Tag Archives: Summer reading

My Spring Reading List 2016

 Spring 2016

I’ve been meaning to post my Spring Reading List for weeks — in reality, I’ve done so much reading in the past year, it’s ironic that I slacked off sharing my reading lists.

Shaming me into it just the littlest bit today is one of my favorite activities with writing friends. A group of writers with Writer Unboxed meet via Facebook every other month to discuss the craft details that led to a breakout novel’s success. While I posted today’s questions and waited for discussion to start, well, there was just no excuse for not getting this post ready to go live.

So first off, shout out to my WU Breakout Novel Dissection group who are, as I type, in the throes of some really interesting analysis of everything from tittle to time structure.

And then, here’s to great reading. Let us know the best titles you’ve read lately, or releases you’re looking forward to.

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Adult Fiction

  • Julianna Baggott, Harriett Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders (Aug. 2015). Julianna is one of the most forthright, witty, magical and generous writers I’ve met, over the years, and I have been really looking forward to reading this novel, which, itself, serves as essentially the missing 7th book in an imagined series. This book is full of surprises, and one of the few books I’ve given as a gift lately.
  • 51CCPq9tcEL__SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Anthony Marra, The Tsar of Love and Techno (Oct. 2015). Anthony Marra has become one of my favorite writers –his Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2014) is the only book I have ever reviewed on this site, and makes my favorite read of year list — so I was excited to see this release. While identified as “stories,” this collection reads like a novel that is handed from one story to the next. I don’t want to oversell it… but it was new and smart and funny and… yeah, great.
  • Tana French, In the Woods (2008). Something about workshopping with Ben Percy last year has had me in a mind of getting back to my reading roots: honoring the kinds of stories that first inspired me as a reader. I crave the mental puzzle of a good mystery — equally despising poorly written ones — so have been glad to discover French’s rich & flawless writing in her Dublin mystery series. Next up: Likeness. Next up after that: Faithful Place. Hooked.
  • Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train (2015).  Keeping with the mystery thread, this one finally made my reading list when it was selected by the group of writers I mentioned in the intro (Writer Unboxed Breakout Novel Book Dissection group). If you’d been holding out to read this once the paperback came out, it just released last week.
  • Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries (2013). This novel has been in my almost-read pile for more than a year, and I’m only adding it here again because I actually read it this time. Incredible writing, great detail, my kind of topic. But the kind of over-writing where you got to each “reveal” about a hundred pages ahead of her. Really turned it tedious.
  • 51CGEPIpYqL__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Emily Carpenter, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls (April 26, 2016). I have really been looking forward to this debut novel, which uncovers the multigenerational mystery behind the disintegration of women in one Alabama family. Emily delivers a page-turning thriller with a bit of wit and magic. I look forward to more from her.
  • Alexander Chee, Queen of the Night (Feb. 2016). Having followed Alexander online for years, I’ve been really excited to see the acclaim that has arisen around the release of this novel this year. Already a bestseller, a New York Times pick, and rising on numerous reading lists, it’s been described as a mesmerizing work, something like opera. I’ve read the opening chapter and look forward to more.
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life (2015). You may be the same: this one came home from the book store with me because so many people kept reporting what an emotional read it is. It was a Man Booker Prize Finalist, and made the “best book of the year” lists for more than 20 major publications.
  • 61MBasfoH0L__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Sara Novic, Girl at War (May 2015). I’m really looking forward to this novel, a coming of age debut that has been an award winner and finalist internationally, with comparisons to two of my favorite novels: Tiger’s Wife and All the Light We Cannot See.
  • Nicole Krauss, The History of Love (2005). I came to this one as a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer, Anthony Doerr, and Nathan Englander. Everything, from a starred Publishers Weekly review to excerpts and recommendations, has me looking forward to an unexpected point of view on love.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006).  I previously read this author’s acclaimed Americanah (2013), but had several friends recommend her Orange Award winning earlier novel, so Half a Yellow Sun made my list. (If you prefer audiobooks, Julianne Stirling highly recommends Americanah via Audible, as she says the narrator, Adjoa Andoh, brings the African dialects to life.)

Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction

  •  Kwame Alexander, Crossover (2014). I’m excited to be able to add not only a diverse voice into my sons’/students’ reading this spring… but it’s a highly awarded novel in verse.

Poetry

  • Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). I keep forgetting to order this collection, but have heard it consistently recommended.

Nonfiction

  • Richard Engel, And Then All Hell Broke Loose (Feb. 2016). From elsewhere on the blog, you may be aware of the thread about dangers to conflict zone reporters that influences part of my novel draft. While researching and tracking one missing journalist, I was sorry to hear of the capture of Engel and his crew. If you’ve seen him report, he’s the real thing, honest to goodness, diehard reporter, and I look forward to his insights.
  • Robert Young Pelton, The World’s Most Dangerous Places (1995, 2000, 2003). I first read the 1995 edition when writing Breathing Water, and returned to it, over the years, in writing about characters working in hot spots around the world. I tracked down the 2000 version this spring, as a resource a character in Never Said would have consulted before heading overseas. I got a kick out of the deadpa61MV8ZtI4JL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_n, gravedigger wit of this first time around — but the advice rings much more somber, post 9/11.
  • Benjamin Percy, Thrill Me (Oct. 18, 2016). Yes, this one’s not coming out until October, although I’d love to get ahold of a galley to review. Of everyone I’ve workshopped with, Ben’s advice on fiction has been the most like rocket fuel.

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What About You?

What is on your current must-read list, or what books have you read recently that you highly recommend?  How do you usually get your reading recommendations — suggestions from a friend? lists in the news? books on shelves in the store?

If you post your own reading list, feel free to share your link in the comments below. If you would like to join in a reading blog hop, let me know.

Or, click to connect on Goodreads.

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Where do the book links take you?

For convenience, you can click book titles for their link on Amazon — or find them at your favorite indie bookseller through indiebound.org:

Shop Indie Bookstores

What’s my “VIDA Count”?

Equity or diversity in voices is an issue many of us are working on improving — some from the publication-end, and I’ve addressed it with curriculum in classrooms. The VIDA count is a done by a group that evaluates representation of gender and identity within publications each year. I’m not a part of their counting, but thought it was positive to see the number of women (11 out of 18) and marginalized voices (7) that coincidentally populate my reading list this time around.

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 If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email. I can be found on Twitter @elissafield , on Goodreads, or on Facebook.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

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Mid-Summer Reading 2014

Midway between June’s Summer Reading List, and sharing a new list of great books to read in the fall, this week it seemed a good time to post a Midsummer Reading update.  A little feedback on some of the novels I’ve read so far this summer, as well as those great discoveries of books I’ve added to my reading list.

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

Early Summer Reading

First, a little update on what I’ve read so far, from My Summer Reading List 2014 and a few carry-overs from My Reading List Winter 2014.

  • reading - long manAmy Greene’s Long Man (2014). I highly recommend this novel, which mixes an element of mystery and beautifully lyrical writing in unveiling the subtle secrets and loves of a small mountain village during building of a dam in their valley to introduce electricity and income during the Depression.
  • Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed (2013). Yet another insightful novel from author of The Kite Runner (2004) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2008). Although… it had a hard time competing against other reading favorites in the past month.
  • Erin Morgenstern, Night Circus (2011). I was slow to ‘discover’ this one, although readily captivated by the unique and mysterious community Erin creates — I loved this one and it makes my recommended reads.
  • Alice McDermott, Someone (September 2013). Actual sigh. I love Alice McDermott, and I also am familiar with her quietly powerful style. But I was so impatient the full first half of this novel. Tons of description of domestic detail (furnishings of rooms, mostly). There is a powerful, albeit subtle, payoff in the end, so I still recommend reading, but I don’t know that it is one of my favorites of hers. Beautifully written, just very quiet.
  • Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

    Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

    Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013). So far, my favorite read of the year (he catches a slight boost in that his writing structure and topic fit my writing mood at the moment). There’s such powerful accuracy in every sentence, with a masterfully balanced structure of varying timelines and points of view. I did a lot of underlining as I read. This one has had several nods for awards: long-listed, short-listed and awarded.  If you want details, I reviewed: Reading: Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

  • Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home (2012).  This was another reading favorite. Beautifully told, it was most surprising for being a book so much about love without being about a romance between main characters: love between sisters, between uncle and niece, between a parent and the parent’s sibling… At all times, Brunt delivers authentic and new insights. It is particularly a fresh portrayal of homosexual partnership and the AIDS crisis of the 80’s. While not written as young adult fiction, it’s a book I would include in teen reading lists.

