As with so many writers, I fell in love with reading first. Over the years, I have found my reading life crucial to my continuing education as a writer. The best writing advice I’ve ever received is to read as widely as possible. The best part: Most of the tips, resources, and suggestions I am sharing here are little to no cost. One crucial requirement: a library card.
The following is a continuation of the list I started in Part 1. You can find it below.
Reading Inspiration for Writers – Part 1
Join Book Clubs
I currently belong to three book clubs, and all three serve different roles in my reading life. First, as a writer, I would encourage you to join a book club similar to Mid Michigan Writers’ own Scribblers and Scholars. We meet every-other month to discuss books from the point of view of writers. Lately, we’ve been working on comparing Educated by Tara Westover to The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Scribblers and Scholars aims to provide writers with a book club focused on dissecting the craft of writing, although we tend to discuss just about anything related to the books.
I’ve also belonged to the Standish-Sterling Book Club for years. It is the first formal book club I’ve joined, and while we certainly discuss the books we picked, there is an in-person social aspect to the club that I love. In fact, two of my former teachers also belong to the club, both of whom have had a profound impact on who I am today. We meet monthly, and there is truly no judgment if you don’t quite finish a book that is less than thrilling or if you can’t make a meeting.
Last but not least, I’ve also joined the Spartan Book Club, which resides entirely online, as an alumni of Michigan State University. In fact, it has its own forum and much more. Books are selected quarterly, and once again, members are free to participate as much or as little as you’d like. I’ve met some wonderful people online and have thoroughly enjoyed the book selections. I’ve also used the Spartan Book Club for reading suggestions, as there are also several wonderful books mentioned not chosen as a book club selection.
I mention all of my book club experiences because they demonstrate that there is one out there for every type of reader. As a writer, all of my book club experiences led me to books I would not have picked up otherwise. I am a better writer for it, and it provides yet another outlet in which to discuss books. Think about what you would like out of a book club, and with a little research, you will find it.
If you haven’t discovered the benefits of ebooks yet, here are a few things I’ve noticed as a writer. First, I tend to be a collector. I intentionally collect certain books, hopefully to be read more than once. While there is nothing quite like the smell of a good book, collecting hundreds of ebooks takes up a lot less space in my home. Second, with Kindle, my preferred ereader and type of ebook, I can have my entire ebook library not only on my phone, but on my Chromebook and Kindle Paperwhite as well. Last but not least, I have a hard time highlighting or writing in traditional books. Ebooks allow me to highlight and make notes to my heart’s content without marking up a traditional book. My notes and highlights are waiting for me when I return.
Ebooks tend to be more cost effective as well. Often, the Kindle version is less expensive than either paperback or hardcover. While the prices of Kindle books are rising in some cases, there are also several websites and offers for free or low-cost Kindle books. BookBub is one of the best. I actually had to quit because I found too many great free books. It became overwhelming. Of course, libraries are increasing their access to ebooks as well. The beauty of ebooks from the library is that, not only is there no cost, you don’t need to physically visit the library or remember to return the book either.
Research and Read Book Reviews
There are countless places to find good book reviews and research book suggestions. Goodreads has everything and provides access to all kinds of reviews. Personally, I enjoy book blogs. My favorite is Modern Mrs. Darcy. She has it all: endless book lists, audiobook recommendations, her own book club, a podcast, and so much more. If you are into the reading life, you need to check it out. It might take some research, but once again, there are book blogs and review sites aimed at every type of reader. It is a matter of finding your niche.
Take a Class
I admit, pursuing my English Language Arts (ELA) endorsement in secondary education (grades 6-12) forced me to branch out as a reader. I’ve learned so much from my formal writing and literature courses. Yet, it isn’t necessary to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on tuition to take a literature class.
Two trusted, established sites I’ve used in the past are Coursera and Canvas. While I haven’t taken writing or literature courses specifically on either site, I do know that they are readily available at little or no cost. Other courses I’ve taken on those sites, mainly on educational technology, have been wonderful. On the clearinghouse site ClassCentral, a quick search under literature resulted in free survey courses offered by the likes of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania on a wide variety of subjects relating to all aspects of literature. You can find my search result here. There is also The Great Courses Video BingePass available on Hoopla that allows patrons access to the The Great Courses Video Collection for free for a week. The possibilities are endless.
Curate Your Own Lists of Books/Literature
Of course, there is always the DIY approach. Take the time to make your own lists of books and other forms of literature that interest you. I’ve made several of these lists over the years, and it helps me keep track of things that I came across years ago. I’ve found creating lists of authors and major works to be helpful. Make the list you are seeking if it doesn’t quite exist yet – and have fun.