Writers benefit when they read widely, not only in the genre in which they write, but across all genres, and non-fiction as well as fiction. In addition to the inherent pleasure of reading a good book, writers gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the craft of writing: how to structure a story, character development, use of dialogue, balancing narrative, dialogue and action, creating rising action, and much more.
Each year I set a goal to read 25 books. I just finished reading Ann Patchett’s latest novel, State of Wonder. I’ve always been a big fan of Ann Patchett’s work and her new novel does not disappoint. Here are some books I’ve read recently:
In Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard
Northwest Corner, by John Burnham Schwartz
Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan
Innocent, by Scott Turow
Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro
The One That I Want, by Allison Winn Scotch
Decoded, by Jay-Z
Where do I find out about books? I choose books mainly based on reviews in The New York Times, Goodreads, fiction writers’ blogs, or recommendations of friends.
I gravitate toward family sagas, because that’s the genre in which I write, but I also enjoy murder/mysteries, women’s literature, biographies and even the occasional sci-fi thriller. I read mostly for pleasure. Sometimes I am drawn to a book because of similarities to what I am currently writing. At other times, I select books for research. I read Decoded because I am working on a novella where one of the major characters is a
rapper and I didn’t have a clue about how to write that kind of character. I like Jay-Z’s music and the book gave me some great insights into the psychology and sociology of rap music.
What are you reading now? How do you decide on a book you’re going to read?