On Reading

Reading is an activity that has a high priority in our house.  Before she stopped to stay at home with our kids, my wife was an elementary school teacher with a heavy emphasis on reading.  Our kids are following in our footsteps; among their favorite activities are trips to the public library and Half Price Books stores.  If Half Price Books had a frequent buyer program, we would be platinum members (unless they had a higher level).  I decided several years ago that I was going to buy hardcover copies of all the books I read if for no other reason than sometimes I was having trouble remembering if I had read a book.  I would end up checking it out a second time; by buying them, I could better keep track of what I have read (I’ve since had to create a database to keep track of them).

With a few exceptions, I read somewhere between five and eight books a month.  Because they generally take a lot longer to read and I am competitive enough (even when the only one I’m competing against is myself), it’s easy for me to pass over nonfiction books that I’m interested in reading.  So, each month, I’ve committed to reading at least one book from the nonfiction shelf.  For example, this month, I read James A. Baker III’s Work Hard, Study…and Keep Out of Politics; in February it was Bob Woodward’s Bush at War.

The rest of the books I read each month are generally mysteries or suspense or thrillers.  Even within this easier-to-read genre, there are some authors who make it easier to get through their books than others.  For instance, I thoroughly enjoy Anne Perry’s Victorian Mystery series featuring Inspector Monk.  Whether it’s the writing style or the type font, I find myself reading them more slowing than some others.

Michael Connelly, on the other hand, writes great stories that are also eminently readable, making them the prototypical page-turner.  They also apparently translate well on the big screen; The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey, is receiving pretty good reviews.

One of the many reasons I am a fan of Michael Connelly is his ability – and willingness – to write about characters other than the one that made him rich.  His flagship character is a really compelling detective named Harry Bosch and Connelly has written at least fourteen books that feature Bosch as the main character.  There are a lot of authors who would simply milk a character as popular as Bosch is for all it’s worth – and probably end up mailing the books in.*

Connelly, however, has resisted that urge, writing several books which feature other main characters.  The brilliance of what he’s done is more than simply creating a new character in a new universe.  Instead, he takes a character that played a very minor role in a previous book and makes him the main character in a later book.  In later books, he then brings two or more “main” characters together thus building a pretty complex universe.  This can make reading the books out-of-order, even when they appear to be about different characters, frustrating.  But, since I have a pretty-close-to-ironclad policy of reading books in the order in which they are written, I don’t have a problem with it.**

The Scarecrow is the latest offering from Connelly with which I’ve had the pleasure of spending a couple of days.  Like the previous twenty Connelly offerings I’ve read, I found this to be thoroughly enjoyable.  And, a nice, easy read before I take on Roy Jenkins’ Churchill: A Biography.

*This concept played a role in the pilot episode of ABC’s Castle, when the title character, best-selling author Richard Castle, kills off the character that made him rich and famous.  Stephen J. Cannell and James Patterson guest-starred as authors who regularly played poker with Castle.  They were in disbelief that Castle would kill the golden goose and take the risk of creating a new character.  Incidentally, Michael Connelly guest-starred in later episodes as part of the poker game.

**The exception is when it is very clear that the books are totally unrelated.  Dean Koontz is an author who comes to mind here; while he has a couple of series, most of his books stand on their own.  In this case, I’ll read whichever one I happen to have (if I have more than one on hand, though, I’m very likely to read the oldest first).

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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] able to find the 1st four of the Prey series and, as those of you who are paying attention know, I very rarely – if ever – read a series out-of-order. Fortunately, I did find an omnibus edition that contained the 1st three which finally allowed me to […]

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  2. […] may remember my effort to read at least one non-fiction book per month.  With Churchill taking up the better part of two months, I’ve fallen slightly behind the […]

    Reply

  3. […] enough Devil’s Brood.  As has been well-documented on this blog, I’m a huge fan of reading books in order.  This is one of the rare times, however, where I’d be OK with it if you weren’t up to […]

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