Quotes on Reading by Famous Authors

Writers are some of the most voracious readers in the world. That is because to love writing, you must first love to read. (I am sure someone else has said something similar. If not, feel free to quote me on that when I am a famous writer a.k.a. dead.) Writers also have a lot to say, so there is great deal of quotes from writers on reading. The following quotes are my favorites. (Too bad. If you were writing this, you could add your favorites, but you are not, so you are stuck with mine.) I have added why they are my favorites and what I think of them as well. Yes, it is my sole aim to bore you to death. If you have not been bored to death, feel free to leave what you think of these quotes in the comments section.

"Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world." ~ Voltaire

I love this quote because I love to read and I love to dance. Of course, I only do the latter when no one is around. Believe me; it is best if the world is not subjected to what I think of as dancing. As for the second part of Voltaire's quote, I have to agree with him. Barring any future calamity that somehow causes reading and dancing to be world-altering events, both are pretty harmless in the great scheme of things.

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."
~ Mark Twain

This is probably the wisest quote you will see in this article. It goes without saying that one who does not use an ability is on equal footing with those who do not possess the ability. Either could better themselves by using or developing the ability, so they are of equal potential as well.

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." ~ Harper Lee

I have to admit that what I love most about this quote is that it comes from Harper Lee. I love that woman. The quote itself is something to which I cannot relate. I love to read, whether I feel I may lose "it" or not. I do relate to the idea that reading and breathing are equally essential. I cannot imagine a life without either.

"There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book; books are well written or badly written." ~ Oscar Wilde

I love this quote because it reminds me that some people really love to blame books for immoral things. The same is true for any work of art. However, the art itself is not immoral. Immorality only exists in humans and only for those who subscribe to the idea that there is such a thing as "morals."

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." ~ Ray Bradbury

Oh, Ray Bradbury. He is the Elvis of my bookshelf. Anyway, back on topic. This is absolutely right. Convince the masses that they do not have to read or that they should not read and you have lost all things written by and for those of that culture. Slowly, but surely, that culture will die. However, that is only true of cultures that rely on the written word. Some have flourished through oral histories.

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." ~ Stephen King

Stephen King has said a lot about writing, this being the quote that hit home the most for me. I truly do not think a person can or should write if they do not bother to read. Of course, I think the quote would be more fitting if it was, "If you don't have the time to read, please do not bother to write."

"We read to know we are not alone." ~ C.S. Lewis

While I do not agree with all of Mr. Lewis' quotes on reading, I do agree with this one. I am sure that every avid reader who stumbles on this article will be able to recall a time of loneliness when they turned to a book for company. Consciously or subconsciously, we seek friends and enemies in literature.

"How well he's read, to reason against reading." ~ William Shakespeare

Oh, Shakespeare. Thou art a master of sarcasm. That is why I love this quote. I love sarcasm.

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." Nathaniel Hawthorne

I have read some books that are damn easy to read and I appreciate the fact that they must have been difficult to right. The reason that I can appreciate that is, in my opinion, I have never been able to accomplish easy reading in all my years of writing.

"The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read."
~ Oscar Wilde

What an astute observation, Mr. Wilde. While this quote does not hold true for all, it does hold true for many. Too often, I have met people who read the veriest slop from the keyboards of journalist and argue until their face turns blue. All the while, these people do not bother with literature, including history book, books on society, etc. Such people are doomed to be spouters of propaganda. I love this quote because I have to deal with such people everyday.

"A book must be an ice axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul."
~ Franz Kafka

I think I just like this quote because it is beautiful in Kafka's depressing way. I think what he is trying to say here is that a book must touch us, else it is unworthy and easily forgotten.

Well, that is it for great quotes from great writers for now. Perhaps I will add to this list further down the line with a part two. If you know of any great quotes on reading from great writers, please feel free to add them in the comments section.

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: Book Six of the 39 Clues Series: In Too Deep by Jude Watson

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The 39 Clues is a children's book series that is written by various authors. The plot of this series surround two children, Dan and Amy Cahill, who have been enlisted by their grandmother to hunt for 39 clues left behind by their ancestors. There are a few problems, though. Their trip is part of their grandmother's will, so no help there. Their parents are dead, so no help there, either. Oh, and the rest of their extended family is also on the hunt for the clues. They are rich and ruthless and do not want Amy and Dan Cahill to find the clues, which are hidden around the world. Just another problem in the life of Amy and Dan Cahill, but they do not let it bother them. Their parents and grandmother wanted them to find the 39clues. There is also the added bonus that whoever has the 39 clues will be the most powerful person in the world.

Book Six of the 39 Clues series is titled In Too Deep and it was authored by Jude Watson. In this book, Amy and Dan find themselves headed to Australia and then Indonesia on the trail of Amelia Earhart and some crazy 1800's scientist. This is not a problem for Amy and Dan. They are used to looking for clues from people who are dead.

