View Full Version : Going Old School: Recent Revelations While Reading "Older Books"

06-27-2009, 06:28 AM
Hello, My name is Mel, and I'm a book junkie. There is no text to good to shoot through my viens. Likewise, I will by books buy the tons though the logical part of my brain knows I will not get to them until the year 2069.

So I stumbled across a box of books, 100 books that I bought for $5 at a garage sale 10 years ago.

I open this treasure trove and notice a ton of Sci-fi / fantasy books written in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Its late, i'm starting to get twitchy, and need a fix. I grab a sci-fi anthonology book of short stories, open it up, and I'm blown away.

The stories are so amazing, so 'new' and 'fresh' that I can't believe my snobbery (in regards to older books) kept me from them. Of course, the irony is not lost on me that I consider a few shorts from the 60s, 70s, and 80s as 'new' and 'fresh'.

Since then, i've been going through the box, read about 10 books so far with 1 out of 3 being pretty damn good.

This got me to thinking?

Why have I been discriminating against older books?

Am I alone? Do any of my AW brethren share this bigotry?

Of course, I read the classics and masters, but have been dismissive of 'unknown' older writers, at least writers I consider to be unknown.

I also notice a few things about older books, apparently Head Hopping isn't that big a concern as we make it out to be today.

So I ask the questions:

What can we learn from older books?

Why do some of us shun them?

Have you notice a certain evolution of writing between books written from the 50s - 80s to books written in today's day and age?

Any other comments or discussion concerning this topic.


06-27-2009, 07:01 AM
I'm just the opposite, Mel. I'll usually pull an older book in preference to a newer one everytime. Why? In my opinion (and I know I have to say that), too many more modern writers have taken the loosening up of the old taboos on four letter words, sex, and gory violence as an opportunity to spend less time worrying about the quality of the story and the significance of plot. Part 2 - too many of the more successful modern writers are churning out multiple books a year and in the process are even letting simple author responsibilities like closing off loose ends, clarity of expression, and avoidance of redundancy fall by the wayside - and, some of them are reguritating the same story line with little modification. If you've read one of their books, you've read them all.

I've also found that taking a chance on an unknown author who didn't win any prizes sometimes finds me a much better written book than picking one by an acclaimed author does. I read one recently by a multi-award winning author who used four different (and unusual) names for the same person. And the plot was so thin I could see through it. (But I needed something to read at the time.)

I'm sure you're going to get other responses far different from mine. But as we all know, that's what makes horse racing. Puma

06-27-2009, 09:27 AM
If anything, I've discriminated against newer books. My current addiction is James White, who wrote many "space doctor" short stories, collected into books, mostly back in the '60's. In "Ambulance Ship" (I'm almost through) the main character finds the first generation ship, long lost from its first launch, and of course launched well before hyperwarp or whatever he calls FTL was perfected. That sort of thing happens lots in SF, but well, there's a lot of 'hardware' stuff in his writings that I enjoy. This is my third book (in my lifetime, my first was at age 12) by him, and fortunately he wrote several more.

So can you name some of these older authors and books you've been reading?

06-27-2009, 09:38 AM
I don't discriminate against older books. In fact, like a few other posters, I'm more likely to discriminate against new books. I don't know exactly why, maybe because growing up most of my reading was older books since I got them from libraries and used book stores rather than buying them new.

06-27-2009, 01:05 PM
Ah, I spend hours in the library one day a month and pick some books to read. I don't look at date of publication, or authors name, but I do look at their cover, back cover, and read the first page and sometimes more. If I can't get throught the first page without something snapping my interest, I put it back - sometimes I don't get past the first paragraph. If I have read something from an author I enjoyed reading previously, I still read that first page, and have been amazed at how many times I like one book an author wrote but not others.

I initially don't look at the authors name, I don't care. I am looking to find something that startles me into thinking I have found a gem. I am also amazed at how many books I have picked up and read the first page of famous authors and put the book back on the shelf. I normally pick 6 books, and normally end up only reading two or possibly three, and occassionally only one, to the end in that month because after that first page that held promise, I found nothing that could sustain my interest. Occassionally, I have taken all the books back to the library a day or week after I took them out to pick others, because I couldn't read them, couldn't get into them.

I love the feel of books, the smell of libraries...yeah I know...and gain great pleasure out of finding a book out of the thousands they present that I just love. It is like looking for treasure in a trove, and when you find that jewel, take it home, read it and reach that end satisified, well I have smoke. :D

I think that we had brilliant writers in the past and now, but because there are hundreds if not thousands of new books released each year, and we can only read so many of them, we sometimes miss the modern jewel that hasn't become a bestseller.

