Developing a Book Diet

Credit: Ex-Smith (via Flickr)

Credit: Ex-Smith (via Flickr)

I’ve discovered that I need lists and (some) rules in order to function.

I usually make a daily list of things I need to do, and also keep an ongoing list of things to do over the next few months—or at some point in my life. The lists are always growing, but they’ve been helpful as my schedule has become increasingly packed (Post-Its and Evernote are now my true loves). There’s something really gratifying about checking things off—sometimes I go back and write something else I did that day just so I can check it off.

The one list I find hardest to tackle, though, is my to-read list. And this is because I don’t really keep an official one. It would just always be incomplete. There are so many things I want to read, just based on my own interests or on recommendations from friends, librarians, podcasts, author interviews, book recommendation websites, and the multitude of other reader resources out there.

My current To-Read List is composed of the physical books sitting on my bookshelf and the books I’ve designated as “To-Read” on my Goodreads account. But even if this list were to be “complete,” it’s still difficult to decide what to read next.

Once I get past the existential angst it causes me, I wonder: Should I read that Best American Short Stories collection? Or how about A GAME OF THRONES and its sequels, or Donna Tartt’s new book so I can have timely discussions with people? Or maybe I should try a poetry collection, or that novel my former writing professor published, or that Malcolm Gladwell book on decision-making? Perhaps that Ernest Hemingway book my friend lent me, or that huge Amber Chronicles compilation my boyfriend bought and annotated for me, or that Stephen King book on horror stories I grabbed from the free bookshelf at Simon & Schuster two years ago? I have many more rhetorical questions about what to read next, but I’ll refrain from listing them all for you.

Upon figuring out that this is quite the reader dilemma, I came up with a book diet (a reading sequence) to rotate through and give myself some kind of direction. It’s based not on individual books themselves, but on genre (and other criteria). That way, I can slowly check off books on my list while also getting the well-rounded reading experience I crave.

Creating a reading sequence like this seems to be in line with some advice that George R.R. Martin has on his website for aspiring authors. On his FAQ page, he writes:

“The most important thing for any aspiring writer, I think, is to read! And not just the sort of thing you’re trying to write, be that fantasy, SF, comic books, whatever. You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones—what not to do).”

It certainly helps to know that even crappy books can teach reading writers important lessons, so it doesn’t feel like a waste of time if one ends up reading something they don’t like. Anyway, here’s my reading sequence I’ve come up with—the book diet I will try to follow from now on.

My Book Diet

  • Contemporary Novel
  • Short Story Collection
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror
  • Experimental
  • Nonfiction – On Writing (or an author biography)
  • Mook (a book made into a movie. My friend Alyssa, over at Mookology, coined the term)
  • Classic
  • Written by an Author I’ve Read
  • Nonfiction – General (anything not on writing/authors)
  • Poetry
  • Modern Classic
  • Written by a friend/teacher
  • YA
  • Literary Magazine

What’s your book diet? Please share your literary recipes. Am I missing anything? (Based on Martin’s suggestions,  should consider adding erotica to the list?)

 

15 Quotes for 2014

I’ve become quite the quote collector.

I always keep an eye out for beautiful and true sentences in the writing I read or the films I watch. I also receive a Goodreads “Quote of the Day” daily quote email in my inbox. Any quotes that resonate with me get added into a “Quotes” file—but then, since I know the quotes are safely documented and saved, I usually end up forgetting about them.

This year, I decided not to let those quotes stay hidden in their file and instead review them as a new cathartic New Year’s ritual. At the beginning of every year now, I plan to take a look at the quotes I will have collected over the last 12 months—not only to be reminded of the words that touched me in the previous year, but to also use these words as inspiration for my life in the new year.

So instead of sharing a New Year’s resolution, I’d like to share 15 of my favorite quotes I found in 2013 that will influence how I live in 2014:

1. “Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.” – Douglas Coupland

2. “Be careful, you are not in Wonderland. I’ve heard the strange madness long growing in your soul. But you are fortunate in your ignorance, in your isolation. You who have suffered, find where love hides. Give, share, lose—lest we die, unbloomed.” – From the film Kill Your Darlings

3. “I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.” – Nadezha Mandelstam

4. “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” — Charles Bukowski

5. “Ghosts don’t haunt us. That’s not how it works. They’re present among us because we won’t let go of them.” – Sue Grafton

6. “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter.” – John Keats

7. “The bravest people are the ones who don’t mind looking like cowards.” – T.H. White

8. “Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.” – Chuck Klosterman

9. “You will hear thunder and remember, and think: she wanted storms.” – Anna Akhmatova

10. “None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are.” – Anne Rice

11. “You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.” – Richard Price

12. “The past is always tense, the future perfect.” – Zadie Smith

13. “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” – Dale Carnegie

14. “Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result—eventually, astoundingly, and all to briefly—in you.” – Bill Bryson

15. “It’s only those who do nothing that make no mistakes, I suppose.” – Joseph Conrad

(P.S. Hope you are liking the new blog look. I think this blog will continue to evolve, so don’t be surprised if it has another new look or format soon).

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