What Do Writers Read?

“The First 20 Hours, How to Learn Anything…Fast” by Josh Kaufman.

It should be titled, “The First 20 Hours, How to Discover if You Have Discipline”.

It may or may not have played into last Friday’s blog.

I love to read and I’m sad to report that I haven’t read a fiction novel in a very long time for fear of sailing off into the sunset with it, returning to reality only when I smell dinner burning and I’ve forgotten a child at school.

Because, discipline.

Instead, I find books at random and read them in tiny snatches like magazines, hoping something sticks. I have a book-stack that never seems to shrink.

My girlfriends have been trying for months to hook me up with podcasts and audiobooks and websites but that involves sitting down and holding still and, um, remembering there are such things in the world.

I finally finished Mr Kaufman’s book. He acquired six new skills over a year, devoting 20 hours to working each one out and when he reached his goal, he moved on.

The only thing I devoted 20 hours to was reading the book, looking for his secret. It was well hidden on the very last page: “If you want to acquire a new skill, you have to practice. There is no other way.”

Consistent, focused, deliberate practice. Well, why didn’t he say so in the first place?

I should have grabbed the book next to it by Gretchen Reynolds, “The First 20 Minutes”.

I’m out.

Let’s read the next book in the pile: “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown.

I enjoyed her “Daring Greatly” because it encouraged me to be braver with my blog. Her new one seems to be about the process of getting back up when you fall on your face.

Huzzah! I face plant all the time, thanks to discipline!

I’m halfway through the chapters and she blows the old “victim mentality” right out of the water with compassion and some common sense healthy attitudes.

I’m suspicious that practice and discipline are in there somewhere, but it will be messy and thoughtful with neither straight lines nor deadlines, and a lot of telling stories on herself. I love it.

Earlier this year, before I read about yoga and tellifin and websites and comedy and a curry recipe, I read Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love”.

Her front porch philosophy and her thoughts on five kids and the way she sees all kinds of sides on a coin had me laughing hysterically now and then and staring thoughtfully into space now and then, and this one has the honor of sitting on my shelf permanently for long-term use.

I read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and it was so-so and then I read Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” which was pretty solid, and Gary Klein’s “Seeing What Others Don’t” about the world of insight, and something that wraps up the nuts on my family tree in gold foil, “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of literacy.

Today, we celebrate it with a website and a bookshelf, and probably a little Kipling on the side.

I found a website called goodreads.com that looks like fun.

So far as I can figure out, you tell it what you’ve already read and rate how much you liked it, and it recommends new books to you, from zombies to zinnias.

And then you take the list down to the library and check them out with a good old fashioned library card, right? To each her own, girlfriend, I have to fondle the pages.

Therefore, I’ve always been intrigued by something called “Little Free Library” which puts book-stacks curbside for the express purpose of book swapping. It’s a take a book/leave a book honor system that promotes reading and community. What a great idea.

As I have no carpentry skills, this weekend I’ll be building a little bookshelf right here on the blog; a place to leave your favorites for others to find…all over the world.

I’m painting it many shades of green.

What have you read this year that you really enjoyed, and why?

What was worth burning dinner for? Staying up until 2am for? Making three pots of tea for?

Stack your good reads down in the comment box.

You might want to set a timer on the oven.

Comment (6)

  • Rach Madden| September 9, 2016

    If you’re a literary lover, you will love ‘101 Books in Haiku’ by David Bader.

    You will know about haikus because kids. Every great education has a few haikus, and preferably some in the school newsletter as well.

    I rate a book highly by its read-aloud-to-annoy-the-family mentality. Most of the time they roll their eyes and exit, while I ROFL (yeah, see, we can do that too).

    Well this one is enough to make you wish you’d done your pelvic floor exercises. (did you say you had five kids? me too)

    I think you’ll love it.

    Second in line and almost on a par is ‘Spotfull’ by James Valentine. I spent so much time laughing over this I forgot to be offended my sisters had given it to me for my birthday!

    It’s a take off of ‘Spotless’ by Shannon Lush, a book on how to remove stains and marks from furniture, clothes and you-name-it, she-can-remove-it.

    These are both great books because fiction is way too distracting as you’ve mentioned, and I’m not sure why but I don’t get into it like I used to. I like to think this is because I love my life so much I only want reality, but maybe it’s my age, jaded outlook, or something.

  • Becky Mullins| August 30, 2016

    Thanks, Jolie, for your blog today. I am in awe of your reading list!

    I also recently finished The King and Queen of Malibu, David K. Randall. Excellent bit of local history, and I highly recommend it.

    I am currently reading Part of the Family, Jason Hensley. I am in Part 2, and enjoying the true stories there.
    Along that line, there are several excellent literary novels I have read, related to that particular time in our recent history –
    Even in Darkness, an historical novel by Barbara Stark-Nemon, based on a true family’s chronicle of the challenges so many faced in that time of persecution. Strong characters, a story honestly but gently told…
    Also enjoyed The Baker’s Daughter, literary fiction written by Sarah McCoy. This author weaves the current day life of the main character with the story of an ancestor, in this case a young German girl.

    I enjoy her style, and am currently reading The Mapmaker’s Children by the same author; the historical background of this one is the Underground Railroad, mid 19th century.

    Also for light reading, Staggerford, a novel by Jon Hassler. Deliciously wry humor on small town life and human foibles.

    I usually read e-books, but I am currently looking for a good literary paperback that I can take on a trip coming up soon, all being well. For convenient pool-side reading, the iPad doesn’t fit the bill!


  • Jerusha| August 28, 2016

    I’m on a Peter Enns kick right now. I’ve read The Bible Tells Me So and The Sin of Certainty. Also recently read The King and Queen of Malibu: The True Story of the Battle for Paradise by David K. Randall. Definitely recommend if you enjoy a little history – especially California history! Sitting on my desk to read next is The Naked Now by Richard Rohr. Brad just finished it and raved about it so much… I think there’s highlighter on just about every page!

  • Andrea| August 28, 2016

    I really enjoyed reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella earlier this year. Fun, lighthearted and a page turner!
    I also really like the Giver series by Lois Lowry.
    Jane Austen is always a favorite!

  • Sarah H Graybeal| August 27, 2016

    Paula – Isabelle Allende (autobiography of losing her daughter and overcoming overwhelming loss)
    The Sum of our Days – Isabelle Allende (autobiography of life after the death of her daughter)
    The Game of Life and How to Play It – Florence Scovel Shinn (using affirmations and how they change your life)
    The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (again…3rd or 4th time…loved as a child…love it as an adult)
    Dying to Be Me – Anita Morjani (how her NDE taught her how to “live” and her spontaneous recovery from Stage 4 cancer)
    Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (my favorite book of all time….reading it right now for the zillionth time)

  • Pat Tunnell| August 27, 2016

    I love to read and I usually have two books going. Most of my books come from the library or a friend. We also have the little houses for sharing books in our neighborhood, but I have not taken advantage as yet. My two favorite books of all time that made a difference in my life were:
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West and Crisis in Black and White, by Charles E. Silberman. I tend to find a subject I am interested in (non-fiction) and read everything I can find on the subject. I just finished Outliers : The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, My next book to read is one my sister just recommended The Gene An Intimate History By Siddhartha Mukherjee

    When it comes to light fiction I really enjoyed a series of books written by Alexander McCall Smith,
    beginning with The No. One Ladies’ Detective Agency and a series of books written by a local author from Colorado, Sandra Dallas who has been dubbed “a quintessential American voice” by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. Sandra’s novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films.

    The only book I have yet to finish is Moby Dick,

    I look forward to seeing what others are readying. Thank you Jolie!

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