In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you. (Mortimer J. Adler)
I had one of the busiest days of my life yesterday, traveling to Los Angeles to support one friend and then driving down to San Diego to support another. As I type this, I’ve been up for eighteen hours. But all that time and all the travel was absolutely worth it, for a very worthy cause and also a pep talk that I didn’t even know I needed.
As some of you might know, childhood reading is one of my pet causes – I’ve been a voracious reader since before I was going to school, and it saddens me how no one reads anymore. I was therefore happy to become a backer of LeVar Burton‘s Reading Rainbow Kickstarter, since the program was a huge part of my youth, and since the cast of Battlestar Galactica was also onboard. When my friend Michael Trucco signed on, along with Jamie Bamber whom I’m a huge fan of, and Tricia Helfer and Edward James Olmos whom I’d already met, it was basically a given that I was going to be a part of yesterday’s BSG-themed Reading Rainbow Live event.
Firstly, I must give a shoutout to the event staff and organizers, who did their jobs so remarkably well and were incredibly accommodating of me when I told them I had to bail on the program early in order to make it to San Diego in time for the second half of my day. I couldn’t have done it without them.
But anyway, watching these awesome folks read a trio of children’s books made me think about the books that have been influential in my life, so I thought I’d blog about some of them here in hopes that maybe you might check them out, too.
Dead Souls, Ian Rankin: Aside from Aaron Sorkin, Scottish mystery novelist Ian Rankin is my biggest influence as a writer, specifically through his Inspector Rebus series. Dead Souls was the first book I picked up while in high school, and I still remember how it engrossed me so much that instead of a two-minute presentation, I went on for ten minutes about the book’s themes and parallels between Rebus and his antagonist. This is the novel that started me devouring the works of Rankin two at a time, and I’ve never been the same since.
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon: The first book I can remember really becoming obsessed with. I was in middle school when, after nearly a year of searching, I finally found a copy of Homicide. I had promised myself I wouldn’t open it up until a forthcoming family vacation, but I cheated and read the first two pages, and then I was hopelessly hooked – I tore through the rest of the book in an hour. It’s non-fiction, but Simon writes with such a distinct voice that he makes events as suspenseful and as moving as the best thriller. I’m pretty sure it’s this book that got me started on writing crime dramas, too.
Glory Road, Don Haskins: The autobiography from the legendary Texas Western coach is my favorite ever biography, and one of those books that just reminded me how great it is just to be alive. You can really hear Coach Haskins’ voice in every page – his wit, his wisdom, and his ever-humble attitude. It’s the story of a man who never set out to do anything other than win basketball games and ended up changing college sports forever, and there’s so much to be learned from it, even though the history-making part is now near fifty years ago. Just a wonderful book by a great man.
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby: Not everything I love is serious, and High Fidelity is a great example of that. This book is hilarious, in its observations about life, love and relationships, its near-constant pop culture and music references, and the first-person point of view that puts you in Rob Fleming’s head for better or for worse. It’s so easy to see why John Cusack fell in love with it and adapted it into a movie which also came out great; there’s so much wit and verve in these pages, and all the characters come to life in their own quirky ways. It turns the “thirtysomething has a crisis about love” type novel totally on its head.
Infiltration: The True Story of the Man Who Cracked the Mafia, Colin McLaren: This is a recent addition, as I just finished this about a week or so ago, but man, it instantly shot into the ranks of my favorite books. It actually covers more than the Australian detective’s infamous anti-mafia operation; it traces his entire life, from difficult childhood to retirement from the force, and it’s engrossing to see how he developed every step of the way. It actually reminds me of Homicide, in the sense that McLaren, like Simon, has a distinct narrative voice that’s enchanting and really put me in his head. Next time I see Sullivan Stapleton, I’m going to have to thank him for introducing me to Colin McLaren.
There are so many other books I’ve loved over the years; my bedroom is littered with them, on shelves and in stacks and set by the bedside. Like a lot of people, the fast pace of my life has meant that I’ve read less than I used to, but I still can’t resist the lure of a good book. And it’s moments like yesterday afternoon, seeing books brought to life and capturing other people’s imaginations, that remind me how awesome reading is. I certainly wouldn’t be half the writer I am today if I hadn’t first been a reader.
Now here’s the second part of my day (and my story). I’ve had a rough time of it over the last few days, with some people doing and saying some hurtful things that I let tear down my self-esteem. So it was amazing to spend yesterday in the company of people that I truly love and respect, and be reminded that they like me in return.
It was having Michael spot me before the event and come over for a quick hug, or he and all of his castmates being excited to see me at the subsequent meet and greet, or overhearing him tell my mother that he loves me. It was seeing the pleasant surprise on Blake Shelton’s face when I crashed his meet and greet, and having both Blake and his PA ask me if I’m coming back to The Voice next season (answer: yes, of course, as long as NBC invites me back).
These moments happened to me just when I needed them, erasing that self-doubt and reminding me that I have a lot to be proud of, including the tremendous company that I’ve been able to keep. Sure, I don’t see Michael or Blake more than once or twice a year, but I know from those times that I can call them friends, and that they believe in me as much as I believe in them. And those friendships are real, no matter what anyone else tries to do to tear me down. Those are the moments that will last forever.
I’m going to wrap this up now, because I’m tired and I really could use the sleep. But I’m also leaving you with a heart full of gratitude for spending time with some of the best people I could possibly think of. I am truly blessed.
Photo Credit: Brittany Frederick/Exclusive to Brittany-Frederick.com