Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Books I Read

I must be getting my drive to write back, because in the several year history of this blog, there has very rarely been a time when I publish a post so soon after publishing another one. Perhaps the writer's fatigue I've suffered from my last semester of college is finally wearing off. Maybe it's the zeal of the new year and the desire to actually make good on my resolution that is pushing me to write a bit more. Maybe I'm bored at work. Or maybe it's that my darling cousin Natalie recently asked me, in a comment on this very blog, what I read and where I get my inspiration from and this is in response to that.

In a fiction writing workshop I took during my undergrad, from one of my all time favorite professors, Nicole Sheets, we read what felt like a lot, and wrote response to what we read. Nicole said the purpose of this exercise was simple: the better reader you are, the better writer you are. As you may or may not know, I have a debilitating condition in my retinas and though it's been stable for quite a few years, I have some irreversible damage to my right retina, which causes me to read quite slowly and also have some trouble reading sometimes if I'm tired or the light is bad. This condition causes me to not read nearly as much as I should or would like to.

So when I do pick up a book, I'm pretty picky. It doesn't help that I'm also hard to please when it comes to genre, writing style, and characters. For example, have I ever read a Harry Potter book? No. Will I ever read a Harry Potter book? No. Not because I'm 29 and they're for adolescents or I don't think J.K. Rowling isn't a brilliant writer and story teller. It's because fantasy will almost never find a home in my life (see list below for exceptions; Tolkien is always an exception). I've tried to read it, and I usually can't do it. I can't make myself believe that this could be real. I actually find this to be very limiting and a little irritating, but I know I won't write fantasy because that's not what I'm good at.

What I'm good at, and subsequently what I usually like to read, is non-fiction. I think this genre is slightly overlooked by a lot of people, mainly because it can be, or seem, quite mundane to some people. And let's face it, a book chronicling the resurgence of political power by the Libertarian party isn't going to interest a large percentage of the American public. But everyone has a story, and lots of the time it's a pretty interesting story, and if it's told right, it can be cool to read about. What I like about non-fiction is that it's real, it happened to someone and someone gained something from the experience. (That's not to say all non-fiction is true. James Frey anyone? But that's a different discussion for a different day. It's also not to say that fiction never comes from real life experiences, but that too, is a different discussion for a different day).

Anyway, this has turned into quite the diatribe when all I was meaning to do was list some of my favorite books. So without further ado, here it is, the list!
  • The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler
  • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (this is for real! "I get lost in the language, words like 'thither', 'mischance'... 'fel-icity'.")
  • Cool, Calm, and  Contentious - Merrill Markoe (currently reading, and it's awesome)
  • Peter and Wendy - J.M. Barrie (also known as Peter Pan)
  • Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World - Vicki Myron
  • "The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes" - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Blind Side - Michael Lewis
  • "The Great American Essay" Series
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
Some books I really want to read include:
  • The Boys of My Youth - Jo Ann Beard (out of print! :[ )
  • Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson (which I got for Christmas and is 600 pages and 42 chapters long)
  • One Day It'll All Make Sense - Common (yes, the rapper)
And so there you have it. If you're so inclined, please leave a comment and tell me some of your favorite books or authors, or anything you think I should read, or how narrow-minded I am for not liking fantasy. Go nuts! I would also like to state that I absolutely abhor the Twilight series for several reasons which I will now list: bad, bad, bad, bad writing, the absolute worst female lead ever, ridiculous premise, and an awful message to all the pre-teen girls who are devouring those books that life does not go on if your vampire boyfriend leaves you. The End


  1. I prefer non-fiction too, and for the same reasons you gave. My faves I can think of off the top of my head:

    The Glass Castle (author? Jeanette something?)
    The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion)
    Anything Malcolm Gladwell

  2. I hate Twilight more than I hate Facebook. And that's a lot. It's ruined so many things and it's really just an embarrassment to books everywhere. If I ever meet Stephanie Meyer, I will punch her in the face. And then break her hands so she can never type again.

    I'm not big on fantasy either. I sometimes wish I was because there are so many interesting-sounding books, but I just can't get into it. The exception is The Hunger Games series. I really loved those. I would recommend reading those because they're really easy reads (being YA books and all) and pretty interesting premise with likable characters who actually have personalities (unlike most YA lit).

    I love David Sedaris. I wish I could write as astutely as he does. I like fiction more than anything else, so some of my favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, most anything by Chuck Palahniuk (he is so sick and twisted but crazy amazing), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and The Shining by Stephen King. Just to name a few :)

  3. If I could live in a perfect world, I would read all day long. But then, something must be said for living your own story, I suppose. Darn.

    There is little that keeps me away from different genres. The only prerequisite I have is that it must be written well. That said, I am ashamed to admit I read all four Twilights. I will NEVER read them again. Stephanie Meyer, you give Utah writers a bad name.

    If I can attempt to limit myself on novels to recommend, try The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, or The Book Thief. All three have beautiful writing! These is My Words, I forget the author at the moment, is right up your alley. It is written as a memoir but is half fact/ half fiction and if Jack were a real person, I would marry him. I love the classics: Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel,and I'm just starting Uncle Tom's Cabin. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are odd, but the characters are so juicy, you have to love 'em. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley, and The Kite Runner to name a few more. Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James has me very much intrigued.

    Man, I love books!

  4. Thanks for the list! I am a big fiction reader, and have been trying to get into more non-fiction. I really love stories, so when non-fiction comes in a story format I am more interested. I will have to look these up. Do you read actual books, or are you a tablet girl? I read almost exclusively on my iPad now, but it took me a while to take the leap. I also still will purchase hard copies of books I love or really pretty books.