I mentioned the other day I was planning to post a listing of the books I’ve read (or, in a couple of cases, books I’m close to finishing) each month.
This is the first of those lists. 🙂
As always, when I post links to books on the blog, I do so using my merchant account, via Amazon, when possible. If you follow the link and buy from them, I get a small percentage. By no means does that mean you should use Amazon, if you feel strongly about ordering elsewhere. Visit your local bookshop and have them order anything they don’t already have on the shelves. That’s fine, too.
I started the month reading books by two writer friends:
1. Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales, by Marni Mann. Fiction. Novel. Marni has written a face-paced story of addiction and the addictive lifestyle. As first novels go, this is a good one. It’s written in a way that keeps you moving forward. I read it on Kindle (for my iPad, of course) and just bought a hard copy this weekend at Marni’s book launch party. This isn’t easy subject matter, but it is well done.
2. My Amish Roots, by Shawn Smucker. Non-Fiction. Shawn is another writer friend, though he doesn’t live nearby. This book is part family history, part memoir. If you are interested in Amish customs and looking for a glimpse into one Amish family’s history, and some of the ways that history impacts current generations, you might take a look at Shawn’s website. (He also blogs about a wide range of non-Amish things.)
Beyond these two friend-written books, I started to dig in to the 50+ books waiting on my “to be read” shelf.
3. Say You’re One of Them, by Uwem Akpan. Fiction. Short story collection. These stories of African life are gritty and moving. There is a real difficulty, I think, in some of the slang and dialect expressed throughout in the dialogue, which makes this a slow (I started this book in December, and just finished) and sometimes confusing read, but I found the stories to be compelling. It reminded me of the first time I read a collection by Edwidge Danticat (who is from Haiti, but writes of the misfortunes of her homeland in much the same way as Akpan) and I found it to be a very real way to understand some of the experiences encountered in third-world areas.
4. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Fiction. Short story collection. These stories focus on people of Indian decent and the push-pull between the old life and the new, the old-country traditions, the lingering identification (or lack thereof) with former customs. Again, a compelling look behind the curtain (to use a cliché) into a world parallel to my own, but very foreign just the same.
5. What the Dog Saw, by Malcolm Gladwell. Non-Fiction. Essays. Some people seem to talk Gladwell down, but I’ve certainly enjoyed reading his books. What the Dog Saw was no different. I read these sorts of stories in order to gain insight into different worlds, different lives, and hope that some of those things get mashed together and come out, at the appropriate time, in my fictional characters. Gladwell’s books always give me something to think about, and they are well written and easy to read.
6. Revision and Self-Editing, by James Scott Bell. Non-Fiction. Writing Craft. This is one in a series of books put out by Writer’s Digest Books. Since revision (and self-editing) is on my mind a lot this month, I’ve been cruising through this book, reminding myself of things I already know and keeping an eye out for the occasional, “Yeah, that too,” moment.
7. Life at the Bottom, by Theodore Dalrymple. Non-Fiction. Essays. Economics, poverty, and the English sub-culture of the underclass are discussed by a psychiatric doctor from London. The essays are very well written and they give the reader a great deal to ponder. I’m reading this one slowly, and letting things sink in.
Finally, the two periodicals I’ve had at my side all month are Poets & Writers magazine (natch) and Memoir Journal. I’m really glad I picked up Memoir. There were a number of fine essays, pages of great photos, and several poems I really enjoyed. (And, if you know how rare it is for me to say something super-positive about poetry, you’ll understand what a ringing endorsement that is. HAHA!) I also read three stories from the ever-present One Story magazine, which I seem to always be one or two stories behind…
So, that’s it. January’s reading list. Feel free to chime in (in the comments section) if you’ve read any of these, or have similar books you’d recommend.