Years ago when I first started writing fiction I read Dean Koontz’s guide How to Write Best Selling Fiction. The last chapter was titled “Read, Read, Read” and there he noted:
Regardless of the type of fiction you write (or wish to write), you should read every kind of popular fiction you can get your hands on, both mainstream and genre. The more you broaden your interests as a reader, the more you will simultaneously broaden your perspective and your talent as a writer.
After which he provided an annotated list of recommended authors.
Since then, I have sought out other lists of the 10 best books in various literary genres and have tried to add those books to my library. One genre in which I do not read frequently—Science Fiction—did provide some great reads, e.g., Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Robert Silverberg’s Downward to the Earth. So the other day I picked up an old tattered copy of Frederick Pohl’s Gateway (in my personal library) and read it with interest. I especially enjoyed his reference to a holopic of Lake Garda and Sirmione.
Several years ago I toured the Lake Region in Italy–Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Lugano, all in Lombardy, and then Lake Garda, which lies to the east and is shared by both Lombardy and the Veneto. Sirmione lies on a peninsula that justs 7 kilometers into Lake Garda. At a certain point, cars have to stop and the rest of the peninsula is accessible only on foot. At the far end, lie the ruins of a villa that belong to the Latin poet Catullus. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Well, when I went to add Gateway to my list of “books read” what do I find but that I first read it back in 1983, along with several Heinlein and Silverberg novels. So I took what Koontz had to say to heart. In June and July of that year I read the following books:
Dean R. Koontz, How to Write Best Selling Fiction
James Cain, Double Indemnity
Harry Kemelman, Friday the Rabbi Slept Late
Alistair MacLean, Where Eagles Dare
Robert B. Parker, Ceremony
Alistair MacLean, The Guns of Navarone
Helen MacInnes, Agent in Place
Jack Higgins, Solo
Eric Ambler, A Coffin for Dimitrios
Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Russell Hoban, Ridley Walker
Helen MacInnes, The Snare of the Hunter
Robert Silverberg, Downward to the Earth
Frederik Pohl, Gateway
Robert Ludlum, The Parsifal Mosaic
Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity
William Goldman, Control
Harry Kemelman, Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry
Alistair MacLean, Force 10 From Navarone
Samuel R. Delany, Babel-17
Joseph Wambaugh, The Black Marble
Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang
Alistair MacLean, Circus
Robert Ludlum, The Holcroft Covenant
Yep, there’s Pohl’s Gateway, so now I’ve read it twice, the second time just as “new” to the book as the first time. That’s discouraging in a way! I guess it means that I should find the world’s best 25 books and read them over and over for the rest of my life, each time finding them “new.”