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
This edition of White Noise by Don DeLillo isn’t the copy I have, but I can’t imagine a not-translated work of fiction being all that different — especially since it’s a recent book too. I’ve only just started reading this book, but it fits perfectly with what I’ve been into lately. It’s a dystopian novel about a professor who starts up a Hitler studies program at his university. Everything appears off from the beginning: he and his wife were previously married and have kids from their previous marriages. Time will tell what happens as more begins to unravel.
June Reading List
Howl is a classic poem I’m sure we’ve all read in school. Fun fact about Allen Ginsberg: he actually had a reading at Queens College during the height of all the student-led protests. His poetry is long and meaningful, often invoking Whitman-esque lines and themes. If you’re interested in reading small books that leave big impacts, discuss significant topics, and helped to inspire movements that changed the political atmosphere, this is the book to start with.
I first read The Book of Salt during my undergrad at Queens College. It’s a great book about a Vietnamese immigrant and cook who is employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The class I read this in was a post-colonial survey class that covered all sorts of tough themes that few people are really aware of. The French treated the Vietnamese extremely poorly, but this novel is a small breath of fresh air. The reader learns all about the hardships immigrants face. To make things tougher, the protagonist is a homosexual man who’s banished from his home, so he truly has nowhere to go. It goes without saying why this book is relevant right now.
The Histories by Herodotus is a book I just picked up. I read brief passages in a summer classics course during my undergrad. This book is one of the few original attempts at recording history, which often leads to some controversy (history being written by the victors, and all). However, we live in a world where people are forgetting the significance of history. Many don’t realize that what we’re going through now has happened before and will continue to happen if we don’t take a moment to look back and learn from our previous mistakes. I plan to read this soon to find these similarities.
The Finca Vigia Edition is one of my favorite collections of short stories. Hemingway is a huge inspiration because of how easy it is for him to evoke such strong emotions with very little effort. Well, I’m sure there’s tons of effort and plenty of revisions to get the stories to what they are, but the simplicity of his stories in conjunction with the depth of each character makes them so much more complicated the more you read each story. I remember picking up A Farewell to Arms not knowing what it was, and I can still feel the pain at the end of the story. In these short stories, they evoke the same kind of feelings that I try to emulate in my own writing and make it so much more meaningful.
The Suicide Index not only covers such a tough topic for anyone who dealt with depression or knows of anyone who committed suicide, but looks at it by creating a book outlined as an index. Wickersham, I think, said in an interview or in the introduction of the book that there were tons of revisions and none of them worked out, but once she tried to write the story as an index, it helped open her eyes to all the moving parts to the story. This is important for writers because we often get stuck trying to make the story fit in with our goals; however, we have to write the story simply in the way that feels most natural. If your fiction piece is actually a poem, make it a poem. If your poem is a play, make it a play. This book taught me a lot about life and a lot about craft.