I’ve always read a lot. Maybe not voraciously, I’m too slow for that. But I’ve read a wide range of books. When I began writing, Joe Higginbotham gave me books. Books that he bought for the sole purpose of sending to me so that I could experience good writing.
He was a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut so he sent me some of his books. Slaughterhouse Five. Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut is so different, so unique, it’s hard not to be influenced by his work.
He also introduced me to one of my favorite authors, Chris Offutt. Offutt is from eastern Kentucky, close to my neck of the woods, and his stories connect with me for that reason alone. There is also a simplicity and directness in his writing. The characters in his stories are not overly complex and their journeys are not epic, but they’re real people. Joe mailed me three of his books, The Good Brother, The Same River Twice, and No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home. I’m glad he did.
He encouraged me to be a better business person and said I should read Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, and Selling the Invisible, by Harry Beckwith. I did. As well as many others that he recommended.
And the first book he said I should read – well, study really – was Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology. Heavy stuff, man.
But that was Joe. He knew what he was talking about and challenged you to be better. That’s a good friend.