I’ve decided that 2008 is my year to shrink the ever-growing piles in half. To start with, I’ve pulled out ten books that I will read over the next few months. If worthy, I will then transfer these books to my bookshelf. These will be nonfiction rather than fiction.
Because I’m a compulsive novel reader. Reading is part of my job as a novelist (nice rationalization), but I bet I also inherited this tendency from my mom. In any case, I’ve noticed that obsessive novel-reading complicates my first-draft writing efforts. For one thing, my brain runs amuck with too many ideas anyhow; I can do without the possible influence of other writers’s prose stylings or cool plot points on my storytelling.
Also, I often ruin my sleep patterns by reading until two (or later) in the morning. This results in morning grogginess, distraction, grumpiness — not good for my creativity. I accomplish my best first-draft writing in the mornings so obviously I need a fix.
To this end I shall henceforth read nonfiction until I complete my first draft. Here’s my reading list, in no particular order:
* A PERFECT MESS, The Hidden Benefits of Disorder — How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place: I bought this yesterday as part of a New Year’s effort to be kinder to myself.
* ALMANAC OF WORLD HISTORY: I began reading this National Geographic book eons ago because I’m daft when it comes to history. Didn’t pay enough attention in school, I guess. Too bad I don’t remember what I previously read, but my bookmark shows that I got to “Colonizing New Worlds, 1455-1857.”
* THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary: Dictionary — a writer’s best friend. How could I not be interested in this tale?
* READING LIKE A WRITER, A Guide For People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them: Self-evident. Also, the author, Francine Prose, is smart smart smart.
* THE GOLDEN RATIO, The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number: I must have inherited a pinch of geekiness from my genius dad’s side of the family…
* EUDORA, A WRITER’S LIFE: Pure curiosity about novelist Eudora Welty.
* IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY: Because the author, Bill Bryson, has a great reputation. And because I like a well-written travel book. And because I’m a wanderer at heart.
* THE BOTANY OF DESIRE, A Plant’s-Eye View of the World: Research for my first novel (a.k.a. my practice novel) in which one of my characters was an amateur botanist instilled in me a huge respect for all that is botanical and for nature writing in general.
* SALT, A WORLD HISTORY: I like revisionist historical perspectives. They’re fresh and could be fodder for fiction.
* BUTTERFLY COOING LIKE A DOVE: This is a gorgeous book — an odd mixture of art, nature writing, and literature — written by Miriam Rothschild. I’ve held on to it for years because Jackie Onassis acquired and edited it. Many a day I observed her gorgeous self strolling past my desk at Doubleday Books (where I also worked but as a plebe).
And my bonus book: EAT, PRAY, LOVE, which I will borrow from a friend — because so many people have recommended it and because it was apparently the must-read popular nonfiction book of 2007.
Aaaah, books — heaven.