The thing about Book Six: In Too Deep of the 39 Clues series is that it does not differ much from the rest. You would never be able to tell any of these books are written by different authors. They all feature Sherlock Holmesesque situations where very far-fetched assumptions are made between vague clues and they assumptions are always correct. Amy and Dan are chased by their family members, helped by at least one, almost killed by at least one, as well. They find some weird connection to their parents in a far off land. They fight. They make-up and remain ahead of the game in the hunt for the 39 clues. It is really all very convenient and repetitive, despite the change in location in every book.

Do not get me wrong, In Too Deep and the rest of the 39 Clues books are not all that bad. They are meant for children and children have been devouring them. However, they do seem to be a testament to just how gullible our children are when it comes to action packed adventures. Just about any explanation for the seemingly impossible will do and these authors, including Jude Watson, know it.

Shelly Barclay

Grandma's Books

My two or three faithful Cracked Spines readers may have noticed that I have not been posting much this week. Sadly, that is because my maternal grandmother died of brain cancer just a few days ago. I was sitting here trying to concentrate on work and get a book article up for you all. However, I have only one thing on my mind–grandma. So, I think I will write about my grandmother's books. Perhaps it will lead you all to think about your grandmothers and the books they may have had.

The first thing I should mention is that my grandmother and I did not have the same taste in books, for the most part. We are both huge readers, but my tastes run more to sci-fi, horror and non-fiction. She was a romance kind of lady, so our literary paths split a long time ago. However, we did share one passion and that is classical literature. Most of my favorite books come from her or her husband, my grandfather by marriage and the only grandfather I ever knew.

When I was young, I was doing my own thing book-wise. I paid little attention to the sagging bookshelves that existed in nearly every room of my grandparents' six-bedroom house. I would go there, get my obligatory stash of candy, goof off with grandpa and then go home. When I got older, I started paying more attention to those books. I realized that there were hundreds of hidden gems in that house. It was then that my grandparents, particularly my grandmother, started giving me books instead of candy. Somehow, I managed to finagle whole sets of classic literature. The works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and Shakespeare now grace my shelves. I would go on to brag about my first editions, but I want you to keep reading.

These books represent the bond I had with my grandmother. In many ways, we were two very different people. What we had in common could not fill one book, but we had plenty to talk about. (My grandmother always had plenty to talk about.)

Two years ago, as of yesterday, my grandmother's and my whole family's lives changed forever. My grandfather died of cancer. Not long after, my grandmother was moved to an assisted living facility because their bookshelf-ridden house was too big for her. I suspect it was too sad for her as well. Her children and grandchildren were left to rummage through the house and take what was sentimental to us. For me, it was the books. I salvaged every one that I could. I wound up with Jack London, Louisa May Alcott and Joseph Conrad, to name a scant few. Sadly, hundreds, possibly even thousands of books were left behind. None of us could fit so many. To be honest, there were more romance novels and the westerns my grandpa loved than I could handle.

Today, I wish I had taken at least one romance novel. Looking at my bookshelf, I can see my grandparents on every shelf, but I do not see one of those books that were so often sitting open on her dining room table, cracked spine pointing up at the ceiling. Today, I would give anything to be able to take one of those silly damn books and read it so we would have something to talk about, anything to talk about, really.

Shelly Barclay

Most Memorable Stephen King Characters

Before I even start this, I have to mention that I know I missed some great characters. How could I not? Stephen King has written many badass books that contained more memorable characters than I could shake a stick at. So go ahead and rail against my ineptitude, but remember they're all great, so . . .

Roland Deschain

Roland Deschain is at the top of my list of memorable Stephen King characters because he is the Stephen King character. He is a gunslinger who dominates Stephen King's seven-novel Dark Tower series. The man is cooler than Clint Eastwood and slicker than Jet Li. He is also the baddest protagonist ever. His homeland is ruined. Every one he loves is dead. He spends his days hunting a damn powerful wizard through different planes of existence where some of the gnarliest creatures and people you can imagine dwell (yeah, lobstrosities). He has knowledge that not only our plane of existence but all others are in danger against an even greater evil than the wizard he hunts, yet he travels on, picking up a paraplegic, a boy, a drug addict and a doggish thing to help him along the way.

Detta Walker

Detta Walker is one of three personalities that live inside the woman who accompanies Roland. She is also the paraplegic mentioned above. What makes Detta Walker so memorable (more memorable than the two other women who share her body) is that she is straight up gangsta. She comes from the New York of the 1960's and is vehemently racist against whites. Therefore, when Roland takes her out of her time and place, she's a little hesitant to take orders from a honky. She gives Roland more than a heap of trouble in her effort to assert herself, an effort that makes her character unforgettable. She's more volatile than dynamite. I have to admit, I admire the hell out of her, even if she clings a bit to color.

