Thursday, July 17, 2008


Novice writers are told at conferences, “you have to have a hook, and you have to hook your reader from the very first page.” That’s great advice, but hard to do every time. Yet, for readers to get interested in a book, when there is so much entertainment competition, the advice is sound.

When I was younger (much younger) there were fewer ways to waste spare time; still, good books tend to make lifelong readers. As a reader (rather than a video vegetable) I have been thinking about the books that got me hooked on reading, and that goes way back.

Mama was a reader, and she made great recommendations to me, even as a child. In addition to series books such as “Donna Parker” and “The Bobbsey Twins” I read all of the books in elementary school library which had anything to do with space. That included a few nonfiction offerings about the space program along with such titles as The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree. Later, Mama bought a few classics for young adults, such as Big Red and Heidi, and I insisted that we add a few space orientated titles such as Mike Mars Flies the X-15. For my teen years, entertainment often came via weekly trips to the public library, where I checked out romantic suspense yarns by Phyllis A. Whitney and Mary Stewart.

My interest in science fiction continued, and it was Mama who recommended Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise series, along with Sangster’s Katy Touchfeather books. While these “spy stories” were not hard science fiction, I suppose they were forerunners of technothrillers, and I loved them. Our local librarian would order up special requests, and she saw that I got to read Planet of the Apes, which was the most memorable science fiction yarn I read as a teen. During my early adult years I read Heinlein, and I count Friday as one of my favorite reads of all time. Other faves by the grand master include The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, and I Will Fear No Evil. My SF reads in that timeframe included some Arthur C. Clarke and Ben Bova, but Heinlein remains my favorite classic SF writer.

Years later, after children, I realized how much I missed reading technothrillers and science fiction, so I quit reading the bestseller list and began seeking out space opera. David Weber, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Elizabeth Moon became my favorite authors, and the only problem was that they couldn’t write fast enough. Since I like a bit of romance in my fiction, I added Susan Grant, Catherine Asaro, and Anne McCaffrey to my favorite author list.

Reading is like other addictions, but a positive one. Readers acquire a larger vocabulary, have a greater ability to concentrate, and have the most of the tools to be better communicators. I read, therefore I think, therefore I can write and speak articulately.

Mama, thanks for hooking me on a good habit.

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