I have one bookshelf ( well, maybe two) of books I’ve bought over the years and haven’t gotten around to reading. I will, someday. Edith Wharton, Eudora Welty, Jane Smiley and CC Humphrey wait side by side, below Isabel Allende and Arturo Perez Reverte. I’ve read their books, and love them, but I always have library books waiting while I drift off to read an old favorite. I wait anxiously for the next Patricia Finney episode, the next Jo Nesbo. I’m reading Deborah Crombie’s No Mark Upon Her right now. She’s one of my favorite mystery writers, an American who can take you to England in her books. Though Elizabeth George is more popular, I like Crombie’s writing much better. Her characters are more three dimensional, more interesting. Plus, takes you with her to see different societies and locations. If you haven’t read her, and like a good murder mystery, start with her first, A Share of Death, and watch her characters grow through the following books.
Right now I’m reading, as a writer, Dorothy Dunnett’s Niccolo series. I finished Race of Scorpions, third in the series, and will start the next one, Scales of Gold. I learn a lot about place and character from her writing. She’s subtle showing the growth of characters, making you furious at them, then loving them, then wondering what they’re up to. The 15th Century setting, the broad brush stroke, the small delicate lines, the subtle introductions to yet another facet of a character… I learn from her. Many people don’t care for her style, her books are so long and so loaded that they call for dedicated attention. But I have never found another author who was so wonderful at putting me in a time and a place. And teaching me, at the same time, to read with patience.