My degree is in literature - I added the teaching part later as a certification, but when I graduated it was with an English degree. I have read many classics, my study of emphasis was 16th and 17th Century British literature.
I'm telling you this because I had forgotten what I liked to read. I LOVE to read YA - I enjoy the escapism, the fact that I can get lost in the amazing worlds built by these authors. But right now, I'm not writing YA. Plan to at some point, but not right now.
I was sitting with my brother last night discussing literature. He came to the love of reading game at the end of high school and wants to even the playing field a bit, so we were discussing classics. Sure, part of this had to do with the fact that many of the classics are free for the various ereaders, but he is planning to major in law, and really wants to set a foundation. So I was going through and telling him all the different classics he needed to read - Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Dickens, Hemingway, More, etc. Then I discovered I could download my beloved Paradise Lost by John Milton. I read a page or two with him, he left with my copy of The Kite Runner and I kept reading Milton. And something clicked in my mind, a desire to change the way I've been introducing parts of the world I'm writing.
While there is an essential necessity to allow reading to stay an escape, I think there is an equal necessity to challenge ourselves to see just what we could do with our writing. And I really think this is cross genre. Some of my favorite YA reads in the last year are those that are a little more poetic with the writing, have the depth of the back story to elevate the current one beyond what it might have been. If we are challenging ourselves to read higher, harder, our minds can continue to stretch and grow - something that can only enhance our writing. I'm not talking about reverting back to three pages describing the bark on a tree, but some of the really amazing language that has made classics classics can only help our writing.
So, a little challenge. What is the classic you have heard about, intended to read, said you read in high school but didn't - whatever - that you want to read this year? Obviously I'm not your teacher and I can't MAKE you do it, but I think you would be amazed if you tried.
I'm shooting for Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. (Aim high, right?)
When are times when you have seen that your reading enhances your writing? What are books or authors that inspire you to write better?