How do the things you read impact your writing? What do you love to read? What do you avoid reading at all costs? How would your writing change if you read more of the things you typically avoid?
I'm kind of a book whore. I'll read anything, as long as it's well-written and free of grammatical mistakes (ahem - see posts below on a certain trilogy). One thing I can say is that I've always loved to read. I started reading when I was three. I read everything I could get my hands on, from choose-your-own-adventure books to The Baby-sitters Club to my mom's Danielle Steele novels and anything by Stephen King.
The beauty of majoring in English Lit in college is that I read a wide variety of books. A few of my all-time favorite writers are Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Bret Easton Ellis, and the poems of Dylan Thomas. I know I'm leaving some off. That's okay.
I'm definitely drawn to books/stories about unhappy people struggling to find happiness, or stories shunning normal, traditional life, and they've got to have a good dose of romance - the more unconventional the better. That's not to say I don't love a trashy romance, or vampires, or even YA on occasion.
But I definitely hide from steampunk, dystopian, and fantasy. I will not read anything with fairies, trolls, wizards, dragons, or whatever else is out there, I don't even know. Not a fan. I'm also not a fan of comic books. It's not the stories, it's the way it's laid out - I find it hard to sit back and get lost in a comic like I can with a book. I also dislike greatly books with characters that are too good to be true. I don't want to read about muscular, heroic men and rich housewives with perfect husbands and perfect children. Ge-ross.
I find something in everything I read to improve my writing. Even if it's one tiny thing, like a word I decide I'd like to use. I really don't think my writing would change at all if I read the things I avoid. My writing tends to be a lot like the writers I most admire (not that I'm comparing myself IN THE LEAST) in that they're based in reality, and they're about real people with real problems. The main characters sometimes aren't conventionally likable - but they're special nonetheless. And often the books take a bite into culture and society at large. The characters in The Great Gatsby are essentially a bunch of spoiled assholes - but they're so fantastic and tragic. I want to be them and feel sorry for them at the same time. That's what I love.
If I could even write something half as good as The Great Gatsby or The Swimmer I'd be one happy lady.
How about you guys? Who is the author or book you hold in the highest esteem?