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Back in the days before the internet, when there were only three channels on TV (four if you got PBS), information was derived primarily from books. They were made of paper, could be heavy, and were often awkward and inconvenient to carry. Despite this, a physical, printed book carried a certain authority.
The physical printing process was long, the editing meticulous, and production was expensive. A thick volume or multiple volumes caused a sense of awe.
I remember well a high school field trip to New York City that included a visit to the largest book store I’d ever seen, one that made our local Walden Books seem pathetic by comparison. It seemed to have miles of aisles crammed with titles that promised to reveal the wisdom of the ages. And that’s what I was after, the wisdom of the ancients, forbidden and dark, and very appealing to a student in the occult-crazy early seventies.
In that book store I found Montague Summers’ The Malleus Maleficarum and The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor Lavey. These books, among others, opened my mind to the validity of alternate philosophies and religions. They didn’t turn me into a Satanist, but they helped me to see that there were other paths to consider.
The different paths away from the mainstream, and what I found along them, were the genesis for what I write. Whether it be about an alternate dimension, a psychopath, or love in a dystopian future, it all began with expanding my world view through books.
For writers, books beget books, and the key to begetting your best work is diversity in the books that influence your storytelling. Writers get their inspiration from a variety of sources, chief among these being other writers. Having access to a rich and diverse library–either yours or the one down the street– is, in my experience, absolutely essential.
For instance some of the books on my bookself include:
- A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin: The Chilling True Story of the S-Bahn Murderer. by Scott Andrew Selby. The story of Paul Ogorzow, a psychopath preying on women while Berlin was being bombed by the Allies. Truth is often more terrifying than fiction.
- Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams. True, love stories typically aren’t my cup of tea, but Williams’ beautifully crafted prose drew me back to it again and again.
- Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar. For me, physics is a passion, and plays a key role in much of what I write. This is a fascinating book about some of the greatest minds to have ever lived.
- The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing by Gavin Edwards. Bill Murray’s lust for life is inspirational. While most of us can’t afford to be Bill Murray, a lot can be said for his ability to bring humor into almost any situation.
And I haven’t even mentioned Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, or any of the other fiction writers that have played a role in my writing. I could go on and on, but I will leave that for another post.
You can see more of my influences on the What’s On My Bookshelf page. How many of them have you read? What interests do we have in common? How has your reading influenced your writing–or desire to write?
The list is far from complete and less than authoritative, but it will be, hopefully, growing in the next few months as I have time to add to it. You might also note that although each of the books listed on the page has a link to Amazon.com, that isn’t a recommendation to buy that particular edition or format. I just linked to the edition that I have.
© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh.