The sixth category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those of you who want to put the “oomph” back in your reading life—is “a book about books or reading.”
Why? This is your nudge to step back and view your reading life at a little bit of distance, so you can better appreciate what you read, and why.
(Alternate answer: because it’s good nerdy fun.)
There are all kinds of choices here. You could try an instructional book, like a book that aims to show writers how to improve their craft. You could pick up a book about the pursuit of reading—what to read, why to read, how to get more out of your reading.
You could try a memoir—a huge number of authors of both fiction and non have at some point put pen to page to explain what reading means to them.
Or you could try a book about publishing, bookstores, book clubs, the study of English literature … you name it.
Need ideas for this category? These ten titles cover a lot of ground, and they’re on here either because I loved them, or because they’re high on my personal TBR list. There are thousands of titles that could fit this category—and I can’t wait to hear what you pick.
What are you reading for this category? What titles would you add to the list?
When an unnamed (but not well-disguised) Queen goes for a walk, her corgis stray into a bookmobile library parked near the Palace, so she feels obligated to take a book out of politeness. The Queen finds a newfound obsession with reading and begins to neglect her duties as monarch. You can read this one in a few hours, but power of reading to transform even the most uncommon of lives, and the numerous book recommendations (from Jean Genet to Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) will stay with you much longer. More info →
This slim volume (114 pages) is well worth spending an afternoon on. Memoir readers everywhere will thank Roach for her no-nonsense rules for writing your own story: you can write about anything, but just because something happens, doesn’t make it interesting. Have no fear: Roach will help you make it interesting. Entertaining and dead-practical: if you're a writer, you'll learn to write better; readers will learn to better appreciate the genre—and know how to spot a good specimen when they see it. More info →
You may know Nina Sankovitch as a Book of the Month judge. In her 2011 memoir, she channels Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and embarks upon a personal reading project while grieving the death of her sister. This is extreme bibliotherapy: she resolves to read one great book, every day, for a year, so she could figure out how to live again without her sister in the world. More info →
I love this book and am so glad I finally read it at your all's urging—this is one of those books that could change the way you read EVERY book for the rest of your life. In this short, enjoyable read, Foster explores literary symbolism in a wide variety of texts old and new: in a solid work of literature, rain isn't just rain, sex isn't just sex, a journey is more than a journey. TBR alert: he uses a wide variety of texts to show the reader what he's talking about, and if you come away with many new additions to your to-read list, you won't be the only one. More info →
If you’re crazy about reading, you'll recognize yourself on the pages of this essay collection. Perhaps you've experienced the pain/pleasure of merging libraries with a new spouse ("Marrying Libraries"), or utilize questionable bookmarking strategies ("Never Do That to a Book"), or self-identify as a compulsive proofreader ("Insert a Carat"--my favorite!). Smart, interesting, and laugh-out-loud funny. More info →
In this book about books, author and book-lover Susan Hill resolves to spend a year abstaining from NEW book purchases and devotes herself to a new project: reading through the books already on her shelves. (I've absolutely dreamed of doing that myself.) After her year is up, she draws up a list of the 40 books she'd need for the rest of her life—not the best ever written, but the ones that mean the most to her. Heads up: Hill drops a lot of names in this book: this will either delight you or drive you insane. More info →
Many writers have gone the memoir route to share the books that have shaped them as a writer. But Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry harbors a more unusual form of bibliomania—he has been a lifelong buyer, collector, and seller of antiquarian books. In these pages he traces his roots all the way from the bookless Texas home he grew up in (twenty miles from the nearest library!) to the passionate collector he is too. (That he's a passionate reader as well goes without saying.) A very interesting take on the reading life. More info →
A must-read for bibliophiles, and you'll feel compelled to discuss the heartwarming way books bring people together with all your book-loving buddies. This is the story of the twenty-year relationship between a New York writer and a gentlemanly London bookseller, as told through their correspondence. More info →
The title sounds fancy and staid, but Prior had me in hysterics with her chapter that linked Thomas Hardy with her teenage attempts to lose her virginity. In this memoir, Prior opens her most beloved books to the reader. "Beloved" not because of sentiment or nostalgia, but because of the profound difference they've made in her life. Her favorites are likely to be yours, as well: Jane Eyre, Charlotte's Web, Gulliver's Travels. (Okay, so actually I know very few fellow readers who name Gulliver as a favorite—but I do love Prior's chapter on it.) More info →