My favorite books this year were all by women

Kristen Bell sloth

It’s December, which means soon we’ll have a whole new year of books to look forward to. What’s your favorite book that you read in 2016?

Without a doubt, mine is …

Uprooted

Okay, Uprooted is from 2015, but … sigh. It’s so beautiful. And powerful. And enchanting. It’s the best fantasy literature that I’ve read since Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle (my favorite series). I don’t often encounter genuine page-turners, but this is one of them. GO READ IT PLEASE.

Also, yay for positive female friendships!

I also have to give a big shout-out to Liane Moriarty, who’s my new favorite author that I discovered this year (her books are secretly amazing), and Ava Jae, who’s my new favorite debut author (go read her too, please!).

I finished my Goodreads challenge this year. Did you?

Dear book: I’m just not that into you

grumpy catWe’ve all been there. You’re reading a book and it’s just not doing it for you.

Do you …

A) Grind your teeth and finish it even if it’s taking you forever and you’d rather read anything else but this.

B) Stop immediately because there’s so many other things you could be doing, and this book sucks.

Right now I’m somewhere in the middle and having trouble deciding which to do. Will the book redeem itself? Am I just wasting my time? What to dooooo?

On one hand, I’m determined to finish it just so I can say with 100 percent certainty that I didn’t like it and/or the protagonist. For all I know, there’s a few chapters at the end that would totally change my mind.

Then I think, well, probably not. And I’m procrastinating reading this, so I’m never going to get to the end, and waiting too long between reading sessions could skew my impression of the book anyway.

What do you usually do in this situation? Were you totally happy with your decision, or did you regret it later?

Why you can only read so much

people-reading

Most of us can agree that frequent reading makes for good writing. It’s essential to read if you’re going to write and to do so often. The exception is people who say they’re readers and not writers although I doubt they’d make very terrible writers when they try to be. You can consume without creating, but you still learn about the process.

But how much does good writing rely on voracious reading? Granted, we read much more than we realize thanks to the Internet, but we seem to browse and scan more than we engage, which happens when we sit down with a book. Immersion and patience are important; we need both to craft meaningful writing. We also learn different patterns from reading prose or poetry than we do common web writing.

However, we could read forever and never set fingers to keys and earnestly compose. We can find style in the works of authors but not our own voice. Writing is an exploratory process that you can only learn about, not experience, when reading.

I can’t help but thinking of where we need to draw the line since the most common advice often conflicts with itself: “learn to write by reading” and “learn to write by writing.” Which is more true?

Listen to author Marilyn Singer’s answer, for example:

It may sound corny, but I always tell aspiring poets to read, read, read and write, write, write. I also tell them to observe the world around them, using all of their senses, and to do so with wonder and humor. And I advise them to listen to words and sentences and to pay attention to the kind of music they have.

You’re not going to “observe the world” with “all of [your] senses” when your nose is stuck in a book, but at the same time, Singer stresses the importance of “[listening] to words and sentences” and the “kind of music they have.”

The best practice seems to be a balance of reading and writing — of absorbing outside views and forming your own perspective through observation, contemplation, and imagination. Reading teaches you the music so you can make your own, but you have to take that tool and use it.

I find that reading other people’s work can refill the well of my own creativity when it runs dry, but it’s good to remember that you have your own voice and style that’s unique from everyone else’s. Take bits and pieces from your favorite authors and writers and assimilate them into your own writing, as that’s largely how we grow as writers. We listen to advice and heed example. Writing is about improving through practice; we build on layers of knowledge and understanding.

For your voice to be authentic and real, it can only ever be yours.

How much emphasis do you place on the interdependence between reading and writing?

Goodbye, Goodreads: Readers are leaving a strong community behind

goodreads-amazon

When news broke that Amazon bought Goodreads for close to $150 million, the book world freaked. People were scared and saddened — their honest, independent community was in the claws of the Amazon empire. Everyone’s in a rush to leave before the destruction hits.

This is the end of the “good” in Goodreads … isn’t it?

Maybe not. I’m not one to judge companies too early. No matter what their public face looks like, a company is a business, not a friendly neighbor. And if Goodreads is Joe Friendly and Amazon is the Mean Old Man, remember that Goodreads had a part in this transaction, too. Amazon didn’t pounce on an innocent bystander — or, if we’re still using the suburban analogy, catch him unsuspected with the water hose.

Right now, Goodread is still Goodreads, and you can’t be mad at it for making a new friend even if you don’t like the choice. So we’re all shifting that blame on to Amazon, the great evil that’s buying up the book market as rapidly as possible.

From a business standpoint, Amazon made a smart decision: Goodreads is an advantageous acquisition. But this doesn’t mean that it’s going to transform Goodreads from the ground up into something more flattering to its image.

Continue reading “Goodbye, Goodreads: Readers are leaving a strong community behind”

10 essential holiday gifts for book lovers

Winter reading

December is almost here, and that means it’s time to shop like it’s nobody’s business — and groan at all the prices.

This top 10 list contains items that range from the ridiculously affordable to the slightly pricey, but it’ll cover all the readers on your gift list this year. So whether you and books are strangers or total best friends, your life this next month is about to get a whole lot easier.

Continue reading “10 essential holiday gifts for book lovers”