From Kate’s Writing Crate…
Last week I had just come across a delightful book, a perfect gift for a reader or a writer, entitled I’d Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers by Guinevere de la Mare.
As I noted, the artwork is mostly fun and colorful. The accompanying text consists of clever slogans, book-related poetry, and essays including “Cheating” by Ann Patchett, which included a list of interview questions about her favorite books. Her essay first appeared on her blog “Musings” which appears on the Parnassus Books web site, her bookstore. To see Ann Patchett’s answers, you will need to visit her blog or buy this book.
Here are my answers although I didn’t confine myself to the rules and I added a list of my favorite books about writers and writing as this blog is about writing. Since many of my favorite books were included in other questions, listing 25 more at the end was fun. I reviewed many of these books under Reads for Writers, Writing Book Recommendations, essays, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and some by author if you want more information.
Name your 25 favorite books about writers and writing.
A New Kind of Country by Dorothy Gilman
Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing by XJ Kennedy and Dana Gioia
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well by Paula LaRocque (Also, Championship Writing)
The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower (Also, Writing Within Yourself—An Author’s Companion)
For Writers Only: Inspiring Thoughts on the Exquisite Pain and Heady Joy of the Writing Life, From Great Practitioners by Sophy Burnham
Handling the Truth: On Writing Memoirs by Beth Kephart
Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate by Brian McDonald (Also The Golden Theme)
The Little Black Book of Writers’ Wisdom edited by Steven D. Price
My Writer’s Life by Ellen Gilchrist
On Conan Doyle by Michael Dirda
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron
Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure edited by Larry Smith, founder of Smith Magazine
The Soul of Creative Writing by Richard Goodman
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson
Winter: Notes from Montana by Rick Bass
The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters
The Writer’s Home Companion by Joan Bolker, Ed.D.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Zen and the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury
Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus
The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale
What are you reading now?
I read multiple books at a time. Right now: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (10th book in murder mystery series); Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld; Books for Living: Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life by Will Schwalbe; and born bright: a young girl’s journey from nothing to something in america by c. nicole mason. Still working on summer reading list, Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims; Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee; and Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin.
What was your favorite children’s book? Why?
I can’t pick just one. Harold and the Purple Crayon (and all the Harold books) by Crockett Johnson—adventures and solutions all through a writing instrument, great book for future writers; The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney—a tight-knit family faces adversity cheerfully as well as with the help of a German shepherd which is why I now have two of my own; the 199-page novel A Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith (NOT the children’s picture book)—always loved dogs and this has the happiest ending ever for a dog lover; and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster—such a clever use of language as well as teaching life lessons. None were new when I first read them. They are classics.
What book do you most often reread? Why?
I reread these four books the most: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig—made me consider how I see the world. Each time I reread it I reconsider how I see the world. (Also, the sequel Lila.); Running From Safety by Richard Bach—trust yourself! Be who you were meant to be; Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion selected and edited by Diane K. Osbon—discusses many of the myths, ideas, and beliefs in the world and what we have in common and what we can learn; and all of Robert Fulghum’s humorous and thoughtful essays about life—they make me laugh and cry, especially It Was on Fire When I Lay Down On It (pp. 9-15), Uh Oh, Maybe, Maybe Not, and True Love: Stories Told To and By the Author. Having a bad day? Read one of Fulghum’s books.
What book would you want with you on a desert island? Why?
Blue Pastures by Mary Oliver. I can remember the plots of my favorite books so I could replay them in my mind. Mary Oliver’s prose and poetry would make me think and remember and write—because I wouldn’t be on a desert island without notebooks and pens! I would also want the complete works of Henry David Thoreau as I would be without society.
What book would you recommend to a friend? Why?
It depends on the friend. I guess he/she would have to choose one from all that I have listed in the other questions, especially the next one.
What is your favorite biography? Why?
I read more memoirs than biographies. My favorite would be Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell about her best friend, Caroline Knapp, who died at 42. Both writers, Caldwell captures the essence of friendship and loss so beautifully I’m tearing up as I write this. I recommend it to everyone.
What is your favorite holiday book? Why?
The Sweet Smell of Christmas (a scented storybook) by Patrica M. Scarry. More than anything else, aromas bring memories rushing back. This story about a little bear is delightful as is the hot chocolate, peppermint, and orange scents (and more) in the book which I first read as a child. I’m glad it’s still in print as the scratch and sniff patches don’t last as long as the book.
What is your favorite summer read? Why?
The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter. It was my grandmother’s favorite. I read her copy and remember the discussions we had about the characters and the spring and summer wilderness settings as my grandmother was a botanist.
What is your favorite mystery? Why?
Almost any book by Agatha Christie as well as the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny who has won five Agatha awards. They both have deep insights into how humans think and why they commit murder—that frightens me more than the actual mystery.
What book did you think made a better movie than it did a book? Why?
Hasn’t happened yet for me.
What book most influenced your life? Why?
Many have influenced me in different and important ways—so the four I listed under books I reread for a start.
Most important was Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg as it started me on the path to my writing/editing career with her guideline to fill a spiral notebook every month without fail. I wrote regularly and met the deadline—best training for a writer. When I became an intern on staff at the magazines where I’m now the editor, I was ready to write articles on short deadlines as I had no fear of a blank page.
What is your favorite classic?
Again, can’t pick just one. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the Emily series by L. M. Montgomery (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest) all about a young girl who wants to be a writer.
What is your favorite coffee-table book?
Our Home, Too by Schim Schimmel. I love his artwork. Also, The Life & Love of Dogs by Lewis Blackwell given to me by my dad, a fellow German shepherd owner, and one every dog owner will love.
Name your 25 favorite books on top of the ones listed above.
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (unforgettable)
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and every other book written by Malcolm Gladwell
Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day and every other book written by Diane Ackerman
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brian by Betty Edwards (Also, What Really Matters? with Tony Schwartz)
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett
WRITERS AS MAIN CHARACTERS
The I-Team series by Pamela Clare
The Last Enemy by Pauline Baird Jones (thriller) (Also, The Spy Who Kissed Me—funny)
The Last Enemy by Pauline Baird Jones (thriller) (Also, The Spy Who Kissed Me—funny)
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
The Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
The In Death series by JD Robb (PLEASE NOTE: Adult themes & graphic violence)
(Don’t forget The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny from my answers above.)
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (Also, Fast Women)
Dying to Please by Linda Howard
The Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas
The Dresden series by Jim Butcher
The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
The Quiet Center: Women Reflecting on Life’s Passages from the Pages of Victoria Magazine, Katherine Ball Ross, Editor
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (includes “The Getaway Car” an essay about how the author became a writer) by Ann Patchett. (The title refers to one essay. It is not the theme of the essays.)
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Poems by Billy Collins
Poems by Mary Oliver
Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield
Confessions of a Closet Master Baker: A Memoir—One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. While the original title seems more true to the author's outlook, it's been repackaged as My Life from Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over One Cake at a Time. Take note: the recipes cover more than cakes and the text tells wonderful stories from her childhood and life with her mother and her sister, actress Sandra Bullock.