By Ellie Maas Davis
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” –Stephen King
I like to say books are for writing, not reading, but that’s a half-truth. The key to good writing is good reading. In fact, one of my favorite questions to ask and be asked is: What book is on your nightstand? I also like: What are your favorite books of all time? Who’s your favorite author? If you could have drinks with any author, living or dead, who would it be? For me, the list is constantly changing. What I read in my twenties (I was a huge fan of the Beatniks, especially William S. Burroughs) is vastly different to what I gravitated towards in my thirties (I’ve an ongoing addiction to memoirs). Now that I’m beginning to feel my way around forty-something I’m drawn to the classics.
I love to write, but I find it impossible to exist without something to read. I also make it a point not to trust any writer who admits they don’t read. If you write, you should be an avid reader. Not only for the escape and the treasure, it helps prove none of us exists in a vacuum. Presently, I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (Knopf). I borrowed it from a colleague. It’s an actual book, which is novel (pun intended). Don’t get me wrong, my house is filled with platforms, so while I prefer the Kindle over an iPad for reading—we’ve recently added a Kindle Fire over the holidays—a nice hardcover edition is still welcome.
This past year was an excellent reading year for me. My top reads for 2011 (and so we’re clear: these books weren’t necessarily released in 2011) were Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), but then there was also J. M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year (Canongate Books), and Paul Farmer’s Haiti After the Earthquake (PublicAffairs). It was also an exquisite year to write. I’m especially keen on Shooter: A Woman’s Journey in Combat from Behind the Camera, a book I coauthored with Stacy Pearsall. It’s coming out under Globe Pequot Press’s Lyons Press imprint in October.
I’m presently in between writing projects, but what I’m looking forward to reading in 2012: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (Bantam Classics), Taylor Polites’ The Rebel Wife (Simon & Schuster), and Paul Bowles’ Travels: Collected Writings, 1950–1993 (HarperCollins). If I am what I read, I’m on definitely on the write path.
Ellie Maas Davis
January’s Tip: If you’re ever at a loss for what to read: check out www.bookmavenmedia.com. I chatted with Bethanne Kelly Patrick at SIBA this year. She’s behind FridayReads.com. Because of her, to date, 10,000 people share with the world what they’re reading, and her “Best Read List” provides a weekly real-world snapshot of which books people are enjoying most.
Original version of this article published at Pressque.com.
Educated at Southern Methodist University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, Ellie Maas Davis has written extensively on the environment and issues of human rights. She is the owner of Pressque, a publishing consultation firm located in downtown Charleston that offers editing, ghostwriting, and marketing services to authors and publishers.
She is a founding board member of the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts, a former curator and host of Charleston’s longest running weekly literary series, Monday Night Blues, and serves as a mentor to senior writing students at Charleston County School of the Arts. Published in a number of anthologies and journals, she is the author of The Humours of Folly, See Charleston in a Day, 100, over a dozen ghostwritten works of fiction and nonfiction, and often reviews books for The Post and Courier. When she’s not living somewhere else, she makes her home on Daniel Island with her family.
*Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.