If you ask any successful writer, “How do I become a great writer?” you will likely hear two things:
- Write every single day
- Read as much as you can
If you follow my blog you have likely read something about writing every day. There is no secret behind that. However, what I don’t talk about much, but will more in 2020, is the importance of reading a lot. In fact, many, including myself, will say it is important to read much more than you will ever write.
So, why is it important to read? For starters, the more you read, the more you will learn. Everything from plot development to character description and the ever so important dialogue. The more variety of books you read, the more diverse as a writer you will become. From each author you will gain a degree of complexity in your own writing and hopefully learn something new.
Last year’s books
For me, in review of my reading of last year, I found that I re-read a lot of books, and I think that’s natural – for me. I find that when I reread a book I often come away with an entirely new book. Perhaps my mind wasn’t focused the first time, I have a better understanding of the story or historical background, or I am in a different mindset. Sometimes I will read a book again because I enjoyed it so much the first time, or as writers are prone to do I am trying to figure out how a specific writer writes. Usually each year, as I read a book I will put it aside in my office, or I’ll mark my ebooks on my phone, but I didn’t do that throughout 2019 so I depended on my memory (ech), notes, my journal using Penzu, and a walk around the office. To me, the books I read are like placeholders for the year. As I see a book I am able to recall what was happening when I read that book. So, much like using your school year to remember your past, I do the same with books throughout the year.
So, how do I read? For starters, I think I read more than the average person, though not nearly as much as many. I have 30 books I listed below, but am pretty sure I’m missing at least five. I also list 17 audio books, because I feel audio books are just as valuable as physical and ebooks. I don’t have a reading schedule, though I do have moments where I turn to books. For example, I will usually start and end my day reading. In the morning I read physical books and at night I read ebooks. I will also read ebooks while in waiting such as at my daughter’s dance practice, getting an oil change, or waiting for the kid’s school to let out.
I don’t have a Kindle though I’d love one, so you can buy me one here🙂 I tend to read my eBooks on my phone, though I also use my laptop when the kids have stolen my phone to watch YouTube Kids. Audible is where I listen to audio books.
I’ll save the how to read as a writer for a future blog post, but for now I’d like to share with you the books I read in 2020. These are not in any particular order and may not even be all of the books, though this should give you an idea of how much I read, as well as, at least from my perspective, how important it is to read often and across many genres. One thing I will note because the question may be asked, is that my reading of US History and the Founding Fathers is not unique to the political environment we live in now. I am simply fascinated with the Founding Fathers and early US history. I typically ready 4-8 books on the subject each year.
- Skycastle, the Demon and Me by Andy Mulberry
- Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck
- The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
- The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming
- The Curse of Allie Mae by James Aiden
- Homeland by R.A. Salvatore
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- Caribbean by James Michener
- Middleworld by Jon Voelkel
- Northfield by Johnny D. Boggs
- Abandon by Blake Crouch
- Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
- Survive by D.B. Chapman
- The Soul Collector by Glenn J. Saucy
- The Ghost, The Rat, and Me by Robyn Gioia
- American Sphinx: Thomas Jefferson an Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie
- Lost in Shangri-la by Mitchell Zuckoff
- The Federalist Papers by Hamilton, Jay and Madison
- Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
- The Complete Works of Thomas Jefferson
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
- Madison and Jefferson by Andrew Burnstein and Nancy Isenberg
- Longshot Missouri by Keith R. Baker
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Drifters Alliance by Elle Casey
- Raft People M.L. Katz
- Calico by Elizabeth Ludwig
- People of the Mist by Kathleen O’Neal and W. Michael Gear
- Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
- The Kansas City Cowboys by Johnny D. Boggs
- The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan
- The Threat by Andrew G. McCabe
- How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Avis Long
- Fear by Bob Woodward
- Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
- Gideon’s Corpse by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
- Exploring Metaphysics by David K Johnson
- The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
- Truman by David McCullough
- Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
- Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
- The Codex by Douglas Preston
- The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny and Jerry B. Jenkins
- Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson
While I won’t ask you to list your books (though feel free if you’d like to share) I’d love to hear what your favorite book, series, or genre was last year!