What I’m Reading Now

I just received delivery of a few of the books I couldn’t find in bricks and mortar stores, so am exciting to be reading these, this week:

  • Gae Polisner, The Summer of Letting Go (March 2014).  If you have a teen reader or read young adult literature, I really recommend this one. I was instantly pulled in by the endearing voice of the main character, who is stalking a beautiful neighbor, Nancy Drew-style, worried the woman has seduced her father. Sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, it is compelling, the weight this girl feels to hold her family together after her brother’s drowning. Beautifully written.
  • Colum McCann, Fishing the Sloe-Black River: Stories (1996).  This one was on my Summer Reading List 2013, but I’ve just now gotten ahold of it. Despite a factual detail that really undermined the plot of the first story, it’s so far delivering the voice I so admire McCann for, for its concise and subtle precision. He tends to be a favorite.
  • Colm Toibin, Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (2001).  I’m still waiting for this one to arrive as it was hard to track down. Kudos to small booksellers (and my ability to find them through Amazon) for having just the book I was looking for.

Newly Added for Midsummer Reading

Here are a few books I’ve added to my reading list since June’s list.

  • Helen Oyeyemi, Boy, Snow, Bird (March 2014). I first ran across Helen’s writing with a really strong short story in a literary magazine a few years back. I’d put Mr. Fox on my reading list, and was reminded of her when I came across Boy, Snow, Bird, her new release. I’ve heard great things from other reading friends.
  • Colin Barrett, Young Skins (January 2014). This short story collection was just recognized with the Frank O’Connor prize, and Barrett’s writing has been praised by writers I love, like Colm Toibin.

Carryovers from Prior Lists

Some of these have carried over from prior lists as I track them down. Each is highly recommended.

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How About You?

What are you reading, what would you recommend, or what books make you to be read list?  If this inspires you to blog your own list, share link to your post so we can come read with you.

Where do the book links take you?

For convenience, you can click book titles for their link at Amazon — or find them at your favorite indie bookseller through indiebound.org:

Shop Indie Bookstores

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My Summer Reading List 2014

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

Summer reading, ready to go. c. Elissa Field

What is the first thing I did with my days off, when spring semester ended? READ. Read read read. I can’t say why, but more than any other year, it felt so good to spend full days reading as summer started this year. 

The first few books I read were ones from my Winter 2014 Reading List, including Amy Greene’s Long Man and Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena(I reviewed Constellation here).

Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

Celebrated first day of summer: reading by the pool. c Elissa Field, 2014

I highly recommend both of them and am excited for the successes both books have seen.

But now it’s time to get excited about the latest must-reads — it’s time for My Summer Reading List 2014! Please do share your own reading recommendations or must-reads in the comments. We all love to learn about great new titles.

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Fiction

  • Michael Cunningham, The Snow Queen (2014). This made my radar after watching Cunningham give a reading (online) at Bart College. I first fell in love with his writing when I stumbled on a short story in the defunct DoubleTake Magazine — before The Hours — which had me guessing he’d become a notable writer. Snow Queen releases this summer.
  • Aminatta Forna, The Hired Man (2013). I’ve heard this described as a “taut and suspenseful” tale of the relationship between villagers of a small Croat town and outsiders, after Croatia’s War of Independence. The title has appeared on several recommended reading lists. I’m intrigued.
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See (May 2014). This novel set in World War II has been surfacing in every reading forum, with rave reviews. I’ve read short stories by Doerr before that were full of beauty and nuanced insight.
  • Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed (2013). This is the novel I just started reading. Hosseini’s prior novels – The Kite Runner (2004) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2008) — were stunning. Read this New York Times review. 
  • Erin Morgenstern, Night Circus (2011). This one made my reading radar before, but finally made it into the stack that came home with me from a recent book-buying trip. This novel had a lot of buzz among my lit friends on Twitter last summer ago. I actually finished reading it just prior to posting this and can tell you that Erin has created a magically unique world, justifying the buzz.
  • Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (2014). This was added to my reading list on sheer faith of this tweet from Anthony Marra, whose Constellation has gotten so much praise from me lately:

 

 

Carryovers from Winter

Middle Grade or Young Adult Fiction

You may know that, from my own interests, from reading along with my sons and from teaching middle grade lit, I am an avid reader of middle grade and young adult fiction. These make my summer list:

