Great Readers Make Great Writers

KBB-books-for-writers

This post goes out to those poor souls attempting the NaNoWriMo challenge this month! (That’s National Novel Writing Month if you’re not in the know, and you can find out more about it here.)

There’s this old adage about great readers making great writers, and like most old adages, I find this one to be true. (Hence the title of this post.)

Reading and writing are kind of like bread and butter. (Unless you can think of a more G-free metaphor-peanut butter and jelly?) The more authors, genres and styles you experience as a reader can help you develop your own voice and spark your own creativity.

I’m the kind of reader that has to read absolutely everything (okay, maybe there are some exceptions). As a writer, too, it comes as no surprise that a book about writing finds its way onto my bookshelves. In many ways, I find reading about writing oddly inspiring and- dare I say it- helpful to me as a writer. Here are some of the titles that have stood out:

Writing can be an isolating activity and if you don’t have a fellow scribe to talk to it can start to feel a little lonely. Natalie Goldberg, critically-acclaimed writer, poet and teacher has written a lovely little collection of thoughts and stories about writing called Writing Down the Bones that feels more like a series of letters to fellow writers than it does a book. As such, don’t be afraid to read this book in an untraditional way- it’s the kind of book you stash on your shelf and revisit from time to time, picking a selection at random whenever you’re looking for inspiration or just a chance to connect with someone who knows what you’re going through. At the end, you’ve kind of feel like you’ve made a new friend.

Even if you’re not a fan of chick lit, you may be surprised at how much you’ll enjoy Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley. Aspiring fiction authors everywhere will get a kick at exploring the major story themes and character archetypes of the genre, and it provides fascinating insight into the minds of the writers and publishers who have the chick lit novel down to a fine science.

If you’re looking to unlock your creativity, the legendary book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron may be a good way to start. It’s not necessarily just about writing, although many of the exercises included are designed to help you develop your craft. Instead, The Artist’s Way is about finding a way to express the creativity that Cameron believes is locked inside each of us, no matter which art form you choose. The goal here is not to become a famous author but to find a way to express yourself without fear, anxiety or guilt.

If you feel like your ideas and voice are developed, but you’re struggling with cultivating a writing routine, then How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silva is for you. Originally conceived with the academic writer in mind, I still found this book an extremely practical guide for incorporating writing into your everyday routine, plus it has some great tips for getting those creative juices flowing.

Finally, if you don’t know where to start, I suggest starting at the beginning with a copy of Three Genres by Stephen Minot. It’s the quintessential guide to- you guessed it- the three genres of writing: prose, poetry and plays. Pick your favorite section to get a crash course, or read the whole thing from cover to cover to gain a better understanding of story structure and language. I loved this textbook so much in high school I almost stole it when I graduated. That’s how invaluable it was to me!

KBB-books-big-magic

And of course, this list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t give an honorable mention to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. (I gush all about it here, if you’re interested.) It’s not necessarily about writing, or for writers, but it was an important reminder for me to keep on creating for the sake of my own joy and self-expression.

Happy reading and writing!

B

KBwB-Flower-50

What are some of the books that have helped you in your writing process? I’d love to know! Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I may include your suggestions in an updated version of this post!

I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.

 

 

Fabulous Reads for the Single Girl

kbb-fabulous-singles

This one is for the single ladies- all those super awesome independent ladies that live by their own rules and don’t let their lives be ruled by their relationship status (or in this case, lack thereof).

In fact, I read an article recently that predicted the rise of the single female professional, and how they would eventually take over the workforce.

Who knows? Girls really might end up running the world.

Here’s some of my my favorite fabulous reads for all of you fierce females out there:

One of the quintessential books for single women would of course have to be Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved it as much as every other woman that read it, but I think her follow-up, Committed, is definitely underrated. Part essay, part memoir, it’s a pretty interesting look at the institution of marriage and how it has shaped our culture.

If that doesn’t make you re-think the way we look at weddings and marriages these days, then you’ve got to take a look at Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910-1939 by Kate Roiphe. You’d be surprised at how many marriages were just as messy as modern ones, except their society had a much lower tolerance for things that are more readily accepted today: Mistresses! Open relationships! Polymory! If you’re a bookworm and you like gossip, this one is for you.

Bachelor Girl by Betsy Israel is another walk through history with a different slant: in it she chronicles the trials and tribulations of the single woman, starting with the spinsters who were put into homes as an act of charity, to the working women of the early 1900s forced to room together in tiny, cramped rooming houses with marriage as they only means of escape. If anything, it will remind you of the privilege you have of being a single woman who is able to read this at her leisure right now.

If you read any book on this list, I hope it’s On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone by Florence Falk. I read it after a really bad break-up and it was a real epiphany; even if you’re in a healthy, committed relationships I think it’s still an important read. Even though it’s aimed at widows or women going through a divorce, it’s not really a book about grief, or life after marriage. It’s about learning how to enjoy your own company, the importance of exploring one’s own interests, and ultimately fostering a healthy relationship with one’s self. As women we place far too much of our self-worth on our relationships and what we can give to other people. Folk’s message is a gentle reminder that being alone allows one the time and space to give back to yourself.