Randall Flagg/Walter o'Dim/Legion/Andre Linoge/Leland Gaunt/It

Randall Flagg, and all of his other incarnations, is the oil to Roland Deschain's water. He is obviously Stephen King's favorite antagonist, appearing in the Dark Tower series, The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon (seriously under-rated and one of my favorites). At least, these are the novels where he is directly mentioned. However, there are several instances in which he calls himself Legion and is identified with Legion. Therefore, mentions of Legion in It (small mention), Storm of the Century (screenplay), Needful Things and possibly more may actually be the same bad guy. I admit, there is no direct mention of Legion in Needful Things, but the narrative points in that direction.

Some of the above connections to Randall Flagg are ones that I have made independently, but there were hints and all Stephen King books connect. However, for the sake of this post, I will stick to the definitive manifestations of Flagg and describe him from there. He is memorable because he is hell bent on destruction. It doesn't matter if it is a person, a town, a dimension or all of reality. He just wants to f*ck with stuff and he does it with such finesse. He loves being evil. He has not a glimmer of remorse, love or any other soft feeling. He just wanders around looking for a reality where there is something weak to take advantage of. Man is he good at being bad.

Carrie White

Oh, Carrie White. Who can forget that angsty, abused, ridiculed and victimized girl from Stephen King's Carrie? Even if you don't read, you have surely seen the movie, if only for the shower scene at the beginning. Anyway, what makes Carrie memorable is not so much who she is (there are plenty of poor abused souls in Stephen King's works); it is what she does. After years of suffering, Carrie realizes that she can do things with her mind. She does a few things that bring our attention to this, but then she starts to become accepted. She might be on the road to being happy. Haha, no such luck. As it turns out, the popular kids were tricking her. After getting soaked with pig's blood at prom, she takes revenge by burning the school gym down with everyone in it. She then goes on a killing/burning rampage through town before stopping her own heart. Unforgettable.

Dolores Claiborne

We'll keep this one short and sweet. Dolores Claiborne was the tough cookie protagonist of the novel Dolores Claiborne. She put up with another character coming up on our list (you'll know what is memorable about that in a minute) and she killed her husband after finding out that he raped their daughter. She was a simple, hard-working, gruff, but loving mother. Who can forget that kind of average awesomeness?

Vera Donavan

Vera is the woman who convinces Dolores to kill her husband, very subtly, after strongly hinting that she had done the same. In the end, it seems that Vera and Dolores love each other, but boy is Vera a thorn in Dolores' side. It starts with petty nitpicking, but the older and more senile Vera gets, the more she antagonizes Dolores. Stephen King gives you the idea that Vera is not really senile, but enjoys tormenting others. To be honest, the thing that makes her most memorable is her petty abuse of Dolores. In her old age, Vera needs Dolores to clean her sheets and change her bedpans. She does everything in her power to make it a living hell for Dolores, controlling her bowel movements in an evil way. She also leaves Dolores a fortune when she dies. Talk about eccentric.

Annie Wilkes

Oh, Annie Wilkes, that nutty murderess. Annie Wilkes may be one of the most memorable Stephen King characters because of the film based on Misery. It doesn't matter, though. Whether on film or paper, she is unforgettable. In Misery, Annie Wilkes happens upon her favorite writer after he gets into a car accident. She brings him home to nurse him back to health. While he's healing, she reads the manuscript for his new book. In it, he kills her favorite character. When she sees this, all cockadoodie breaks loose.

Annie Wilkes keeps the author captive in her house while subjecting him to all kinds of inventive tortures, not the least of which is writing a different Misery book, which she basically outlines for him. (A writer's nightmare.) She also hobbles him when she catches him sneaking around the house. If you don't know what that is, Google it. It's horrible. Did I mention she's a serial killer?

Blaine the Mono

I'm going to say that Blaine the Mono is the most memorable Stephen King character for me. Blaine the Mono, or Blaine the Pain, is a train that has gone insane. (Don't ask how a train could lose its mind. Read the book.) Stephen King puts his main characters on this train in Dark Tower III and has them take a ride with a murderous monorail in Dark Tower IV. The monorail forces Roland and his companions to play a game of riddles. It gets rather nutty as Blaine is the very old, very advanced computer that runs the train, not really the train itself. Okay, it's hard to explain. Read the series, already.

I am almost certain that there will need to be a part two to this article. Feel free to mention any characters you think I missed in the comments section. That isn't a guarantee that they will appear in the next installation, as not all Stephen King fans are alike. However, you might knock lose a memory in this rusty brain of mine and I would appreciate the effort. Now, if you don't recognize any of the abovementioned characters, start with The Gunslinger by Stephen King and then don't stop reading until you're a Kingoholic.