  • Gae Polisner, The Summer of Letting Go (March 2014). I’m excited to read this new release by a writer I came to know as one of the hosts of the annual TeachersWrite forum. Early reviews have been great! I’ve come to know her as frank, intelligent, and witty, and am interested to see how her voice plays out in the novel.
  • E. Lockhart, We Were Liars (May 2014). Here’s another new release showing up on nearly every recommended reading list. The cover alone has that summer-mystique from childhood to pull me in.
  • John Greene, An Abundance of Katherines (2008). One of my Best Reads of 2014 never made it onto one of my readings lists, and that is The Fault in Our Stars. Forget that it’s a movie this summer; you have to read the book. It will be a classic (and yes, you’ll cry through much of it). Credit to John Greene for being example of why adults read young adult fiction: Fault is one smart and passionate novel. So read that, if you haven’t. I, in the meantime, will be reading Katherines (recommended by a friend) or one of Greene’s others: Paper Towns or Looking for Alaska).
  • Carl Hiaasen’s Scat, and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. I’ll be buddy reading these along with my son, a rising 5th grader — they are part of his summer reading. If you have a child 4th-6th grade, these are great reads.

Nonfiction

  • Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012). Boo’s reporting of the “bewildering age of global change and inequality” through the inner stories of families in Mumbai was winner of the National Book Award, the PEN/John Galbraith Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize… should I go on?
  • Gary Shteyngart, Little Failure (January 2014). While it’s possible I’ll end up buying something else by Shteyngart (novels: Super Sad True Love Story or Russian Debutante’s Handbook) when I’m actually in the store, this memoir has been on my target list for some time.
  • Elizabeth Berg, Escaping Into the Open (2012). This book made my reading list, sight unseen, as it is the book being shared by my Wordsmith Studios friends as a summer reading group. Smile at the thought of this great group.
  • Colm Toibin, Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (2001). I look forward to reading this account from one of my favorite Irish authors about the time and place where much of my current novel-in-progress is set. (More about my novel’s Irish connection here.)

 Want more reading recommendations?

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What Are You Reading?

I’d love to hear your own reading suggestions in the comments.  Let us know the favorite books you’ve read this year or ones on your must-reads list.  If this inspires you to blog your own list, share link to your post so we can come read with you.

Where do the book links take you?

For convenience, you can click book titles for their link on Amazon — or find them at your favorite indie bookseller through indiebound.org:

Shop Indie Bookstores

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or the Bloglovin button in the sidebar. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

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My Summer Reading List 2013

Summer Reading 2013 c Elissa Field

Summer Reading 2013 c Elissa Field

It took me a little while to feel inspired to post my Summer Reading List before June’s end. Am I not excited about reading? Sort of the opposite.

As I posted about in My Reading List: Winter 2013 and 2012: Year of the Book, the last year of reading has been so rich that it can be hard to be the next book in line. In the last month, I’ve started and put down half a dozen books.

Just as I thought I was being an irritable reader, Curtis Brown literary agent Jonny Geller tweeted this:

In that spirit, I’ve made it through my “rebound” books and here is list of the books I’m excited to be reading for summer.

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2013 Releases I am Curious About:

Another 2013 release worth noting (see My Reading List: Winter 2013 ) is Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

More Fiction:

  • Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (2012). As mentioned in 2012 Year of the Book, Bring up the Bodies went on my list after winning the 2012 Man Booker Prize, making Mantel the only woman to have won it twice. Mantel writes rich historical fiction. While I’m really enjoying it, I would have preferred to have read her Wolf Hall first, as Wolf Hall takes on Henry VIII’s efforts to marry Anne Boleyn, and Bring Up the Bodies picks up where Wolf left off.
  • Colum McCann, Fishing the Sloe-Black River: Stories (1996). I love listening to interviews of McCann for his soft Dublin vowels and his ease with poetic intelligence. He also tops my list of writers I’d love to workshop with, and this collection is one of his books I’ve not yet read. McCann is best known for his award-winning, best-selling Let the Great World Spin, and on current bookstore displays for his summer 2013 release, Transatlantic.

Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction:

These are titles I’m reading with my sons, my 5th or middle grade students, or just because I love YA & MG fiction. (For more, here is my Teacher’s Summer Reading List from my teaching blog.)

