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Monday, July 30, 2012

Reworking Genres

I was reading a contest description the other day (that of course I can’t find now) that started, “Are you writing The Next Great American Novel?” And my left eye started to twitch. I mean honestly.

But it did get me thinking. What exactly are we writing? What is the end result? I’m not talking genre...because I think those change over time, and I think that in our own bookshelves we categorize much more differently then we ever would find things in a book store. 

But...How do you want your writing to be remembered? Because when you get right down to it...that is the point.

So I spent some time looking at my bookshelves. Which are organized by the intricate workings of my brain, so of course they make perfect sense. Harry Potter is right next to Diana Gabaldon who is right above Dickinson who is right next to Rawn. All my Fantasy is organized by how well they fit on the shelf (obviously). Classics...same. Space is at a premium. But there is one shelf that is always within easy access, and always has the same books on it...no matter how many times I move.

I call it my Comfort Food Shelf.

I doubt that this was the intent of the authors of these books. Especially given that one of them is actually labeled as THE Great American Novel. But these are the books that I return to whenever I need a mental and emotional refresher.

First up is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I think I could recite this book by heart. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me have faith in the human race again every time I read it.

Next is, oddly enough, An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I think this is more of a childhood love than anything else. But I find the feminist bent in it hysterical every time I read it. She was a crafty woman that Alcott.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Can you get any more fluffy than this? Flappers and Speakeasies. Love it.

Last in this shelf is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Epic story on an epic scale with epic characters. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read it. I’ve package-taped the cover back on. Someday I’ll find a hardcover edition. Maybe.

So. I’ll be digging deeper into my bookshelves this week, see what else is on there. In the meantime, what are your Comfort Food Reads?


Sam F. said...

I also have a shelf of Comfort Food Reads, only I call it THE Shelf. They're books that I'll open up, read a random page or two, and afterwards, I'll feel better about the world. They include:

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson - Because who doesn't love pirates?

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway - It's like a party in a book. At least, until everything falls apart...(kind of like The Great Gatsby)

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez - It's colorful. It's crazy. It's palm trees and bananas and gypsies.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy - Just one of those books in which you can't stop rooting for the characters, no matter how many bad decisions they make.

And the most recent addition, Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. I just read it this summer, but it earned a spot on THE Shelf, because I just know that I'll read it again...and again...and again...

Liz said...

I don't really have a shelf like that. I have covers that I stare at, but I don't pick up the books.

mshatch said...

I have so many books that I'm actually having to weed out (with great reluctance I might add) those that I probably won't read again. A few keepers: Pratchett's Discworld series, A. Smith's The Marbury Lens, LOTR (of course!), Zelazny's Nine Prince's in Amber series, Harry Potter (another of course), J. F. Cooper's The Deerslayer, and so many more I could be here all night.

Huntress said...

My oak bookshelf holds my treasured books. From the stories of my childhood (Thunderhead, The Wolf King, and The Black Stallion), to my teen years (Lord of the Rings and Mrs. Mike), and old, old tomes (1880's medical book-good for a laugh).

On its shelves, you will find Harry Potter next to Twilight, The Dresden Files snuggling with Mercy Thompson, and Kvothe from Name of the Wind standing beside Rose of the Vampire Academy.

Valued and priceless, one and all.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Lord of the Rings always works for me. I also have Pride and Prejudice on my shelf and on my eReader.

Alicia C. said...

The only one of these I haven't read is One Hundred Years. It's def. on my list though. The List...oh the List.

I Love Tess. :)Poor doomed Tess.

Alicia C. said...

Are you saying you don't READ!? :P

Alicia C. said...

LOVE Pratchett! Did you catch the interview between him and Rothfuss on Rothfuss's blog? It was awesome!

Alicia C. said...

I love old medical books. They're so frightening. Morbid. And terrifying! Good lord! We actually DID this stuff! And thought it was helping! Yeesh...Though I suppose in another 100 years they'll be saying the same thing about us.

Alicia C. said...

Any Jane Austen book really. But P&P is my favorite.

Anthony Dutson said...

I've tried to keep my books organized by genre, but paperbacks and hardcovers tend to botch the whole scheme. That's how I have Dragonlance, Star Wars, Lisa Unger, Twilight, and Harry Potter all next to each other.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is an old favorite for me, but oddly enough, I've found myself reading and rereading The Hunger Games trilogy over the last three years.

mshatch said...

damn I missed it! Terry Pratchett rocks; Night Watch is my favorite but I haven't read them all yet.