This morning was particularly dreary. I woke up early because my son had crawled into bed with me at some point — he’s only four years old and he’s allowed to do that for a little while longer — but he managed to shove me off at 7:45AM. I figured that was as good as it was going to get for sleep so I made my way to the living room, powered on my fake fireplace (Oh, how I love that little space heater) and rummaged through my bookshelves for a book.
I knew I should read one of my textbooks because … well … because I’m still in school and I’ll have to read them at some point, but it was 7:45AM and I simply was not going to exercise my brain like that before I’d even managed to have breakfast. Now, normally at this point I’ve already re-arranged my bookshelves, dragging books out of storage to replace the ones that have been occupying shelf-space for the last six months — I do this twice a year and somehow still manage to surprise myself with a book I forgot I had. However, it’s been nine months since the last purge/replace and I was a little bored with some of the titles I ran across.
But it got me thinking about the books that never go into storage. These beloved volumes are the one’s I read and re-read and simply cannot go without. As I was going through the shelves, I discovered that there are only eight of these books in my collection, and seven of them belong to a series. They are the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, and Into the Wild, by Sara Donati.
These eight volumes are always on my shelves. All the rest take their respective turns in storage each year. As I started reading The Fiery Cross (one of the Gabaldon novels) I had to ask myself what it was about Gabaldon’s writing that had me coming back. The story hasn’t changed. The characters are the same. Yet, there is a richness to the tales that beckons me back.
If you’ve never read any Gabaldon, I highly recommend that you do. Her books are generally thick, so you’ll have to devote some time, but they are well worth it.
I was struck with the realization that many of the scenes I was reading today weren’t particularly necessary to the overall plot of the book. As an author, I know that it has been pounded through my thick skull many times that if a scene doesn’t serve a purpose, you should cut it. And yet, as I was reading, I couldn’t envision the book without that snippet, that detail, that moment.
In popular fiction today we’re taught to keep the writing tight, to let everything point toward that end goal or moment. Gabaldon’s massive books seem to scoff in the face of that logic. Maybe she’s found a niche or something. Honestly, I’m just glad she wrote them in the first place. There’s history, love, violence, and humanity written on every page and I absolutely love them.