  • Jacqueline Davies, The Lemonade War (2007). This novel was assigned as summer reading for my son, rising to 4th grade, and I was glad for the chance to read it with him as I’d skimmed the book in interest several times before. In addition to a good story, I believe it includes some math connections. Will let you know.
  • Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None (1939). Right. It’s not “YA” fiction — but this mystery classic is listed here because I am re-reading it along with my rising-7th grader, as his assigned summer reading. Fun, since I read all of Christie’s books in middle and high school.
  • Lois Lowry, The Giver (1994). My rising-7th grader is giving me perfect excuse to finally read this popular, Newbery-winning novel about a young boy in a utopian society. I’d previously read her WWII Number the Stars.
  • Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1963). I look forward to rereading this long-time favorite by Madeleine L’Engle, which I included among 3 classics on students’ summer reading options (rising to 5th grade). I may reread another on the list: Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins as well.
  • Nova Ren Suma, 17 & Gone (2013). I’m excited for this new release by author of Imaginary Girls.
  • William Goldman, The Princess Bride (1973). This nearly-cult classic — often best known for the film version out in 1987 — is the topic of conversation for the month of June among a great group of writers I chat with on Twitter (#wschat on Wednesdays). It is likely to become the summer’s first nighttime read-aloud with my boys.

Nonfiction – on writing craft and teaching:

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What Are You Reading?

I’d love to hear your own reading suggestions in the comments.  Let us know the favorite books you’ve read this year or ones on your must-reads list.  If this inspires you to blog your own list, share link to your post so we can come read with you.

Where do the book links take you?

For convenience, you can click book titles for their link at Amazon — or find them at your favorite indie bookseller through indiebound.org:

Shop Indie Bookstores

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

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Friday Links for Writers: 06.28.13

air-show-snow-conesSome weeks have a person singing “TGIF” loudly. My earlier posts this week (on the hard work of revision Monday and revising a flat character Tuesday) have confessed how intense writing and novel revision have been on my end. Yesterday’s challenge was the bleary work of comparing prior drafts, line by line. Still not fun, yet.

On the other hand… the kids and I are out of school for the summer. Today we’re off to the pool. Nights, we’ve been repeating my favorite childhood memory of reading mysteries falling asleep, as we’ve been buddy-reading my 11 year-old’s summer reading, And Then There Were None.

Before heading out to swim, it’s time for Friday Links. When writing is intense, I especially appreciate great reading to escape into, and I’ve stumbled across some great pieces this week. I hope you enjoy them – as always, let me know in the comments which links resonate for you, what you’d want more of, or share links to your own posts or links. Enjoy!

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This is Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I’m sure lots of you will agree that literary agent Rachelle Gardner shares some of the best advice on her blog.  As I said, I’m in the hard part of writing, and this article is just the right pep talk. Rachelle says to tell yourself, “This is where patience comes in. I can do this.” You knew it was going to be hard; tell yourself, so this is what hard feels like. If you don’t need this inspiration, click to follow her anyway, as her blog is always great.

Are Children’s Books Darker Than They Used to Be?

If you read or write YA, this title probably called to you as much as it did to me. My spontaneous answer to the question was, “No” — have you ever read original fairy tales? They’re dark. In her article, writer Julia Eccleshare at the Guardian evaluates the darkness of current kid lit, and also the thematic needs of young readers that compels that darkness. (But a parent/teacher request to YA writers: not too dark folks. Recent experience with cable-channel movies has me aware of how much we’re desensitizing ourselves from violence. Don’t be dark just to get attention.)

Teachers Write!

If you are a teacher or librarian, this is a really high-energy writing “camp” hosted by 4 young adult authors online. I wrote about Teachers Write! on my teaching blog here, and shared response to a morning prompt here — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are daily prompts, advice, Q & A with authors and feedback — plus the positive camaraderie and feedback from participants. Use the link above for official info and sign-up… or see what’s going on at this Facebook page: Teachers Write! Facebook page. One can jump in to participate at any time.

Is the Key to Becoming a Great Writer Having a Day Job?

On the heels of link for teachers who write is this link, on that perpetual debate: the value or conflict of a day job to earn a living while writing a novel. This piece by Mason Currey in Slate won’t give you modern advice but may reassure of the value of day job as he examines several famous writers from throughout history and evaluates the impact of day jobs on their success.

Querying Agents? Check hashtag #MSWL

Want to find agents who would love to read a manuscript just like yours? Search tweets using the hashtag #MSWL which stands for manuscript wish list. Writers, don’t post your wishes — look for agents to list the kind of manuscript they’d love to get.

