Over the years, what started in college as a head-over-heels love affair with reading every book on the syllabus turned into a truly integrated fiction and non-fiction exploration of any given subject.
What’s even worse (yes, worse), is that I love, love, love talking about these lists. I love talking about books and writing in general, but more than that, I love pointing out the connections between books, their approaches, and their conclusions.
This makes small talk extremely difficult for me. Someone asks me about the weather, and I end up telling them about the evolution of the differentiation between astrology and astronomy in the 16th century German university scene.
I can’t help it. It just spews out of my mouth. Ask Kristen Lamb. She once asked me an innocent question about the equivalent of a 19th century bra, and I gave her the entire history of bustle era underpinnings, from the truth about corsets, to the fact that underpants and pantaloons hadn’t become commonplace until the Regency era.
So, what has all this led to?
incurable and incorrigible
This leads to me having to buy more bookshelves. But, aside from that, it also means I arrange my bookshelves. By time period and topic.
Quite properly, fiction is on its own shelf, arranged by time period and genre. *shifty eyes*
It also means that my Amazon wishlist is obscenely long. (My goodness, how did I get to 35 pages of books?)
It ALSO means that YOU get to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
THE CAIT REYNOLDS CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ
You won’t have to go digging through my posts to find a catalogue raisonné. I’ve collected the all here on one page for your easy access. I even put a little link in the site menu.
Yes, it’s awesome. I’m awesome. I look forward to bringing you even MORE of obsessive reading! (Because that’s how I’m justifying all the books. Really, that’s basically it.)
Do you want to see a catalogue raisonné from me on a particular topic? Leave me a comment and let me know!
I am insatiably curious. This has led to a slight issue (some might say addiction) with buying books.
For an author, my actual collection of fiction is quite small. That’s probably because I’m such a picky bitch about the caliber of storytelling and writing I will read.
But, non-fiction? OMG, it’s a real problem. Eric and I recently went to IKEA because I had to buy a whole new bookshelf system. I got the Billy bookshelves…and the extra shelf extension. I literally have books floor-to-ceiling now.
Yet, I regret nothing. NOTHING.
but…but…isn’t all that non-fiction boring?
Hardly! Most of the time, I end up reading things and am like, ‘You seriously can’t make that shit up.’ Reality is way, way weirder than fiction. Dragons included.
I will absolutely admit that non-fiction has experienced a renaissance since the 90’s, shaking off the dust of academic ponderous pomposity and embracing engaging narratives, clever topics, and intelligent and witty writing.
Most importantly, though, is the fact that through non-fiction, we learn more about the world and people around us. What’s more fascinating than that? The more I read, no matter what the subject, the more I see intriguing connections that help me weave more complex, compelling stories.
It doesn’t matter if you are writing historical, contemporary, paranormal, romance, or even epic fantasy. Reading non-fiction will make you a better writer.
Non-Fiction and Research
It’s hard to think of a single really good work of fiction that hasn’t relied on some pretty solid non-fiction research.
I can think of a lot of really, really bad fiction that clearly shows signs of the author not giving a fuck about facts. I remember reading an erotica story where the main female character is an interior designer. She lands a multi-million dollar project designing a hotel…and pitches in with the painting crew she hired to help paint the owner’s suite to get it done on time.
REALLY? REALLY???? Seriously?
It would have taken exactly six minutes to go to Wikipedia, look up ‘interior designer,’ and scrolled down to the bottom where it lists exactly the type of work that interior designers do, as opposed to…interior decorators. As opposed to people pretending to be interior designers who violate all kinds of union, OSHA, and other insurance and contract restrictions to ‘pitch in’ and help paint walls.
Sure, we could say that it’s ‘just’ erotica, and we’re supposed to be suspending disbelief anyway. Let’s just put aside any kind of professional pride, attention to detail, and desire to produce quality books. From a purely technical perspective, taking care to get a little detail like that right (even if it means reading a boring Wikipedia article) actually encourages the suspension of belief. Accuracy grounds a story in reality in a way that is absolutely tantalizing because it is logical and could happen, and therefore enhances the fantasy.
Okay, I may have gone off the rails a bit here, but my main point stands. Good fiction needs research, and research gets easier the more we accustom ourselves to reading non-fiction.
It’s almost as bad as wearing a pocket protector
Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. It’s not just books I have a problem with.
I am an insatiable magazine article ripper-outer. Daphne Lamb, Kim Alexander, and Genevieve Raas from The Fabulous Fictionistas can attest to this, having seen me tear through show dailies, catalogs, and other periodicals at Book Expo America.
My husband, bless him, knows me so very, very well. For Christmas one year, he got me a subscription to ‘Astronomy.’ I have my own subscriptions to ‘Discover’ and ‘Archaeology.’
I am the chick on the beach, drinking things with umbrellas in them and completely engrossed in an article about black holes. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a scientist and even less of a mathematician. God invented calculators for a reason. ‘Discover’ is written for people like me. Obscure scientific ideas are broken down simply. The writing is clear and entertaining. And, over time, the more I read, the more I learn, and the more familiar scientific concepts become.
I know what you are thinking. Don’t I write historical romance and paranormal YA? What am I doing reading about amoebas and pretending it makes a difference to my writing?
Well, just for the record, I drew on some of the articles I had read about quantum physics and astronomy for ‘Downcast,’ and the sequel has quite a bit of science behind the scenes. In fact, the whole premise of ‘Thunderstruck’ came from an article in ‘Discover.’
It’s more than that, though.
I’ve come across articles about how neurochemistry can explain why we get such a rush from reconnecting with a first love. I’ve read about pioneering immunology research in the 1880’s that used bacteria and provided a critical breakthrough with major writer’s block. I get clues I didn’t know I was looking for, plot bunnies, and just the sheer pleasure of exercising my brain.
Science and history are not everyone’s cup of tea…or Petri dish. I get it. But, we should all be constantly learning and expanding our horizons in both literature and non-fiction. The more we learn and know, the more we naturally anchor our story to facts, pay attention to world-building, and create connections between characters and concepts that make our stories deeper, richer, and most importantly…more worth reading.