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

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We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a disturbing fiction novel that is written through the medium of a series of letters from a wife to her husband. The letters detail their married life together, but mostly discuss their son, Kevin. We Need to Talk About Kevin explores the world of school shootings and the teenagers who commit them through the heartbreaking guilt, sorrow and love of a mother who has lost everything due to the actions of a son she is not sure she ever loved.

After reading We Need to Talk about Kevin, I am of the opinion that Lionel Shriver is a genius. This novel is well-crafted, insightful, disgusting, horrifying, heartbreaking, heartwarming and everything in-between. Lionel drags the reader into loving and hating every character, save one, who you can only love. She makes you feel sorry for a sociopath while hating him. She presents a series of moral and social conundrums that perfectly reflect the reality of violence.

I cannot bring myself to write a long review of this novel, though I have a great deal to say. My reason for this is that I do not want to give away a single aspect of We Need to Talk about Kevin. I urge everyone who reads this to pick up this novel. Of course, you should all also be warned that We Need to Talk about Kevin is not pleasant. On the contrary, it is so intelligently written that the subject matter can be nothing short of distressing in the adept hands of Lionel Shriver.

Update: This novel has since been made into an immensely enjoyable film starring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller. If you don't enjoy reading (which would be odd considering you are here), go right ahead and jump into the film. If you love a good book, I'd go with the book first, of course. 

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: Blindness by Jose Saramago

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Blindness by Jose Saramago is a novel that delves deep into the human condition by exposing our weaknesses and strengths through an epidemic of blindness. The novel won a Nobel Prize for Literature and with good reason. In Blindness, Jose Saramago strips away everything that separates people, such as class and age, leaving behind only that which defines us on a primal level.

Structurally, Blindness by Jose Saramago is a mess. Those who find themselves picking apart grammar and structure while reading will find it difficult to sift through the pages of Blindness. Quotes have no place in Blindness, leaving the reader to sort out who is speaking and when. Commas are plentiful, as are run-on sentences. There is also the issue of paragraphs. Some pages are literally walls of text with little to separate dialogue from thoughts and occurrences. Nonetheless, much like Hubert Selby Jr.'s novels, Blindness transcends that which we would call proper writing. Readers who judge the book by its lack of order will miss a novel that can only be described as disturbing, insightful and thought provoking. *Note: For English readers, like myself, Blindness was translated for us. Nonetheless, the structure is surely Saramago's.

The characters in Blindness remain nameless throughout the novel. They are known only by their actions or by their introductions to us in the novel. For example, the first man to go blind is known as the first blind man throughout the novel. Another character is known by the dark sunglasses she was wearing the day she went blind. It seems as though Jose Saramago knew that human characteristics would play a much larger role in his novel than names, so he did away with them. This technique of his helps us to visualize the people more than if he had used names. It seems like a strange method, but it works. It does take some getting used to, though.

Jose Saramago is not the first person to write a novel that displays the best and worst of human nature by taking away law, order, dignity and security. He is not the first person to do a fantastic job of it, either. That is not to say that Blindness is one book among many just like it. On the contrary, it is a book that stands out even among books of a similar vein and caliber. His use of blindness and the helplessness it heaps upon people who are striving to cling to the last vestiges of humanity in a ravaged city is nothing short of heart wrenching. In addition, his never-ending stream of insights into human love, resilience, cruelty, strength and madness is unequalled in any other book in this reader's experience. Novels like The Stand by Stephen King leave a similar impression. However, like The Stand, there is just something more/different to Blindness than there is to books like it. I suppose you will just have to read it to see what I mean.

Shelly Barclay

Book Review: The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is the second installment in their "The Strain" trilogy. The books revolve around an impending and then occurring vampire-induced apocalypse. Being the second novel in the series, The Fall is the novel in which the vampire presence on Earth goes from being something vehemently denied by the masses to something that is undeniable.

The Fall is one of those novels that go back and forth in time in order to tell the full story of main characters. The story also jumps around a lot in order to create suspense and to keep up with the array of protagonists and antagonists The Fall has to offer. One thing that can be said about The Fall is that Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have come up with some interesting characters. Some of them have intriguing back-stories and some of them are just very strange, in a decidedly good way.

One thing that tends to be a little distracting about The Fall is the uncommon names that nearly all of the characters have. Even worse, is the fact that each of these characters with an uncommon name also has a shortened version of their name. They may also be called by their last name, rather than their first name and then later called by their first name or their nickname. It takes awhile to become acclimated to the names and really figure out who the hell del Toro and Hogan are talking about.

There is a good deal of action and a somewhat new twist on vampires in The Fall, making it a lot less mundane than your average modern vampire novel. I will give it a readable, but not particularly memorable rating. One more thing I should mention is that it does not satisfy as a stand-alone novel. I will let you know later if it satisfies as a series.

Shelly Barclay