When You’re Not Writing, Read (Plus the 10 Books Meme)
When I was an MFA student, we had packets due every three weeks, five a semester. These packets consisted of original work and an essay about a book we had read. Thus, I spent a lot of time reading. It was then I realized that one of the best things about being a writer is that reading is actually part of the job description.
Of course, I've been a reader since first grade, when I initially started being able to discern that words on the page actually meant something. I think most of us writers come to wanting to be a writer through reading.
It is my opinion that all writers should inhale words as if their writing life depended on it–because it does. That advice that you shouldn't read while writing lest the reading you are doing influence your work? Bull puckey. Even if you set out to mimic a favorite writer, the words are filtered through your unique experience and will come out totally different. (And, indeed, a very good exercise to do to train yourself to be a writer is to copy out the words of your favorite novel.)
My reading habit has been completely revitalized this year with the purchase of first a Kindle and next an Ipad mini. Something about reading on these mobile devices turns me into a speed demon. And because Kindle books are a lot less to purchase, I'm willing to be more open-minded about what I read. I've discovered some very different and interesting authors this way.
But what started this rumination on how reading affects writing is that a friend tagged me on the current Facebook meme that is going around–10 book that have stayed with you. Since I'm never on Facebook (you'll find me on Twitter all day every day but Facebook and I have never bonded) I thought I'd do it here. Besides, this way you guys can share with me books that have stuck with you. The idea, I gather, is to do this fast and not overthink it. So here goes mine:
1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (One of the best books ever.)
2. The Pink Dress by Anne Alexander (YA classic before there was such a thing as YA. My sister and I lust for a copy of this book, currently priced at $889+ on Amazon.)
3. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. (I love this book so much.)
4. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. (He's one of the most underrated of American writers. I read this right after I read #3 above. Amazing.)
5. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. (Adore.)
6. Creativity in Business. (I don't even know who the author of this book is, but I read it years ago and it changed my ideas about what was possible in business.)
7. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. (Seminal. It changed my life. So did studying with her in Taos.)
8. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. (Plucked this one from my Mom's book shelf when I was a kid. Apparently its a movie, too.)
9. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. (Just read it if you haven't. Please. It's a charmer.)
10. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. (Time to reread this terrifying classic.)
Okay, I'm cheating and adding another:
11. The Golden Treasury of Caroline and Her Friends by Pierre Probst. (My favorite book from childhood, bar none. I had a copy of this for years and lost it when our house burned down a few years back. If anyone has a copy they want to give me, I'll love you forever. I'll name a character after you. I'll send you everything I publish for life.)
Yeah, so, this is a quirky list if their ever was one. I bet yours is too–and I'd love to read it! Leave one book or ten in the comments.
PS–Stay tuned this week–I've got my annual word of the year post coming up and a Christmas giveaway!
PPS–If I were a good blogger, I'd put links to all these books in. But I'm not. If you're interested, you'll find them.