A Dozen Reasons Books Are Rejected by Agents, Editors (& Readers)

What’s interesting about this post by Mike Wells on his The Green Water blog is that his examples address that gap between writing a good enough query to interest an agent… but then the manuscript doesn’t follow through on the expectations set.

13 Inspirational TED Talks for Writers

Have you discovered TED Talks yet? I used to roll my eyes a little, they came up so often in “let’s rock the world” conversations — and then I got hooked myself. This is a second great link I’m sharing from Aerogramme, with a range of authors talking about creativity and more.

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Want to Join a Book Discussion on Writing Craft?

Donald Maass

Donald Maass

With fellow writers at Wordsmith Studio, I shared my love of novel writing prompts that literary agent Donald Maass used to tweet. I included 23 of those prompts, plus link to Maass’s site, in this post last March:

Want more? As one of our community resources, Wordsmith Studio hosts quarterly discussion groups including books on writing craft. Starting Monday July 1, we’ll be reading Maass’s book Writing the Breakout Novel. My copy arrives today. Find discussions on Twitter on Mondays at 9 pm EST July-September — using the hashtag #wschat (this tag is also used for Tuesday discussions of various aspects of writing).

Links for more info:

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Danger Book May Bite c. Elissa Field

Danger Book May Bite c. Elissa Field

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What I’m Reading: Summer Reading List 2012

School is out. The boys are making snowcones. And, along with plans to head out of town or to the beach, with time suddenly available, it’s a reader’s tradition to ask: What were those books I’d been meaning to read?

Dress of books: often posted without credit, this pic was taken at the Dallas Home Show 2011, by Lori of Katie’s Rose Cottage Designs. The dress was part of a display, by a vendor unknown.

My list isn’t summer reading in the “beach” reading sense, but an accumulation of great books I’ve collected during a busy winter and can’t wait for summer’s freer days to savor.  Most titles are linked to Amazon; options for Indiebound.org or Powell’s Books are available on my Links page.

Fiction:

  1. Alice McDermott’s Charming Billy (2009, winner National Book Award for Fiction).  I had not read McDermott before, but began reading Billy a couple weeks ago to understand a comment Ann Hood made in workshop comparing the opening pages of my draft,Wake, to some aspect of McDermott’s writing. (Update this made my Favorite Reads list for 2012: I learned some interesting things about action/reaction in writing scenes from McDermott’s novel, which is rich in authentic character.)
  2. Aleksander Hemon, The Lazarus Project (2009). I first became curious about Hemon, a MacArthur award-winning writer, after reading his painfully beautiful essay, “The Aquarium,” in The New Yorker online, about the loss of his daughter. (Update: This made my Favorite Reads of 2013 list, as one of the most complex, subtle and sophisticated novels — well worth the praising comparisons to the like of Nabokov. Expect a slightly slow, even confusing start — but note quickly how two novels entwine in one, to create a haunting and very personally told story. I look to read anything else Hemon has written.)
  3. Jan-Phillip Sendker, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (2012). Billed as “a love story set in Burma,” this was named an Amazon best novel in February. I fell in love with Berlin foreign correspondent Sendker’s writing after reading a single description he gave of riding a train so slow he sometimes jumped off and walked alongside.
  4. Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2008).
  5. Tom Rachman, The Imperfectionists (2011). Both Hedgehog (#4) and Imperfectionists won me over on a recent trip to Barnes and Noble, confirming them to be intriguing in the way I’d heard others speak of them.
  6. Thrity Umrigar, The Weight of Heaven. I have this 2010 novel downloaded onto my ereader, although others might be interested in Umrigar’s latest novel, The World We Found, which came out January 2012.
  7. Bradford Morrow, Fall of the Birds (2011). On a personal note, Bradford Morrow was the first editor to publish my work in a national forum. He is an acclaimed writer, and I was glad to discover this novella of his, available as a Kindle single.
  8. Margot LiveseyThe Flight of Gemma Hardy (2012). I first got to know Livesey as the Fiction Editor at Ploughshares, and have been eager to read her January novel, Gemma Hardy.  I’m equally interested in reading one of her earlier novels, Banishing Verona (2005).
  9. Emma Straub’s, Other People We Married (2012). Emma Straub is one of the writers I’ve discovered through Twitter.  I’ve come to trust her wit, so am eager to read anything she writes. Other People is a collection of stories.  Her novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, will come out in September and I believe will be featured as a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection.
  10. Laura Maylene Walter, Living Arrangements (2011). I can’t wait to read this collection of stories.  She is winner of the 2010 Chandra Prize for Stories.
  11. Adrian McKinty, The Cold Cold Ground (2012). Along with writers like Declan Burke and Stuart Neville, Belfast-born McKinty is among a group of edgy, intelligent writers who’ve turned the energy of post-Troubles Belfast to a new era of crime noir writing. If Cold Cold Ground is not yet available in the U.S., I’d consider reading Falling Glass.
  12. H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895). I believe Wells’ book just came into the public domain, as Time Machine is in the list of classics available as a free download.

