Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Pearsall's reply:
The teetering pile of books on my bedside table tells the true story—I have no coherent reading style. Anyone perusing the titles would be hard-pressed to guess a single detail about me. The books range from youth to adult fiction, non-fiction to poetry, pulp romances to literary award winners. I’m an utterly random reader (who is also married to one.)Visit Shelley Pearsall's website.
I have no excuse for my lack of focus in choosing books, except to say that I’ve always been this way. And perhaps it is the journey--the words and the variety of ideas that I love—more than the destination.
For writers, it seems that what you read is often what you write (kind of the “you are what you eat” philosophy of writing.), so it probably isn’t surprising that my own writing is just as varied. I’ve written six novels covering a wide-range of topics from the Underground Railroad in Trouble Don’t Last (Knopf, 2002)—to a reclusive artist in my newest novel for ages 10-14, The Seventh Most Important Thing (Knopf, 2015).
However, there is one common thread to at least some of my reading choices. I’m drawn to strong and memorable characters. A distinctive voice will pull me into any topic. So, with that in mind, here are a few recent reads—totally random, of course—that grabbed me with their unforgettable characters:
Guests on Earth by Lee Smith who is one is the very best at the art of creating characters. I was captivated by the voice of Evalina—a young girl who grows up in Asheville’s Highland Mental Hospital in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when Zelda Fitzgerald was a frequent patient there.
Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Hernndorf. A novel that took me on a wonderfully unpredictable, funny, and poignant ride as two German teenagers steal a car and go on a driving adventure. The teen voice in this book was spot-on and the immediacy of the writing really swept me into the story.
Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of the Largest, Most Fought Over TRex Ever Found by Steve Fiffer. Despite being non-fiction, the author made me care deeply about the paleontologists caught up in the convoluted legal battle with the U.S. government over the famous skeleton. And he even made me care about Sue, the mistreated collection of bones, herself!
There you have it…dinosaurs, mental institutions, and teenage car thieves…the booklist of a random reader.