January's reading list was very meta. So incredibly meta, I felt Mark Zuckerberg's breath on my neck whenever I was reading.
In my metaverse (Get it? Meta? A verse? Because writing? Hey, don't close the tab!) I read seven books in total, five on writing.
Atomic Habits by James Clear is a classic. A classic I've read before. If you want to know anything about habit-forming, this is the book you read. And because this year I wanted to dive deeper into some new habits, it's the book I reread at the beginning of January. And I might do this yearly now.
This year's habits are: learn Japanese, write and read daily, exercise twice a week, journal heavily, and meditate daily.
I read several books, collecting a bunch of essays on writing by different authors. (Which is why I could read seven books in the first place. Most were short.)
Zen in the Art of Writing is part memoir, part writing guide. I liked the autobiographical anecdotes, but the rest, while sometimes inspirational, often felt too far away from my writing life. You got to hand it to Bradbury, though. He is a fantastic writer, but I don't have the same problem he has, I guess?
I finished this book on Monday (January 31st), so my thoughts are still a bit too raw for my liking. I tend to wait at least a few days before forming an opinion on anything.
Alas, I understand why this is a classic. And while it follows a similar style as Zen in the Art of Writing (part guide, part memoir), this book felt closer to my turf. Maybe it's the whole "writing is like meditation" stick; perhaps it's just the way Goldberg writes, but I enjoyed this slightly more than Bradbury's book. It's also a bit less author-centric.
Ever heard of the phrase, "this could have been an email"? Well, this book certainly should have been a blog post!
While reading, I kept wondering when the introduction was going to end, and then I've realized I was halfway through. The only positive thing I took from this book is a mantra I already follow religiously and try to teach other people: "If you write, you are a writer!"
Several Short Sentences About Writing is slam-poetry in book form. It's a decent, weird book. It's short. Finished it the same day I started reading it. Though, I skipped the last chapter as I didn't care much about the examples of good and bad writing.
Several Short Sentences About WritingBookshop
So many memoirs this month, and Everything Happens for a Reason is another one. Kate Bowler was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer at 35. Throughout the book, she tries to figure out why bad things happen to good people? Why her? Is this God — or someone — testing her? Does everything happen for a reason? (The answer is in the subtitle of the book.)
Good read, although sometimes slightly random. (Why does she mention over and over again how hot her husband is?)
Also, she is about to release a new book.
Oh, damn! George Saunders. Such an incredible writer.
Until recently, I had no clue who he was. Then Saunders launched a (paid) newsletter, my Twitter timeline went berserk, I looked him up, subscribed to this newsletter, fell in love with his writing, got this book, read it, adored it, and ended up writing a whole Letter of Clio inspired by that book. I wrote::
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders is a book on writing. Russian writing. It contains seven short stories by Russian behemoths like Chekhov, Tolstoy and Gogol, with interludes by Saunders analysing what makes these stories great (or not so great).
When Saunders goes into the details of these stories, telling his readers why an author did X and why it makes us feel Y, he manages to excavate things we subconsciously feel but didn't (know how to) put into words. Consequently, you get to love the stories even more and feel a deeper connection to fiction and fictional storytelling.
Next month's reading topic will be philosophy. I want to refresh my knowledge of Buddhism and Stoicism and get deeper into Existentialism.
I'll try to mix in more fiction this time around, though. I nearly burned out during January if it wasn't for Saunders saving me from writing-guide-exhaustion. Also, reading about writing is not writing, and I prefer to do the thing instead of talking/thinking about the thing.