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
- 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)