I feel like I should begin by saying, “My name is Pauline Baird Jones and I reread books.” Why do I feel like I should be addressing a support group? Because my to-be-read pile of books is gargantuan, both in print and digital. And yet there are days, when I am overwhelmed by the need to revisit old friends.
For some years, I could only do this when I went home and had a chance to pop into my hometown library. I spent many happy hours browsing my way through the fiction shelves and I learned a lot about how to be a better writer, though I didn’t know I was learning to write at the time. Later, through the Internet (yay!) I started collecting many of my old favorites, so it wasn’t so hard to visit with them and now they hold positions of honor on my keeper shelves.
In sort of alphabetical order, I’ll take you through them, starting with Elizabeth Cadell. She wrote women’s fiction, wandering from light romance to light mystery, mixing in some semi-autobiographical along the way. She taught me about the art of gentle humor and the importance of characters, particularly secondary characters when building a fictional world. Three of my favorite secondary characters are from her quirky Brimstone in the Garden. Cousin Clarry is a classic of quirky and the two minions of the Devil? Oh my.
I know a lot of people who liked Dorothy Eden (Waiting for Willa sigh here) but I haven’t run into many people who have heard of Mary Elgin. She only wrote three books, but she did such a great job of setting a scene. When (re)reading The Man from the Mist, I have to wrap up in a blanket, no matter the season.
Another favorite I discovered watching That Darn Cat. The Gordons were a husband/wife writing team, who liked to write about the FBI. They did creepy and suspenseful really well. I also learned a lot about ramping up the suspense from Helen McInnes and Alastair Maclean. Always well worth the revisit and Ice Station Zebra is our family saying for COLD now.
You’ll hear a lot of historical authors pay homage to Georgette Heyer. Oh my, that woman could create characters! And her sense of humor and history? Reading her is like taking a writing master class. But even more than that, reading her is just plain fun. I head for her when I need to refill my word well or take a break from my real life into somewhere completely different. As you can see, she occupies two of my keeper shelves and I grabbed a bunch of her books in Kindle format when the price was dropped to reasonable for Heyer’s birthday ($7.99 for backlist? Seriously?).
Let’s see, there’s Jane Aiken Hodge and Victoria Holt on my keeper shelves, and sigh, Mary Stewart. I found Stewart watching another Disney movie, The Moonspinners (Haley Mills shout out!). Stewart taught me about the fine art of pacing—in romance and suspense. I wanted to be her until I figured out I needed to be me.
A newer entry to my keeper shelf is Linnea Sinclair. I checked her out when a reviewer did an “if you like Linnea Sinclair you’ll probably like Pauline Baird Jones” in a review. Romance and adventure wrapped in a fun, readable style? Oh yeah, keeper shelf, make room.
I read about Jasper Fforde somewhere and dithered for a bit before trying his first then sat there blinking and wondering who to tell. Someone called them “silly books for smart people.” I don’t know about that. I just know you either like his books or you don’t. I like.
Yeah, there’s JRR Tolkein and Harry Potter. I’m losing my alphabeticalness now, but I must mention Mary Roberts Reinhart, Manning Coles and Anne of Green Gables.
And in the last, but not least category, there is DE Stevenson. I enjoyed all her books (though I have not collected them all, she had a HUGE backlist), but favorite—hands down—are the Miss Buncle books. There are only two, but they are delightful and about an author. How fun is that?
When I pay my books a re-visit, it satisfies something inside me, like sitting down with my mom or my sister. But it also reminds me why I became a writer. I love going into their worlds and spending time with their characters. I don’t remember the moment I thought, “I want to do that.” I just know I did and I do. J
So, do you reread? Is there a book that tipped you into wanting to be a writer? When did you know you wanted to be a reader? What’s on your keeper shelf?
To find more about the books that came from all that reading, visit www.paulinebjones.com
I am a Rereader