As the school year comes to a close, I begin looking forward to the summer by crafting a reading list. I know, I know, this sounds like it’s making work out of fun, but there’s an art to the reading, particularly the different types of reading, I want to do over the summer. I want the ebb and flow of challenging books and light reading, fiction and nonfiction, and genre and literary.
Also, I like what creating a reading list tells me about my own tastes, and how those tastes reflect back on the choices I make as a writer. If my novel were sitting on my shelf, would I be reaching for it? (I hope so … but it’s a good question to ask.)
I also like it as a log of my development as a reader and a way to reflect on the influences on my writing. Over the years, I’ve read books—The Blind Assassin, The Big Sleep, etc.—that have had powerful impact on my work; however, it’s only been since I’ve consciously curated my reading that I’ve started to understand my tastes better: fiction with female protagonists; stories with a historical milieu; morally ambiguous characters; dark emotional terrain; rich, at times lyrical description, but not as the expense of plot—and never sentimental. Unsurprisingly, my writing embodies my reading tastes.
However—and what interests me the most—are the outlier books, works that don’t easily fit in. For instance, I placed Ali Smith’s Artful on my summer reading list, a genre-bending book, part novel, part collection of essays. Am I curious even now why I was initially attracted to this book? In part, it’s because of its lovely cover (no joke) and in part its because I’ve heard so many intriguing things about Smith’s writing.
Most of all, my reading list is a declaration to myself that I’m free to read what I want (for the most part) after a year of reading for school. As much as writing, it’s a form of self-expression and requires that freedom to survive.
So, here it is .. and of course it can (and will) change. (If you have any suggestions, respond to this blog or be my friend of Goodreads.)