Writers and the reading life
Many writers love books and share the twin passion for reading. Books play an important role in their lives even as they make their own mark in the book world. So it’s not surprising that there’s a small niche of books have grown up detailing the reading life of a rabid reader or a famous author.
What is it about reading that keeps us engaged, keeps us turning pages or scrolling forward? Why do writers even care what other writers think about the books they’ve read? There’s a curiosity factor for any reader who picks up a book about books read by famous authors. There’s an implied kinship. There’s also the hope that some surprise or special understanding will illuminate their own journey into books. But for writers there’s that extra draw to learn and understand what makes another writer tick.
Learning how to read like a writer
Understanding how other writers view books not only feeds that curiosity but also fuels a desire to learn more about the writing process. Is there really a conversation going on among writers within their books?
Who are the writers who fed their passions and why? What did they discover or experience while traversing these internal landscapes? This is one way a writer grapples with how other writers think and do what they do.
Best books for writers about reading
Any time a writer can gain entrance into the mind of a reader, it’s a good thing. When I learned of Nina Sankovitch’s new book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, it was a given that it would land in my hands. If you enjoy books like Tolstoy and the Purple Chair or want to wade further into the deep waters of a reader’s mind, try the following ten books.
- My Reading Life by Pat Conroy — Like many other writers, Conroy has an immense appetite for books. Not only did they provide childhood escapes, but in many ways powered him through childhood propelling him into the writer he is today.
- The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them edited by Roxanne J. Coady & Joy Johannesen — Books matter. For these 71 authors, they matter a lot. A book can transform a life and these authors provide testament to that live-changing power contained within the pages of a single book.
- The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life: How to get more books in your life and more life in your books by Steve Leveen — If you love the famous Levenger catalog that provides tools for “the serious reader,” you’re acquainted with the work of Steve Leveen. A self-described bibliophile, Leveen prods the reader to read and to read well. Catch the passion of this lifelong reader and harness his tools of discovery. Transform what may be a reading habit into a reading adventure.
- A Passion for Books: A Book Lover’s Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Lore, and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan (Foreword by Ray Bradbury) — Bradbury wrote the Foreword, need I say more? This is a celebration of books with writings by Anna Quindlen, Christopher Morley, Susan Sontag, Gustave Flaubert and more that will delight, provoke, inform and entertain.
- The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer — Do you wonder how anyone could read those dusty, big, books called classics, let alone know why anyone woudl try Maybe you think you don’t have time or perhaps the lure of social media proves too difficult to overcome. Never fear, for Bauer will take you by the hand and guide you into the classics with tools, encouragement, information, and, most of all, a plan. Discover the real pleasure of reading.
- For the Love of Books: 115 celebrated writers on the books they love most edited by Ronald B. Shwartz — What do writers really think about books? What stories entertained them, cajoled them, even shaped them? Delve into the minds of these great writers and meet the books that wielded the greatest impact.
- Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.) by Francine Prose — Let the author be your guide through a wide range of books. Discover what she reads, how she reads, and why she reads. It’s not often you get to perch on the shoulder of an author and peek at the pages that so captivate them. Francine Prose is more than willing to reveal her treasures.
- How to Read a Book: The classic guide to intelligent reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren — This classic work from 1940 and regularly updated and revised continues to help readers go wide and go deep into the pleasure that is gained from reading a book. If you want to learn how to become an active reader, this is the book for you.
- 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley — I love this book. Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, who shares her journey through 100 novels. This is more than a critique or an analysis of a novel. This is a journey into the mind of a novelist who opens the door and invites you into her interior landscape where her creative process dwells. You’re in her mind and engaged in the conversation she’s had with the writers she’s read. Whether you want to dip your toe, wade into the shallows or dive deep, Smiley’s book will have something for you.
- Booknotes: America’s Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas by Brian Lamb — I’ve been a fan of CSPAN’s BookTV and Brian Lamb’s wide-ranging interviews with writers, so I had to add this one to the list. If you love to read, are interested in books and especially writing, you’ll enjoy this book
There you have it: My top ten picks for the week. Tell me your favorites and share your thoughts in the comment section below
Thanks to the folks at The Broke and The Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday weekly meme and for their Top Ten Tuesday image featured above.
Ready to read the classics? Join The Classics Club. My 5 year 50+ booklist is here: The Classics Club project. Short story lovers, check out The Short Stories Challenge.
- IMAGE & AFFILIATE CREDITS: Book covers and titles are affiliate links and sourced via Amazon; Delphische Sibylle fresco image by Michelangelo Buonarroti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons