I used to commute with a friend who is an avid reader like me. Several other people who rode our bus also loved to read. So when we weren’t reading, we were often talking about what we were reading or planned to read next.
Kurt and I no longer commute together but we exchange periodic e-mails to share recommendations from our reading list.
If you’re looking for a good book to read, you might enjoy several selections from our recent and not-so-recent favorites list.
And since I’m such a fan of books and book lists, I’m including a link to The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012.
Books recommendations from me and my pal Kurt:
The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak — written for ages 9 and up, but adults will appreciate this book. It’s a moving story about how books feed us. The story takes place in Germany during World War II. One of the most striking elements of the book is the narrator, which turns out to be Death. Read more
In my posts last week I wrote about why original research is important to your stories and how to make dry research fun. When I have a writing project that requires research, such as my current work-in-progress, I create a list on my computer to keep myself organized.
Some quick tips for creating a research reading list:
Write it down. Sounds obvious but there have been times when I’ve said to myself, “Oh, I have to read that book,” then promptly forgotten about it. Write the name of the book down on a pad of paper or even on your hand, if you have to, until you can add it to the list on your computer. Read more
No matter what genre we write or like to read, there are certain books that, as writers, we can learn so much from.
I remember the first time I read Carson McCullers’s novel “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” What struck me most was the way she used setting in her story – how it became a living, breathing presence.
What are the best books to read and learn from? Opinions vary but below are lists from two successful authors and one grand list from the Guardian. Browse their lists and then create your own.
From suspense and thriller writer Lee Childs: Top 40 Books of All Time
From Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon: Top Ten List
And from the Guardian: The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time
Do you have any favorites to add?
If you read my last post, you learned about a writing assignment from Ray Bradbury.
As part of his reading advice, Bradbury recommended authors who inspired him and shaped his writing. I’m noting some below in case you’d like to add them to your reading list.
Bradbury advises reading essays on a variety of topics, including biology, anthropology, and zoology. In particular, he recommends Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, and Loren Eiseley. Bradbury read Eiseley’s The Fire Apes (.pdf) and later wrote him a fan letter.
Also at the top of Bradbury’s list: John Collier – author of Fancies and Goodnights, a short story collection that won the Edgar Award and the International Fantasy Award in 1952. Bradbury described Collier as one of greatest writers of this century, who wrote brilliant short stories that deeply affected Bradbury when he was 22 years old and learning to write. Read more
While writing and researching my memoir, I read over fifty memoirs in order to learn from other authors and to get a feel for where my book might fit in.
Agent Donald Maass suggests that authors read the top ten current books in their genre in order to get a feel for what’s already been done and what draws readers in.
If you’re writing a memoir, I recommend researching not only top-selling memoirs but also those with themes similar to the one you want to write.
Below are just a few of the books I read and recommend. I’m not including a summary of each book but a few sentences on why I liked the book or what I learned from it.
“Paula,” by Isabel Allende. Allende’s beautiful and passionate memoir about the death of her daughter showed me the importance of writing to a positive reconciliation. Read more
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. Read more
Something magical happens when I’m reading analytically. I’m jolted by bursts of insight and inspiration for my own writing. Because I’ve seen the power of reading for myself, I advise other writers to create their own reading list for whatever projects they’re working on.
If you’re looking for inspiration on an element of craft, such as dialogue or structure, read how another writer pulled it off. One of the mind-altering effects of studying for an MFA came from reading and analyzing so much literature. Even reading stories that had nothing to do with my memoir sparked ideas for my own writing.
Here are several tips for creating a reading list:
Read books from multiple genres. If you’re writing a memoir, read fiction, memoirs, and poetry. Reading poetry helped me raise my consciousness of words and meaning. This carried over into my prose and spurred me to write poetry of my own. Read more