I don’t like to read fiction while I’m writing it – I find myself unconsciously aping my favorite writers. (I can flip through my first book and say That’s a James Ellroy sentence, or That’s a Travis McGee-style minor character.) I need to be reading at all times, so the solution is to load up on nonfiction for the six or eight months it takes to write a Conway Sax first draft.
I bulled through the local Borders* yesterday and came out with the following trade paper:
- A Terrible Glory, James Donovan. This one, which like most nonfiction has an overlong subtitle, is a bio of George Custer and a history of Little Bighorn.
- What Hath God Wrought, Daniel Walker Howe. This U.S. history covers 1815-1848. Having read plenty of Revolutionary and Civil War histories and biographies, I now find myself filling in gaps with books on the Industrial Revolution and Reconstruction.
- Memoirs of the Second World War, Winston Churchill. I’m a big Churchill fan – William Manchester’s (sadly unfinished) bio of the titan is one of my favorite books – but I’ll admit to being put off by his imperious prose. Time to get past that!
This lot, combined with the John Quincy Adams bio that gathered dust on the TBR stack all summer while I gorged on McGees, ought to carry me through. And then some.
* ‘Twas a pleasure to buy physical books for a change. I love my Kindle, but I’ve decided it works best for novels. Hefty nonfiction, with its maps and footnotes, is best read in hardcopy.