Reading list-In-Progress

I have a terrible habit of starting a book and then starting another one, and another one, until I have a few books going at a time, and often don’t end up finishing any. It’s a very A.D.D. way to read. (And live. But one area at a time). Every now and then, one comes along that pulls me in completely, and I couldn’t even think of reading anything but. All day, I look forward to bedtime, when I get to settle in and get back to it, and stay up way too late to finish, in the morning tired but sated. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

To keep me honest and help me stay focused, I’m posting my reading list. I’m even giving it its own tab along the top of my site so that I can get to it easily, and, I hope, often (as soon as I figure out how). Some are books that have been sitting on my nightstand, waiting for their turn, some are old loves I re-read periodically when I come across them on my bookshelves, and most of them are to feed my writerly aspirations. I will post what’s on my current stack, cross each one off as I finish, and add to the list as new books and recommendations come in. I may (or may not) post about them as I check them off.

  • You Are Not A Stranger Here by Adam Haslett: This was the very first book of short stories I ever got into. And there has been only one other (Birds of America, Lorrie Moore). Generally, I don’t “get” short stories, but this one opened the door. I’ve read it twice already and look forward to revisting these carefully, lovingly drawn characters.
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: Recommended by a writer friend when I explained that I like poetic prose. Haven’t even opened yet.
  • Plainsong by Kent Haruf: A gift from a friend, read a few years ago, was awed by Haruf’s delicate, deft touch, his compelling, simple story. He makes it look so easy.
  • A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas: I’ve written about Thomas before. She keeps writing the books I wish I’d written. I’ve been stuck at halfway through my second read since October. I started re-reading this as soon as I finished. That’s how much I love her writing.
  • From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler: Recommended by my current writing instructor, on writing fiction.
  • Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik: I never finished this the first time (when it came out twelve years ago). Brought it on my recent trip to Paris, am a few chapters in. He gets that Parisian mood so right.
  • Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson: When I was twenty-two and living in Paris for the year, I was on a serious Jeanette Winterson tear. I think her intensity and breathlessness matched mine at the time. Her books were heady and emotional and I read everything of hers I could. I brought this one along, too, on my Paris trip, to try to remember what I loved so much.
  • Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich: A poet friend read me an essay she had written on Rich’s passing which was, among other things, a lament on not understanding Rich’s profound influence on her work until after her death. Besides making me cry, the essay made me determined to discover her myself. How did I get this far without reading Adrienne Rich?
  • Nothing To Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes: I have started this book three times and never gotten past the first chapter. It has one of my favorite first lines ever, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.” Which pretty much sums up my religious life for the past fifteen years. This line alone keeps me coming back to try again.
  • An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler: A gift from a friend who knows how I love food writing. And food. This book is dog-earred at the halfway mark, and deserves finishing. Some of the lustiest, elegant food writing I’ve read. More about an approach to food than distinct recipes. Lamar is singlehandedly responsible for my return to bread and salt. God bless her for giving me permission.
  • My Stroke Of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor: I saw an interview with Taylor by the one and only Oprah on OWN in a hotel room in Baltimore this fall. I was riveted by Taylor and despite my children begging me to turn the channel, I insisted on watching the whole thing. A memoir about a Harvard brain scientist’s experience with an incapacitating stroke, what she learned about the brain. In a nutshell: “Don’t believe everything you think.”
  • Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie: My husband reads History and Economics pretty much exclusively. Massie is one of his favorites. While he was reading Catherine this fall, he couldn’t stop talking about it. I’m taking him Wednesday to hear Massie read. Once I get my book autographed, I’m jumping in.

(not pictured, but on their way)

I’m keeping a separate list for Childrens/Young Adult Lit. These are all “research” for something I’m working on. Or not working on. We’ll see.

  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Clearly: Ramona was among my favorites growing up. Revisting to see what I loved so much.
  • The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman: Coman recommended by current teacher (see below).
  • Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1) by Christopher Paolini: My son, Ben, is a voracious reader and is so excited about this series. He told me that I must read it, that both the story and the writing are “so good”, that the writing is almost “poetic”. He got my attention with that one.
  • Lizard Love by Wendy Townsend: A gifted and generous teacher I’ve been fortunate to study with this semester. She is A-mazing.

Please share what you’re reading in the Comments section! I’d love to know!

12 thoughts on “Reading list-In-Progress

  1. LOVE this list. Funny, my husband reads only the same kinds of books it seems yours does, and he is on a huge Massie kick right now. Everybody seems to be reading that biography. Please keep sharing what you read – I love hearing. xox

      • Honestly, I only read for work. And with my kids: Hunger Games with Emma and 39 Clues with Henry. Board books with Juliet don’t count.

      • To be totally honest, I secretly read Image Journal (quarterly visual and literary arts journal) and a lot of contemporary poetry — currently Mark Jarman and B.F. Fairchild. But don’t tell anyone.

  2. Thanks for sharing Erin … the last book I read that I really enjoyed was Their Eyes Were Watching God… love Bird by Bird. Read Rules of Civility and I liked that until I got to the ending.

  3. Love this list, I also LOVE Adam Gopnick’s Through The Children’s Gate A Home in New York. about families on the Upper West Side. XXXC

  4. aw. i want to have you out here in berkeley, so i can have a studio dinner with/for you. you would love it. you can see them on my FB pages. last week’s was “storytelling” with doc film makers, producers and animators and the creator of the the Moth in NYC.. this saturday’s is a wine dinner with wine makers, sommeliers, a war journalist and i couple of restaurant peeps, incl. alice waters… come out come out! (i am going to send your pic to tamar adler. she will be so happy.)

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