It's Get Caught Reading Month! The Association of American Publishers claims that the observance is celebrated by booksellers, teachers, librarians and celebrities, but I think anyone can get caught reading. Even my dog Gracie.
I figured a good place to do this would be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, a local gathering I've attended several times. After leaving Gracie at home with a stack of good books, off I went.
The Crime of Writing
In the Dashiell Hammett Pavilion — like all of the tents, it's named after a Maryland-based writer — I listened to a panel of crime writers, one a retired cop and another a retired firefighter (David Swinson and Mark Hannon, respectively). I learned about their transition from real jobs into writing jobs, and hearing them talk about investigating the drug scene to inform their novels thrilled my "Breaking Bad" obsession to no end. But I'll be honest. I was really staking out the tent because I knew Baltimore native Laura Lippman was up next. I've heard Laura speak before, and I was looking forward to more of her candor about the writing process.
"Writers are arrogant," she said to the standing-room only crowd in the tent. "We act as if there aren't already enough books out there, as if we actually have something original to say."
All we have to offer, she confessed, was our own perspective. Something unique that only you can bring to a story, no matter how many times it's already been told. That's why she keeps writing.
I've Been Caught
One thing I heard overwhelmingly from authors at the book festival was that you can't be taught how to write. You learn it from constantly reading. "I've only met one aspiring writer who said they didn't like to read," one author and writing coach said.
I've been trying to get back on the reading train myself. Some books I've enjoyed (or am still in the process of enjoying) recently include:
- "All the Light We Cannot See," Anthony Doerr
- "Finders Keepers," Stephen King (still in progress but looking good so far)
- "Gone Girl," Gillian Flynn
- "The Devil in the White City," Erik Larson
- "The Life-Writer," David Constantine (also still in progress)
- "The Underground Railroad," Colson Whitehead
"All the Light We Cannot See" uses the backdrop of World War II — nothing new there. And yet, the way author Anthony Doerr did it captivated my heart and imagination in ways that a book hasn't done in a long time. I loved how he wound together the characters and plot, but I think what really drew me in was Doerr's clever use of time sequencing. By giving an early glimpse of the terrors that were to come upon the French port city of Saint-Malo, he held my attention and curiosity even during long descriptive paragraphs that I normally might gloss over. He took a story that's been told many times and gave it a unique twist that only he could provide, based on his observations of Saint-Malo. And he caught me.
Have you been Caught Reading this month? Comment below with your book recommendations for me! Audiobooks particularly welcomed by my multitasking brain.