by Jennifer Gaites
This past summer, several 10,000 words into the manuscript I’m writing in book inc’s Memoir Incubator, I needed a break from the mentor texts I’d been reading. As the days grew longer, I sheepishly eschewed memoirs and books on craft. Instead, I made a quiet—almost self-conscious—commitment to myself to keep my literary consumption to [ahem] lighter fare.
Who doesn’t like a good beach read? The genre’s name evokes toes in the sand, sun on the skin, and getting swept away by a good book … books that are considered guilty pleasures for steamier days.
Except now that the beaches are closed and bathing suits are stored away, I don’t want to stop reading these fun, lighter fare books. I want to extend my beach reading season because, really, when it comes to reading, we should pick up what we enjoy. Whether it is a plot-driven novel full of twists and turns, a character-driven story that keeps us rooting for the protagonist, or a narrative filled with sensory detail, I’ve come to believe that all reading informs our writing.
If I am enrapt, eagerly turning the pages, I ask myself: What is drawing me in? What is the writer doing that makes me care for the characters? How are they building suspense? Creating tension? Where are the surprises?
No matter what I’m reading, I can wonder: How did the writer do that? And, no matter the genre, that discovery can help my own process.
Why limit our “fun” reading to the summer months? Let’s keep joy in the act of reading, and bring that energy into our writing. Maybe we aren’t still slouching in our beach chairs with a book on our laps, but we can still read like we are.
And, besides, maybe the only thing better than reading a book on the beach is curling up in front of a fire with a blanket and getting lost in a good book.
Here are some suggestions for books to read next to the fire:
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
- Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris
- Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrelle Zevin
- Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Winner of the Pulitzer!)