Does this happen to anyone else- you are working on your own book and suddenly, you discover that the book you’re reading gets stuck in your brain? It changes your ideas or even your language! I don’t mean in the way a new idea can grow from others, but as an unwanted guest who won’t go away. I am so aware of how influenced I am by the things I read. My internal voice can change, my characters’ voices change, the way I see my own story can even change.
This presents a problem since I am a bookworm. And I always have to be reading something. I have discovered that some books are more invasive than others. It has little to do with the quality of the writing or even the characters or setting. Some genres just seem to be more intrusive than others. Tragedies demand an emotional commitment and linger darkly. Sagas demand attention to a multitude of characters who are all evolving. Some modern and post-modern writing can demand tremendous effort just to read. What I have found is that mysteries, detective stories, and the like, are the best because they create a world in which something happens and is solved, the end. For some reason they don’t intrude as much as more complicated or esoteric tomes. And I can reread (yes, I believe in rereading) some, like Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books, over and over and always find something new. I don’t know why but they engage in a particular way that is both fulfilling and isolated from my own work. You can get lost in a good book without finding you’ve taken the book back with you when you’re in your own book again.
It’s weird but I tend to know a writing burst is coming on when I pick up a book and realize it’s the wrong book. Then I know it’s time to reach for my shelf of mysteries. Michael Jecks writes a great series that takes place in fourteenth century Devon, England. I’ve read twenty-seven of his books. His attention to detail is fulfilling and he gets the ideas from actual trial transcripts from that era. Susanna Gregory and Candace Robb also write great medieval mysteries.
I have read that many thinkers and writers have had a penchant for reading mysteries. Even Wittgenstein liked to read detective dimies. Perhaps we all find the same satisfaction with a driving force that concludes. The book becomes something of a question with an answer and that is satisfying. We are not left to dawdle and wonder. The demands are not those of a tragedy or epic saga or modernist literature. We are taken on an adventure and given a ride home. Then we can easily find the key to open our own writing and get back to business.