Saturday, February 08, 2014


My daughter calls me a reading worm. It's a joke that harkens back to toddler-hood, when she confused bookworm with the act of reading. She's not so far off.

Anyway, as a writer one of my 'jobs' is to read. And that I do, a lot, often having several tomes going at once. One of the things I wanted to do this year is keep track of what I've read, and why not share it with you?

January was a prolific month. I started the New Year by finishing EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo. This is a gorgeously structured book, with multiple POVs and time periods weaving in and out until its grand conclusion. Russo is a master of creating essence of place, paying as much attention to the telling detail as the white space in between. This little town--and its history--come to life under his pen. I learned a lot reading this novel, lessons I intend to apply to THE MINISTER'S WIFE once it comes out of mothballs.

Santa gifted me WILD by Cheryl Strayed. I walked and brooded with her along the Pacific Crest Trail. At first, I was afraid this was another self-indulgent foray into memoir, another EAT-PRAY-LOVE, but with hiking boots and trail mix. But Strayed reeled me in, and the environs and the characters she meets on her journey came alive. I could not put this book down, and when I finished, I stood up and gave her a standing O.

I have a new writing group, and one of the members is Rebecca Coleman, who has several books to her credit. I read THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD and INSIDE THESE WALLS, both superb reads. Rebecca has an uncanny knack for understanding--and exploiting--her characters' weaknesses, but in such a way I feel complicit in their secrets. Coleman tackles tough subjects--including child sexual abuse and prison--without flinching. The characters from THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD haunted me for days after I finished.

Then, a very fast read through THE ISLE OF YOUTH by Laura van den Berg. I picked up her latest collections of shorts at ARTIFACT COFFEE, where she read (along with Katherine Noel, who read from HALFWAY HOUSE, one of my favorite novels). Not sure how Laura manages to so nail exotic locations--Patagonia, the Artic--but she does. I live/breathe/sense it all in her lush, unsettling stories.

I am halfway through an incredible little book, invaluable for anyone who considers themselves a writer. SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING is the best book I've read on the craft of writing since Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. Klinkenborg deconstructs the written word to the molecular level, focusing on each word and its placement among other words. He does not focus on the meaning of sentences, but what they are saying. Every sentence in this unusual book is a gem--and after reading it, I hope every sentence of mine becomes one.

Just a sampling of what I've read the past month--what about you? Peace...