Readers on Reading – Jill from Florida

Jill is a friend of mine. She’s a delightful woman who always has a smile on her face and is always ready to lend a hand. And she runs an excellent monthly book club discussion. 

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a 65 year old grandmother, very engaged in community service. I read 3-4 books at a time, switching between them like programs on a tv. I read a little of everything, fiction and non-fiction. I also moderate a book club in my neighborhood, with 8-40 attendees. We read a broad range of genres.

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? Fiction inspires and informs us.  Fiction writers do extensive research for us, and then entertain us with a story woven around the events of the time, whether the events are real or fantasy.  Fiction gives us a way to escape, to learn and to dream.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I could never limit my reading to one genre.  I need to move between historical fiction, classics, thrillers, murder mysteries, sci fi, fantasy and various non-fiction.  I don’t really ‘steer clear’ of anything, although I sometimes find it difficult to suspend my sense of reality long enough to truly enjoy science fiction or fantasy novels for very long.  Occasionally, I object to reading too many stories of women dealing  with regimes like the Taliban or Saudi Arabia or too many WW2-based stories in a row.  I love to read stories with clever plots, complex characters, and interesting themes.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’? Details!  The devil is, I’m sure, in the details for an author. But for a reader, details pull our minds into the story.  What did the characters find on their dinner plates? What were they wearing? What was the room like that they were in?  What smells came wafting in the window? What were the background noises, the music?  How did the light hit the scene around the characters?  How were they reacting to all those stimulants?

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? Hillbilly Elegy [J.D.Vance]—it says so much about our current culture and societal problems.  The Accidental President [A.J. Baime]—I’m from Missouri and enjoyed reading about Truman, our Missouri president.  The Girls of Atomic City [Denise Kiernan]—I had no idea that the production of the hydrogen bomb was so big an undertaking and that an entire city was built up to support the research and production—and that it was a huge secret!  I also enjoy the writings of a Haines, Alaska writer, Heather Lende. She’s an obituary writer for the Haines and Anchorage newspapers and has published 4 or 5 books now. She has made me eager to spend a month or three in Alaska.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I am a big fan of several book critics and reviewers.  Elaine Newton and Jean Lewis give me a long list of books to look forward to each season! I also read the NYT book review section every weekend and check in with Book Bub and Goodreads online.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? I have lived, most of my adult life, in big cities, and have lived among many people from other cultures. I enjoy books that let me explore those cultures more and  live vicariously with families all over the world, or who have come to the US from all over the world.  I’m intrigued with the experience of immigrants and refugees.

Is there anything else about reading fiction, the kind of books available today, or the way reading is changing that you’d like to comment on? I embrace technology and read most of my books on my Kindle. I love being able to carry my entire library in my handbag. I love being able to travel with stacks of books to read at the tips of my fingers.  I also love being able to find out about new books online.  I rarely hold a  physical book in my hands and find it awkward now.  Travel guidebooks, cookbooks and picture books are really all I have on my bookshelves now. I remember taking a book 20 feet up an apple tree, so that I could rest on a limb, against the trunk of the tree, munching apples and reading up in the leaves. When I was a child, my fondest dream was to live in a library.  I have been known to read all night long, only putting my book down as the sun began to light the sky.   Oddly, I didn’t read To Kill A Mockingbird until just a few years ago, and it might be one of my all time favorite stories now.

Many thanks for your insights, Jill. 3-4 books on the go at one time is too much for my brain!! Looking forward to our April book club discussion of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers have their say …

Two readers, Bonnie and Carol, share their perspectives on reading. Bonnie has worked in eight states and two foreign countries and from data entry to retail management. She’s 78, lives in the US and reads mostly mysteries.  Carol is 49 years old and has a PhD in genetics, She also lives in the US and tries “to always have reading material with me in case I’m stuck in a line.”

What is the power of fiction? Bonnie says “one good aspect is expanded vocabulary” while Carol says “fiction takes you to a different time and/or place real or imaginary.”

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of?  Bonnie prefers “a good police procedural, legal or political mystery.” She doesn’t care for “dystopian, paranormal or sci-fi.” In contrast, Carol like stories that “take place in the Middle Ages, ones that integrate the King Arthur legend” and also Scandinavian noir. She doesn’t like those set in the old West or traditional mysteries.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’.  Bonnie says she’s “too busy getting to the next page” to have thought about this.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? The Burning by Shannon Esposito stood out for Bonnie. She was “totally immersed in this book!!” Carol lists two novels: “I recently finished Beartown by Fredrik Bachman. The storytelling and characters were so wonderful. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I loved the personal growth of the main character.”

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? Bonnie chooses based on “favorite authors or a fascinating storyline“. Carol is similar: “I usually buy books from authors I’ve read before. I can also be suckered in by the blurb on the back of the book.”

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? Bonnie’s reading is influenced by a father involved in politics, the jobs she had at two attorney’s offices, and by being married to a cop. Carol loves Scandinavia which draws her to Scandinavian noir.

Thanks to Bonnie and Carol for sharing their thoughts. I now have more books to add to my TBR pile.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – OR READING IN GENERAL –  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers tell us why they read historical fiction

As of today, 1944 people have taken the 2015 reader survey and 104 took the time to comment on why they read historical fiction. A sampling of responses:

Man Reading - John Singer Sargent
Man Reading – John Singer Sargent

 

The “educational” part is important to me and I tend to pick authors for whom historical accuracy is important.

 

There is nothing like being transported to another time and place and getting to live a different life you could never live in reality.

 

Of course I am fascinated with history but I think historical fiction is particularly good at showing the universality of certain feelings and thoughts–of getting at the great truths that transcend time. I also think the distance of history often allows readers a “safe” space to ponder events and issues in their own lives that might present as too painful in a closer/more contemporary setting.

 

Woman Reading - Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Woman Reading – Pierre-Auguste Renoir

My favorite thing about reading historical fiction is finding out about the every day lives of people in the past.

 

I like immersive fiction and good histfic is notably immersive!

 

To better understand how we got to where we are now as well.

 

To explore what the author sees as timeless human qualities.

 

My historical fiction reading motivates me to do further reading on time periods and people. It doesn’t stop with the novel in question. The novel is merely the beginning.

 

Sounds daft I know, but it makes history live again

 

Just a few responses, later I will categorize and see if any themes emerge.

FOR MORE ON INSIDE HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.