My Current Reading List

nightstandbooks.jpgI promise I didn’t set up this photo of my nightstand in all its bookwormy glory. So many books, so little time to read them all!

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.

Why nonfiction?

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.

0 comments on “My Current Reading List

  • As if you didn’t have enough books in your stack, I have “Notes from a Small Island” and “A Walk in the Woods”, both by Bill Bryson and both excellent. I would be happy to loan them to you if you decide you want to read more of his work.

    Have you read “How the Irish Saved Civilization”? If so, what did you think of it?

    Happy New Year!

  • Hi Jen!

    Thanks for the loaners — I might have to take you up on that! As for HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION: I loved it — talk about a fresh perspective! Ireland’s literary roots go back further than people might think. This is one of my favorite revisionist history books of all time. In fact, I read it for the second time last year. Hope you liked it, too.

  • I loved it–I’m waiting for Brent to finish reading “How the Scots Invented the Modern World” so I can read it too. We are both on a non-fiction historical kick. We should talk about it over happy hour or lunch sometime soon. 🙂

  • Hi Lisa,

    That photo of your nightstand caught my eye and made me laugh! Mine used to look like that, but instead of always trying to keep them balanced and not falling over, I finally gave in . . . . and moved them to a bookshelf. Now that’s overflowing, so I don’t know what I’ll do next . . . .

    A nonfiction book I am almost finished with and really enjoyed is “The Power of Yin: Celebrating Female Consciousness” by three remarkable and brilliant women — Hazel Henderson, Jean Houston & Barbara Marx Hubbard. The book inspired me and shows that there are still people who have a great vision for the world and who live that vision in their personal and professional lives. Hope you like it as much as I did!


  • Thanks for the recommedation! I wrote your suggested book on a list I’ve started — this piece of paper is located on my nightstand, no surprise…


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