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How to create a project-specific reading list

My reading list changes depending on what project I’m working on. I have a fantasy book, a memoir, and a poetry manuscript in the works.

Since the memoir is done and I’m in the “sending it out” phase, I don’t have any memoirs on my current reading list—though I have read over 50 memoirs in the past four years. I wanted to read a wide variety of stories and styles to see where my story might fit. Along the way, I discovered many treasures that I’ll share in my Memoir Reading List soon.

As I begin to focus on my fantasy book, I recently revamped my reading list. Of course, as a writer, it’s good to read a variety of books but having a specific project-related reading list helps keep me focused on my next big goal.

The reading list has to be flexible. I add or delete books if the focus of my work-in-progress shifts or I discover another book related to my project that draws my attention. Example: we just added a new product to our health business that is one solution to the dirty electricity problem in this country. In order to learn more about the problem, my husband is reading the book, “Dirty Electricity” by Dr. Samuel Milham. I skimmed through the book the other day and was so intrigued that I added it to my reading list. Will I use the information in my next book? I’m not sure. But I’m creating a mad-scientist type character and this book may spark an idea or two for that character. Often, I follow my intuition when adding a book to my list.

There are many ways to create a reading list, but I like to divide mine into the following topics:

I. Fiction

Since I don’t know exactly which fantasy sub-genre my book will fit into yet, I have a spattering of books from within the fantasy/sci-fi realm (If you don’t see something here that you think I should read, it may be because I’ve already read it but please send along suggestions, if you wish!)

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

“Anansi Boys” by Neil Gaiman

“The Hunger Games” Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman

“Psychic Warrior” by Bob Mayer

Books 2 and 3 of the Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking (when released)

“Angelology” by Danielle Trussoni (read first half last year but need to finish)

“Halo” by Alexandra Adornetto

“Down These Strange Streets,” edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

“The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

“The Divine Comedy” by Dante (read again)

II. Non-Fiction Research Books

Magic, Volcanoes, Angels, Devils, Strange Science—several aspects of my project need more research. The good news is I plan on writing more than one book in this realm so all this research will benefit my ongoing career. And, these topics interests me so I’d probably read them anyway.

“Dirty Electricity” by Samuel Milham, MD, MPH

“Chaos Magic” by Andrieh Vitimus

“The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day” by Paul Carus

“The Synchronized Universe: New Science of the Paranormal” by Claude Swanson, Ph.D.

Elaine Pagel’s books on the gospels

“The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla” by Nikola Tesla and David Hatcher Childress

“Apocalypse” by Amos Nur

“Volcano” DVD

“Mount St. Helens: The Eruption and Recovery of a Volcano” by Rob Carson

III. Non-Fiction Writing Books

 I always want to stay open to learning and improving my craft. These craft books below are next in line on my bookshelf:

“The Novel Writer’s Toolkit” & “Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author” by Bob Mayer (I’ve read both these but they’re so helpful, I keep going back to them).

“Plot & Structure” by James Scott Bell (ditto above)

“The Scene Book” by Sandra Scofield

“Make a Scene” by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

“Writing the Paranormal Novel” by Steven Harper

“The 90-day Novel” by Alan Watt

There are many ways to create a reading list. I have another reading list for miscellaneous books not related to this specific project. And, as I begin to pull together my poetry manuscript, I’ll make a list of poetry collections to use as reference—to see how others have organized their poems.

I hope my example has been helpful. Please check out Carly’s post on creating a personalized reading list. I’d love to hear how you organize your reading lists.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great post! My reading usually reflects what I’m working on. I find that if I’m reading a non-fiction book then I want to write non-fiction and the same goes for fiction.

    January 10, 2012

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