There are a lot of quotes I could throw at you about what it means to read a good book. Some vague reflections on being lost in other worlds, finding yourself through character flaws, reading slowly so you don’t get to the end, etc. But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to do that because either you love to read or you don’t. I don’t care if it’s vampire novels, Shakespeare, or softcore mom porn. If 50 Shades Of Gray gets you reading, you’re a reader.
I am a reader. I always have been and I always will be. In the second grade, I read the entire year’s book list in one week. In eighth grade, I read The Giver in one night instead of one month. I can’t help it. I devour a good book like a good piece of cake. It’s irresistible.
What I forget is that behind every good book is a failure. A person who tried to be a writer for a very long time, surviving thousands of discarded rough drafts, hurtful rejections, and inevitable swings of depression. A person who had to bus tables, sweep floors, and answer their in-law’s questions about getting a “real job.” The difference is that they didn’t give up. These authors kept trying despite themselves, and the brilliance is that it looks effortless. They know how to make big statements using small sentences. They know how to take a great story and slow it down. They know how to move you when you least suspect it.
Here are my Top Ten favorite modern authors who have inspired me. Each one has shown me the power of a well constructed sentence and the importance of truth in writing. They have shown me you will never be lonely with someone else’s story.
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”
“Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future. The ruin you’ve made.”
“God doesn’t need to punish us. He just grants us a long enough life to punish ourselves.”
“The truth needs so little rehearsal.”
“Here we are – despite the delays, the confusion, and the shadows en route – at last, or for the moment, where we always intended to be.”
“Time plays like an accordion in the way it can stretch out and compress itself in a thousand melodic ways. Months on end may pass blindingly in a quick series of chords, open-shut, together-apart; and then a single melancholy week may seem like a year’s pining, one long unfolding note.”
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
“Accept what people offer. Drink their milkshakes. Take their love.”
“I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.”
“Fear is often disguised as moral outrage.”
“Like my mother said, you can’t go back to holding hands.”
“Nobody’s perfect. We’re all just one step up from the beasts and one step down from the angels.”
“I wanted to let the world know that no one had a perfect life, that even the people who seemed to have it all had their secrets.”
“Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.”
“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
“I was standing in the schoolyard waiting for a child when another mother came up to me. Have you found work yet? she asked. Or are you still just writing?”
“I expect that any day now, I will have said all I have to say; I’ll have used up all my characters, and then I’ll be free to get on with my real life.”
“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.”
“Librarians, Dusty, possess a vast store of politeness. These are people who get asked regularly the dumbest questions on God’s green earth. These people tolerate every kind of crank and eccentric and mouth breather there is.”
Who are YOUR favorite inspiring authors?
Thanks to reader Elizabeth Rossi for the Top Ten suggestion.