Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities. She’d love to connect with readers on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Every so often I run into someone who says, “You know, I really don’t read.” To me, that’s like saying, “I don’t like cheese” or “I don’t think baby bunnies are cute.” I know that people who don’t read or eat cheese or like baby bunnies do exist, but I’m not sure I will ever fully understand them.
I have to read. I was the kind of kid who read street signs and cereal boxes aloud. The type who kept a flashlight hidden next to the bed so I could read under the covers. Who hid behind the couch with books when I was supposed to be playing outside. I still can’t be without a book——no, books. I have to have a bunch of books around, because I never know what I will want to read.
Though I write light mysteries, I read widely (and voraciously——at least a book a week). On my shelves, next to my bed, and in stacks on the floor, are mysteries, literary fiction (including the classics), commercial fiction, poetry, and a teeny bit of nonfiction (I leave most of the nonfiction reading to my husband, but I do ask him for book reports). As you might imagine, I found it really tough to choose just a few books for this post. I’ve been thinking about it for almost a month now, and finally decided on these current favorites:
Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series: These LA-based mysteries make me laugh out loud. They’re hard-boiled, but have a sunny heart, which is sort of strange since Junior is a crook. He’s not a bad man–he loves his daughter and books and even the art he steals–but he’s the sort of guy who has to live in a variety of dumpy motels because someone is always looking for him. Hallinan’s dialogue is brilliant–it’s as if your favorite tough guy detective suddenly became very, very funny.
Tana French’s mysteries: To me, Tana French’s books are the perfect blend of mystery and literary fiction. Yes, there are murders and cops and suspects, but oh, they are detailed with such loving care, and the settings——both the beautiful and the gritty——are rendered so real, and the characters make you care about them even when they are wretched people. And somehow, French manages to include all these nuances and layers while crafting a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I am agog.
Brian Doyle’s essays and poetry: In the Doyle book I’m currently reading, Children & Other Wild Animals, there is an essay called “The Creature Beyond the Mountains” which will make you fall in love with sturgeons. Seriously, I’d bet money that after reading that piece, if you are anywhere near the Columbia River, you will take a detour to the Sturgeon Viewing and Interpretive Center at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery to see Herman, the 600-pound sturgeon, who is incredibly old and ugly and awesome. Doyle’s Dylan Thomas-like prose conveys that awesomeness along with a sense of absolute delight. Whenever I want to look at the world in a more openhearted light, I pick up one of Doyle’s books.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: Of course you know the story. You may even be sick of it, since it gets trotted out every holiday season. But when was the last time you read it? My next book is a takeoff on Oliver Twist, so I’ve been on a Dickens reading binge, and let me tell you, I would have been one of those people waiting by the dock for the next installment of his serial stories. A Christmas Carol is funny and scary and a bit over the top, but what’s not to love about that? It’s also filled with wonderful language, like “solitary as an oyster,” and all the Christmas cheer (and food) Dickens could stuff inside one slim book. It’s a short book. Read it. Even better, read it aloud. Dickens was an actor, and his language just begs to be spoken. And if you want to hear the text done true justice, listen to this snippet of the opening, as read by the fabulous Sir Patrick Stewart.
Do you have seasonal favorites you trundle out for a jolly re-read every year? Any series have you hooked?