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Books inside books: What do your characters read?

Worth and Joel, the hero and heroine of my inspirational WIP, are both voracious readers. Joel, who is hearing-impaired, learned very early in life¬† to find refuge from his loneliness in books. Worth had little chance to read growing up; her father thought fiction a corrupting influence and a waste of time, especially for women. As a result, books had the charm of the forbidden and Worth read whenever she got the chance. Now that she’s on her own, she relishes the opportunity to read freely. Sharing and discussing books is how the two begin to develop a relationship.

Of course, making my characters bookworms is a bit of self-indulgence on my part. What books will they read, and what will they think of them? The story is set in 1905, and when I did a quick search for notable books published around 1900 many of the titles that came up were unfamiliar. So, I’ve fallen back on some favorites of mine from earlier times.

Joel has a vivid imagination and enjoys stories of adventure in far-away places, so he reads Kim (Rudyard Kipling) and The Virginian (Owen Wister) in his old farmhouse in the quiet Nova Scotia countryside. Worth is more taken with character stories, so she reads Villette (Charlotte Bronte) and convinces Joel to try Vanity Fair (William Thackeray). I might give them both some Dickens to read as well.

Kim and Villette are old friends of mine, but I’ve never read The Virginian or much Dickens, other than A Christmas Carol and Pickwick Papers, so I might have to do some reading as research. Such a burden. Sigh. Do any of you writers out there like to use taste in reading as a way to reveal character? What old books are your favourites?

One Comment

  1. Michelle Helliwell
    May 17, 2012 at 12:25 am

    One of my heroines reads fairy tales, which is purely me. I was thinking about this very thing with my current WIP, and wondering what reading would attract her, and I’m struggling with it because I think she might read differently than I, and maybe little for pleasure.

    I have many a favourite old book – Jane Austen is one of my favorites, but also much older things – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Consolation of Philosophy – my undergrad was classical/medieval literature (with a bit of later stuff thrown in) and I’ve never lost my taste for it.