I agree that many books and not just old books have all the things we are suggested as writers not to do, but I think as a reader I am more inclined to forgive being told something if that story catches my imagination. Sometimes the writing has flaws, but gosh, the story is brilliant, unique, and most certainly worthy because of its approach to the subject.

We have a writer called James Patterson, (ETA - might have the name wrong maybe) and he has sold millions of books. I have read a couple, and well, he most certainly tells and doesn't show. But I read an article in our newspaper a few weeks ago, and was very disappointed to find out that for the past few years one of our best writers doesn't actually write his books anymore because he can't keep up with the demand for them.

He provides outlines for various genres to outsourced writers who have familised themselves with his earlier works, and hence they write his many books now released each year, some of which become best sellers...

I felt very cheated, and my guess is that must happen to many authors who just can't keep up with a demand. Nice place to be as an author, but it seems to defeat the pupose to me as a writer. It is also deciving to readers to have an authors name on the cover that wroter an outline, not the book.

06-27-2009, 05:07 PM
Cooee, you mean to tell me THE James Patterson of the woman killing books is an Aussie? He's one of the ones where I feel if you've read one of his books, you've read them all. Puma

06-27-2009, 05:12 PM
On the subject of old books I can speak with some experience.

About fifteen years ago I helped a friend of the family clear out their basement, and - as they were clearing out the house - I was offered their old books. I must have taken something in the region of 8,000 books (they were moving to Portugal, so couldn't take all their possessions with them) and spent the better part of a year reading everything.

I learned that the thin A5 Australian paperbacks (like old digest comics) had some of the most evocative writing, and became a fan of writers such as Tex Ryland. Obscure writers were just as good as the big names (I like Gavin Lyall more than many household names) and the smaller publishers often took greater risks than the majors.

There is nothing I like quite so much as finding a novel that everyone is completely ignorant of, though it does mean I haven't read the titles most people consider to be essential. I don't consider myself well-read, but I am aware of many different genres and styles.

Age doesn't mean that the novel is good or bad, just as new doesn't automatically mean I will like the novel. People will find their likes and dislikes over time, and to have a better understanding of what already exists means that you need to open your mind to books which don't automatically jump out as being to your taste.

I'm rambling again...

06-27-2009, 05:22 PM
Cooee, you mean to tell me THE James Patterson . . . ? He's one of the ones where I feel if you've read one of his books, you've read them all. Puma
I assume that's exactly who she means. Patterson is well-known for having others do the actual writing for many of his books, and freely admits it. As far as I know, he's never tried to hide the fact that this is the way he does things. He's not the first; as I recall, Alexandre Dumas did something like this as well.

I wish Henry James had had someone else write his books. ;-)

06-27-2009, 10:56 PM
I wish Henry James had had someone else write his books. ;-)

The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James, as told by Hunter S. Thompson.


06-27-2009, 11:17 PM
The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James, as told by Hunter S. Thompson.

I'd pay to read a Jodi Picoult rewrite of What Maisie Knew.

06-28-2009, 01:19 AM
There was a sort of renaissance in fantasy from roughly 1965-75, so it doesn't surprise me that many of the books written at the time were good. The two decades from 1975-95 sucked in comparison. Since then, things have been improving.

Science fiction, on the other hand, has IMO been hit-or-miss throughout its history.

06-28-2009, 05:02 AM
Puma, sorry he is American.

I got my wires cross I think because the article I read was in a regional newspaper in a book review section that normally has local or Australian born author articles. And yes, it is the same James Paterson - Alex Cross story writer.

I just found a similar article on the New York Post about him outsourcing.


06-28-2009, 06:04 AM
I thought he was in the US, especially since his stories are set here. I read a couple of his books early on but have passed on the majority of them. Puma

06-28-2009, 06:19 AM
Yes, I have also read a couple, and thought them both similar. Wouldn't bother with any more unless I accidentially run into another and like that first page :)

06-28-2009, 08:52 AM
My college creative writing teacher's complaint was that writing students read the classics but shunned recent popular fiction and he didn't know why. I've been mostly in this category. Have read most of the classics from the 19th century and before and a significant sampling from the 20th, so one of these days need to bite the bullet and start reading current stuff. The main current bestsellers I have read are the Harry Potter series because everyone reads those.