I have always wondered how much I am missing, as a writer, by not reading all of those book heralded as “The 100 books you need to read before you die.” It was my choice not to read them, most likely because the subject matter did not appeal to me or even the book cover was completely uninspiring (yes, people do judge books by their covers). Never in my life have a wanted to write, write with purpose and complete abandonment but find myself in a awkward position: I don’t know what to write about. Sometimes I feel too young, anything that has happened in my life is trivial or has already been published (the need to be unique is overwhelming). I start with writing prompts, writing flash fiction, anything to find some small spark that will create the premise of my future novel. I have read all the “how to write a novel” books as well as taken classes on refining technique but there is still something very important missing from my writing. Influences. What I read now is chewing gum for the mind, fluff, something to occupy the time.
I recently came across a book I hadn’t read for years, The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood. This was a book I could not put down, it raised questions, silence, outrage – all these feeling spilling forth page after page. How could I have forgotten this book? Perhaps, for the first time, I can relate to it and it wasn’t something I was forced to read. I had freedom this time around, a freedom Offred never had. So to strengthen my writing, I am taking a break from how to write a novel in 30 days and flash fiction contests. I am going to read the books that changed the world, with a small hope that maybe I will one day be able to achieve the same feat.
I will be writing book reviews for each, completely honest, and I will re-read something I have already read. The list I am going by is created by The Radcliffe Publishing Course from Modern Library. It is a list of the century’s top 100 novels (complied in 1998).
First up is the Great Gatsby, a book I have already read three times (and seen both movie adaptations). I look forward to sharing my thoughts.