the end, they stuck to their stereotypes, their actions—for the most part—predictable. Nonetheless, it accomplished its purpose and transported me to a land of fantasy and magic when I needed it most.
Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 5 ed. E.R. Bills
I fittingly got a signed copy of this anthology in El Paso, Texas, as a gift from my mother for publishing “The Uytoroi.” Within its pages are some phenomenal stories and a few mediocre ones. From classic names like Robert E. Howard to modern masters like Joe Lansdale to many authors I’d never heard of, I found a lot to enjoy. There were many interesting new takes on horror’s most well-known tropes, including vampires, cannibals, serial killers, and a look at what Frankenstein’s monster is up to these days. This smorgasbord covers ground as big as Texas.
Tell No Man by T.J. Tranchell
I picked this book up a while ago and never finished it. But I decided to give it another chance and boy am I glad I did. This small book accomplishes a lot: strong characters, solid construction, and a plot that takes hold of you and doesn’t let go. Its subject matter was new to me: Mormon exorcism—or “dispossession” as they call it. Catholic imagery has been so overdone in horror (to the point of being a cliché), so I found this remarkably refreshing. I interviewed Tranchell on this blog a while back. You can find the interview here.