What I’ve Been Reading

Apr 6, 2016

It’s time for a post where upon I gush upon the books I’ve been loving reading.

I make a (somewhat) regular habit of reviewing what I read for 3 reasons:

  1. To improve my writing. Why did I like this book? Why did I find myself skimming this one? Why does this one haunt me weeks after the final page? Good questions!
  2. When someone asks me what I’ve read lately, I can happily say, “Let me look at my list!”
  3. I’m attempting to choose what I read with care because there are so many things I want to learn and authors I want to experience. But I’m a book slut and easily led astray… for which, I find, I cannot apologize.

Here you go!

Fiction

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
Fantasy, yes, but so gorgeously written and expertly plotted that non-fantasy readers will adore it, too.

The Neapolitan Novels, Books 1-4, by Elena Ferrante
Beginning with My Brilliant Friend and ending with The Story of the Lost Child, these novels are intense, strangely written, and a deep dive into the psyches of the two main characters, the nature of female friendship, a culture of violent poverty, and the struggle to be a creative woman. I have never read a series so quickly. Warning: you either love these books or you hate them so don’t go buy all four!

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
I had always been afraid to read Murakami. Would I “get it?” Would it be too hard for me to follow? My dear friend Anna Guest-Jelley re-reads this book every year so that made me take it on. If you are willing to be immersed in a dream vs. read for story, check it out.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
I have total sentence envy. Every other sentence is a stunner.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This book broke my heart. We love our mothers, no matter what.

Non-Fiction

The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum
The essay “Matricide” is worth the price of the book.

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
I’m reading this 2007 classic for book club. If you get completely confused about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, read this!! Brilliant and utterly devastating.

Consolations by David Whyte
Reading these short philosophical riffs on words like Hiding, Memory, Denial, and Friendship, I was inspired to create powerful writing prompts for the Oasis. Intriguing.

Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel
A graphic manual on how to make great stories for radio and a very useful book about storytelling period. She also has a podcast of the same name.

The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark
Finally a detailed book about how to read like a writer! I chose this for my Taos writing retreats this year and can’t wait to discuss it with other writers! If you want to learn how to apply what you read to your own writing, get this.

Why We Write About Ourselves, edited by Meredith Maran
I love reading interviews with writers and not just to avoid writing :). If you are writing personal stories, this is worth checking out to see why writers like Sue Monk Kidd, Jesmyn Ward, and Anne Lamott write about themselves.

Motivation for Creative People by Mark McGuinness
I flagged the heck out of this book, partially to help the participants in the Oasis and also because Mark made such clear distinctions about what I call “compassionate grit.”

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
So Michael is my dear friend and I read and gave comments on his earlier drafts, but you know what? I’d still recommend his book! It is laser sharp, funny, and effectively designed. If you manage other humans or coach as part of your work, you will thank me for this recommendation. You’ll be a star.

Enjoy!

Love,

Jen

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