I’m not knocking relationships; it can be really nice to have a partner. But it’s my firm belief that relationships only work if you can still remain true to yourself, and your own interests and values. They key is finding someone that you can learn and grow with along the way. If you’ve found that person, great. Still searching? Sometimes people enter and exit our lives for good reason; most of it is just meeting the right person at the right time.

But if you’re still feeling bad, consider this: you get to have the bed all to yourself.

KBwB-BFlower-50

I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.

 

Best Books of 2016

I’ve had the same New Year’s resolution for a few years running now (if you haven’t been following along, check out this post here). To recap: I was sad about giving one of my favorite hobbies such a low priority in my life, and I wanted to challenge myself to include more reading in my routine.

I use my Goodreads account to track and rate all of the books I read, and to encourage myself to keep up the pace on my reading challenge. (This year’s goal: read 60 books.) I’m not affiliated with Goodreads in anyway but I find having a visual way to monitor my progress very beneficial.

However, I’ve since discovered something that’s helped me even more.

It’s this blog, and more importantly, you guys (the readers). There has been nothing more special to me as a bookworm than to find a community of kindred spirits like yourselves to share all my deepest, bookish thoughts with, and to commiserate on all of the books we’ve read, both good and bad.

I’m amazing too, to connect with people across the globe, regardless of race, religion or age. We all have something that brings us together in spite of our differences and I think that makes us pretty special.

So thank you, my dear readers, for making this year a great one, both in blogging and reading adventures.

Here are some of my favorite titles that I’ve read this year:

kbb-bestbooks16-fiction

Fiction

For someone who relies so much on their sight to read, it seems a little ironic that two of my favorite books of this year were about blindness. For instance, the appropriately-titled Blindness by José Saramago resonated so much with me that I included it on my list of reads that have shocked my poor sensitive system. Just imagine if everyone in your city started going blind- you’d be shocked too.

A little less scary, but no less interesting or beautiful, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is about a blind girl struggling to survive through World War II, and a treasure hunt that will leave you wild with excitement.

If modern-day horrors scare you even more than post-apocalyptic worlds and war, be sure to pick up a copy of Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That. It’s one of the many books this year that really made me stop and think, and its darkly humorous take on a family devastated by cancer made it another contender on my list of books that you should read at your own risk.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is another controversial, albeit more gossipy book, about the aftermath of a suburban barbecue where a parent slaps a child that is not their own. No matter where you stand on the discipline issue, the secrets and lies that unravel as a result made this book hard to put down.

Among the serious titles I’ve read this year, I’ve come across a couple of favorites that are a little more light-hearted. The Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg turns the Scandinavian crime genre on its head with the role of the scheming villain played by an aging pensioner just looking for better treatment. (Ok so maybe it’s a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at the way we treat our elders, but it still had me in stitches all the same.)

Finally, one of my favorite fiction books of the whole year has to have been Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It’s everything a good book should be- funny, bittersweet, thoughtful and surprisingly compelling considering it’s actually about a super-long walk across the English countryside.

kbb-bestbooks16-poetry

Poetry

Once in a while a book of poetry finds its way to my shelves, and my list of favorite books this year wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention how much I loved this slim volume of poetry and creative prose by Canadian author (and now friend!) Joel Thomas Hynes. Straight Razor Days is a collection of thoughts about nearly everything in Hynes’ life- his hometown, his childhood, his relationship with his son- and even though it seems like he uses just about anything that crosses his mind as material, the works here still maintain a sense of cohesion. It’s beautifully written, so even if poetry isn’t always your thing, I still suggest that you check it out. (And he doesn’t even know I’m telling you that!)

Update: This title isn’t currently available on Amazon, so I encourage you to hunt it down in your local bookstore, or check out some of his other titles. They’re all good!

kbb-bestbooks16-nonfiction

Non-Fiction

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman was a great education for millennials like me in how global events in the 80s and 90s have shaped the interconnected world we live in today. Keep in mind I was just a young’un when a lot of these changes were taking place, and this book helped shed some light on some of the things I didn’t fully understand.

I can’t say enough good things about Elizabeth Gilbert’s creative manifesto, Big Magic. I won’t go on too much about it because of the gushing review I wrote here, but if you’re anyone who has ever felt inclined to do any artistic thing ever, you will find this book valuable.

Do Over by Jon Acuff will forever go down in history as the only career-related book that got me in the feels. If you’re looking to make a change in your career, or just tired of accepting the status quo at your current job, this one is for you. (Don’t believe me? Read the review I wrote about it here.)

KBwB-BFlower-50What were some of your favorite books that you’ve read this year? Send me your list at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or better yet, let’s be friends on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s virtual bookshelves. Want to see even more of what I like to read? I love talking about books here, here, here and here. Or comment below and let me know what you think of my list. How many books have you read this year? I need to know it all!