An absolutely essential part of writing, as we all know, is reading. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. My best ideas are often inspired by whatever I’m reading. I often find myself adopting writing techniques from other authors for my own writing style.
One thing I haven’t done with this blog that I feel will be a huge help to you, the aspiring writer, is to showcase some of the books I’m currently reading and interested in reading.
You’ll find I read a little bit of everything: fiction, style and craft, non-fiction, poetry, classics, short stories, mixed genres, and contemporary. The only genre I typically avoid is sci-fi — not because I look down upon the genre, but because I’d much rather see the show or movie.
I think being open to a wide range of genres and going out of my comfort zone has been a huge help to me. It helps me break away from my usual writing habits, which is what I think leads to writer’s block.
Below, you’ll find all kinds of books that I personally find interesting and reasons why I think they’re worthy of being on that month’s reading list.
What I’m Currently Reading
I’ve always had a passion for the ancient world. I remember myself in elementary school imagining what life would be like in Rome or Greece when the ruins were magnificent buildings and statues. I read some passages from this book in a classics literature class over the summer during my undergrad. It was hard to read because there wasn’t much context, but it was interesting and I figured reading the whole book would make things a little easier. So far, I’ve been thrown right in with just as little context, but the book is still really interesting and I’m already seeing ways to turn some passages into stories. Hopefully, it will clear up and I’ll start to recognize more and more as I continue to read.
January Reading List
Cockloft: Scenes from a Gay Marriage by Kyle Thomas Smith is a book from one of my fellow classmates at Queens College. We went through the MFA program together so I had the luxury of seeing this book come together before it became a story. Kyle’s writing is exactly like how he is in real life: full of energy, witty, sarcastic, full of backstories, inviting, and spiritual. This book is full of dialogues between him and his husband, stories of their vacations (my favorite is their trip to Rome), and other smaller moments that turn into something much bigger. I bought his book as soon as it was announced because I was that excited to see everything else that I missed.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine is a powerful, lyrical/poetic essay or novel that doesn’t let genre get in the way of painting a realistic, unapologetic picture of modern-day America. The cover is supposed to represent the hoodie Trayvon Martin was wearing when he was murdered, which is the first clue going into the book about what’s inside. This book has rightfully earned tons of praise and prizes. It explores the microaggressions African Americans face on a regular basis that are nothing but blatant to them. She even references Serena Williams, who, again, has made headlines recently for calling out a ref for penalizing her when men get away with much worse. It simply goes to show that few things have changed and we need to keep bringing awareness to them in order for something to happen.
I read The Blind Writer for a fiction workshop in grad school and I flew through it. It’s a book of short stories and a novella about the Indian American experience in the US. There are many stereotypes explored in this book, but they’re given a much deeper look so the reader can understand why these people act the way that they do. The characters have strong relationships with immigration and that relationship shapes their lives permanently, and similarly to the immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America. I find that books like these are doing a much better job at describing the United States in its truest form better than any typical, insert-old-white-male writer you were forced to read in English 101.
I bought On Writing by Stephen King a while ago, not quite sure I’d get anything out of it considering there’s no right or wrong way to write. However, despite not being a Stephen King fan, figuring he had to have some idea what he was doing considering he always had a shelf full of his own books in every bookstore and library I’ve ever walked into, I knew there had to be some sort of method to the madness aside from the copious amounts of coke he used to do. As it turned out, this book made me recognize more and more that Stephen King knows what he’s doing, and I’d absolutely love to take a class of his if he ever offered one. He is so in tune with what makes writing so compelling and he is far from preachy. If you need inspiration to start a project, I’d suggest this book.
I’ve been thinking about My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante a lot recently. The Neapolitan Series has been my favorite book series for a while now. And whenever I think of what my favorite books are, My Brilliant Friend is definitely in the top five. This beautiful Italian translation is the story of two young girls who are friends from a young age, but life, and the city of Naples, forces them in two separate directions. The narrator is set on telling the story of who her friend is after she mysteriously disappears. If you want to be swept away from absolutely amazing and life-like prose, this is the book for you. If you’re hesitant to start reading it because everyone else is hyping it up, the hype is there for good reason. This book is the perfect example of why translations need more love in the US.