Writers need to read.
How do you learn to communicate the tender details of grief? You read how other writers have done it. How do you deftly present dialogue? You notice the craft in essays you love. How do you learn to paint vivid descriptions with words? You read a ton of descriptions other writers have written. When an image on the page blows you away, you go back and read it again and again to dissect how and why it works.
When you’re learning to become a writer, you read and read and read. You let the wisdom filter into you. And then you create something of your own and you read that over and over again, to see if the words on the page capture the elusive and complex truth in your head.
In the last few years I’ve read SO MANY essays and memoirs. (And some novels too!) It’s exhilarating and terrifying to read so much beautiful writing. Sometimes I’ll read something so beautiful, so masterful, so subtle, that I want to just give up and hide under my bed. Most of the time, though, I am nourished, guided and taught by what I read. Swimming around in all of these gorgeous, artful words is one of the great pleasures of being a writer.
Alyssa Quinn’s essay, Naked, a Creative Nonfiction Sunday Short Read (the most delicious newsletter subscription ever!), knocked my socks off. I’ve written about my relationship with my body, but reading Alyssa’s layered essay about her grandmother and a church pool party stunned me. It showed me exactly how much more I have to learn.
Meredith Hall’s memoir, Without a Map, got so deep under my skin that I had trouble remembering who and where I was when I finished reading it. I still think about it all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever read a more haunting and beautiful story.
Maggie O’Farrell’s essay collection, I Am I Am I Am, showed me the joys and dangers of being an embodied female with such clarity and courage. I felt like I was being re-taught what it is to be a woman.
Chanel Miller’s extraordinary memoir, Know My Name, is a gift to our whole culture. Her tenacity and generosity is world-changing. I’m in awe of her and her writing.
My To Be Read pile has taken over my living room couch – must stop buying new books!! Right now I’m reading Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House. Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dreamhouse is on deck. And so are many others . . .
I’m looking forward to adding a whole new slate of ravishing, revelatory books to my What I’m Reading list for 2020. I hope you’re finding some great books to read in 2020 too! Don’t we all need as much beauty as we can find?