Since retiring from full-time employment, I’ve been able to fulfill a lot of “wishing and hoping” dreams from those crazy, busy days of working and raising children. While I loved that time period, the demands and expectations didn’t leave much leisure for reading.
Things are different now. I still stay engaged with goings-on, but I manage to read a little something from a book or two or three every day. Books and articles teach, inspire, delight, and motivate me. Some take me to other countries and cultures and introduce me to a motley group of fascinating people.
Although I don’t need much encouragement to read, learning that good readers make good writers gives me even more incentive. I like to call it “research.” Quick example. Somewhere along the line, I learned that a reader should be able to read the first page of a novel and gain a sense of what’s going on, who the principal players are, where the action is taking place, and the general mood of the scene. I also learned never to begin a book or story with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Not that I’m planning to write a novel—just sayin’.
Here’s brief update on this week’s reading and listening (on Audible):
According to Pat Conroy, “Tell me a story” are the most powerful ones in the English language. Whether you’re a Conroy fan or not, you must agree that he’s one of the most popular Southern writers. Are you? I ask that because he must have figured something out that I (we?) haven’t.
I’ve been listening to him read My Reading Life and have enjoyed it immensely. One of the things I was reminded of is that a writer must be true to his own voice. Thomas Wolf was one of his role models, not Ernest Hemingway. A wordsmith, he drives some people crazy with his verbosity. Another thing I’ve learned is that a serious writer has to write every day, not just when the spirit moves him.
I’m reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, a man whose work I’ve come to respect. In this book, Kidder writes of Dr. Paul Farmer, a doctor whose adult life has been devoted to improving the lives of Haitians, even risking death in his dedication. From Kidder, I’ve learned about the abject poverty of the people who live there and of the efforts of people like Farmer and organizations like Partners in Health to help them.
Farmer soon learned that typhoid, TB, AIDS, diarrheal disorders, and malaria were rampant, and “mortality among infants and juveniles was ‘”horrific.”’ Doctor, writer, ethnographer, and fundraiser, Paul Farmer is an extraordinary human being, and I’m awed by his zeal in helping the people of Haiti. Just think, I’d never had heard of him if I hadn’t opened Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains.
I have a couple of books in the queue too. The one that’s risen quickly to the top is a memoir by S. Jane Gari, a member of SCWW (South Carolina Writers Workshop). I read a chapter of her new book, Losing the Dollhouse, in The Petigru Review a couple of years ago and was so moved by it that I sought her out just so that I could meet the person who wrote such an honest and incredible story.
I’m reading for pleasure, insight, understanding, and yes, even fun. And I’m calling it research. What’s on your reading list?