Non-fiction:

  1. Ann Hood, Creating Character Emotions .  One chapter into this book of advice for writing emotionally authentic characters, I have filled the margins with notes provoked by Hood’s advice (which you can read about in blogs here and here).  (Update: this book made my Best Reads of 2012 list, and has provoked more immediate, effective results in my writing than any other writing book I can remember, so I highly recommend it).
  2. Kate Messner, Real Revision: Author’s Strategies to Share with Student Writers (2011). I’ve followed writer Kate Messner for awhile, and found out about this resource to teaching students revision from comments during the TeachWrite! summer challenge for teachers and librarians.
  3. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I first encountered Cheryl Strayed years ago as a participant at Poets & Writers’ Speakeasy forum. While changes in the forum have slowed participation, Cheryl was part of a vibrant and generous group of writers back in the day. I was therefore thrilled to see the immediate and rousing reaction her memoir Wild has received, and can’t wait to read it.
  4. Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2011). Skloot’s well-researched story of the scientific life of cells from Henrietta Lacks made the New York Times bestseller list as #1 for paperback nonfiction this week. Curious, I was blown away, reading this review of Skloot’s book from the New York Times, which describes her narrative as being “far deeper, braver and more wonderful” than just the scientific facts.

Poetry

  1. Saeed Jones, When the Only Light is Fire (2011). Saeed Jones, a Pushcart nominee in 2010, has captivated me with his refined snarky wit on Twitter.

Young Adult/Kids Fiction:

Some of the best books I’ve read in the past year have been young adult fiction. The first 3 on the list below are books I’ve bought for my classroom library, and am “stealing back” to read myself.  I also read with my sons, who are rising 3rd and 6th graders, so the last three books are ones I’ll be reading with them.

  1. Nova Ren Suma, Imaginary Girls (2011). A novel about two sisters, which sounds magical and intriguing! I can’t wait.
  2. Alyson Noel, Shimmer (2011). I bought this during book fair, looking forward to reading when students were done with it.
  3. Sara Shepard, Pretty Little Liars (2009). Okay: guilty. I’ve caught a few episodes on tv and now want to read the book(s).
  4. Jean Craighead George, My Side of the Mountain (1959). This and #5 are assigned reading for my rising 6th graders, which includes my son this year. It’s a perennial favorite, about a boy who runs away from the city and creates a life for himself in the wilderness.
  5. Gloria Whelan, Listening for Lions (2006). I’ll be intrigued to read this book, set in British East Africa in 1919, and assigned as summer reading for my son and my rising 6th graders.
  6. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861). Not really YA or kid lit, but I’m up to chapter 4 of reading this with my boys, since they fell in love with the Masterpiece Theater version this spring.

Literary Magazines & Anthologies:

  1. Silk Road.  I downloaded vol. 7.1, to read Jennifer Kirkpatrick Brown’s story, “The Roots of Grass.” (Update: Jennifer’s story is fresh and intriguing – I was glad to get to read it, and look forward to reading more from this writer.)  Silk Road is a great publication. As much as I would love to have had a print edition in hand, it’s great to have such easy access to it via download.
  2. Best American Short Stories 2011. I am especially interested to read stories by two writers I follow: Rebecca Makkai (her 2011 novel, The Borrower, released in paperback on May 29th) and Megan Mayhew Bergman (whose acclaimed story collection, Birds of a Lesser Feather, came out in 2011).
  3. Back issues waiting, from Lit and Southern Review.

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Want more information?

In keeping descriptions brief, I’ve mostly noted what drew me to the books. If you want to know more about a writer or book, let me know in the comments.

What are your recommendations?

I’d love to hear what makes your reading list this summer, or books you’ve read recently and would recommend.  Share them in the comments and I may update this list through the summer — especially as I am sure I have forgotten a couple from my own list!

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