I've finally set aside the critically-acclaimed clunker from the remainder bin. While I haven't yet decided what to do with it (I've entertained various destructive fantasies which include but are not limited to burning, shredding, and strapping it to the business end of a Titan IV rocket) I am in great need of a sanctuary read.
I have a shelf of these in the book room, a special collection of poetry and novels that always restore my faith in the work. They're not just keepers and re-readers, they're healers; books that actively repair the damage done by exposure to the truly awful. e.e. cummings has bandaged the spiritual wounds inflicted on me by horrible reads more times than I can count; so have novels by Mary Balogh, Patricia Briggs, Virginia Coffman, Mark Kurlansky, Rosina Lippi, Catherine Nicholson and Nathaniel Philbrick, to name a few.
Mostly I run to them (okay, hobble) when I need to clear my head and remind myself that craft is more important than hype, not all the great storytellers are deceased, and there is always another sanctuary book out there, just waiting to be discovered. To remember that sometimes one must wade through a great deal of manure to find a rose.
Sanctuary reads have another important function, in that they offer a professional challenge. Every one of them murmurs You can do better to me the writer, and that keeps me from stagnating. After you've published enough novels and/or enjoyed a certain amount of success, it's easy to fall into the career complacency trap and believe you have nothing more to learn, and no need to improve. Instead of raising the bar for yourself, you weld it in place -- and that is probably the cause of innumerable clunkers.
Do you have a book that serves as a sanctuary read? In comments to this post, tell us the title and/or the author (or if you're still looking for one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, November 19, 2010. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and grant the winner a BookWish*. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.
*A BookWish is any book of your choice that is available to order from an online bookseller, with a maximum cost of $30.00 U.S. (I'll throw in whatever shipping costs are involved.)