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Friday Thoughts: My “To Read” Shelf Keeps Growing

There are two shelves built into my desk space where I keep the books I plan to read next. There are, as of this morning, thirty-six books waiting for my attention. There are new novels and classics, poetry and non-fiction, books on the craft of writing. Each of these books called out to me, “Read me!” or “How have you lived this long and not read me?”

And then, there’s the quandary of the short-story writer: I also need to be reading, widely, from literary magazines, short fiction journals, and online literary outlets in order to “keep up” with current trends and know “what we are looking for” when I submit my own work to editors.

I’m on track to read somewhere between 80 and 90 books this year, not counting most of the short fiction I read. At that pace, my current “to read” shelf ought to get me at least 1/3 of the way through 2013.

The reality is, though, that I’m planning to scale back my reading next year, and increase the time for actually, you know…writing. It’s hard, though. There are so many books I want to read, and new ones join that list every day. Striking a balance between input and output is an important thing, though, and I plan to adjust.

In the meantime, here is the list of books I read in November:

  1. Twelve Times Blessed, by Jacquelyn Mitchard – Didn’t hate it, but man, this book meandered in some very frustrating ways, and ultimately, I didn’t particularly resonate with the characters. Educational, for me, though, in considering revisions for my own novel.

  2. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman – I read this on the recommendation of one of my Legacy Writing students. She touted it as her favorite book, and I can see why she liked it. For me, though, the main character – while likable – was so even that she wasn’t that interesting. Mostly, CeeCee was an observer, not an actor, and that left this feeling flat to me.

  3. Writing 21st Century Fiction, by Donald Maass – Another intriguing book by Maass, who has also written Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, which I also recommend.

  4. The Privileged Planet, by Gonzalez and Richards – This book argues that not only is sentient life in the universe likely very rare, but that our point of view as residents of Earth in the Milkyway Galaxy gives us a nearly unique perspective for studying and comprehending the mysteries of creation. Much of the actual science was beyond me, but it was an eye-opening read, regardless.

  5. Scars from a Memoir, by Marni Mann – The follow-up novel to Mann’s Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales. Another rapid, compelling story of addiction and loss. Search for Marni Mann here on the blog to learn more about the author and her books.

  6. Selected Poems, by Fernando Pessoa – Full of lovely images and well-executed poetry. The edition I read is a British version, and may no longer be in print, but there are several options for you if you want to read Pessoa’s poems.

  7. How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, by Shawn Smucker – I read an advanced copy of this upcoming book. Keep your eyes open here…I will be telling you more about it in the coming weeks.

  8. Gulf Coast (Vol. 25, Iss. 1), a literary journal – 250 pages of new fiction, poetry, and essays.

As always, you can review the books I’ve read in earlier months by following the links below. Next month, as the year draws to a close, I’ll not only feature an exhaustive list of all the books I’ve featured this year, but also pick my favorites and demand you read them. (Haha!!)

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