Yes, that’s right. Books. Because, you know, reading one book at a time just isn’t cutting it these days. I need books to make me think, to read before bed (so short snippets at a time because…sleep), research books, craft books. You get the picture.
A good book is often one I want to put down.
Sounds preposterous, but as soon as I start to read something really good, it makes me want to write. I go “Aahhh!” when I notice something extraordinary, whether it’s a remarkable turn of phrase, a revelation, a sudden realization that the author has manipulated time or structure in an unexpected way—any number of things.
These are the books I’ve wanted to put down and run and start tapping on the keyboard lately:
- Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi—a beautiful saga that takes the reader from Africa during slavery, digging deep into the warring between tribes that also involved slavery, and following two family trajectories all the way to the present day in the U.S. Moving, thoughtful.
- A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline—So gorgeous, so sensitive. Follows the girl who was the model/inspiration for Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World. Intense, close, personal, universal.
- Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje—I don’t even know where to start with this one. I haven’t finished it yet, and when I do, I may well go and start right back at the beginning. Stunning use of language but it doesn’t, somehow, call attention to itself. Formal pyrotechnics that are so subtle I’m left thinking, “What did he just do? How did he do that?”
When I’m writing and I start feeling weighed down, or things become murky and I lose my way, I pick up a craft book. For a while I delved into those prescriptive ones, about writing outlines, or sketching characters, but they don’t always fit with what I want to do and sometimes I end up more confused. The ones that are helpful are more theoretical, or more personal. Including:
- Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass—big misnomer. It’s not about splashing into the market with some high-concept, shocking story. It’s about achieving one’s personal breakout, getting to the next level, which is very much my current preoccupation.
- Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro—absolute must-read for any author. I’m reading it for the second time. Nuff said.
On my TBR pile
Because of the above phenomenon, I rarely make a dent in the TBR pile. And that includes eBook TBR. I acquire new and shiny things all the time, so I doubt I’ll ever read them all. According to one theory, that’s a good thing, not a crazy thing, and I’m going with it. Here’s what I’m looking forward to tackling next:
I’m also working my way through the Poldark novels and Elena Ferrante, among others. And this doesn’t include books by my amazing historical novelist friends. I’ll write another post about those another time.
Sigh. So many books. So little time.