Reading Roundup for 2016

Here are most of the books I’ve read during 2016:

Classics

Contemporary Fiction

Drama

Graphic Novels

Rereads (these are all pretty much also Science Fiction & Fantasy)

Science Fiction & Fantasy Series

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Spiritual

Writing Instruction

Art Appreciation

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.

22 Summer 2016 Books You Won’t Want To Miss

reading-in-a-park-1312435From the Huffington Post:

Soak up these family dramas, advice column collections and near-future hijinks.

This summer, in addition to the obvious 2016 warm-weather pastime of drinking watermelon water while listening to “Lemonade,” we’re looking forward to reading new books! Because, although we are big proponents of couch lounging, reading in the grass while using a book to shield your eyes from the sun has its particular joys.

Thankfully, there’re a lot to choose from. It may not be the summer of “the next next ‘Gone Girl,’” but there’s a meticulously wrought new thriller out in June, one that examines a violently broken relationship between sisters. There’s also a wry adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” a screwball story set in 2052, and a new slate of advice columns from Heather Havrilesky, aka Ask Polly. Choose wisely, dear readers; in our opinion, you can’t go wrong with one of the following.

Four quick reads on writing

When I was on vacation earlier this month, I read some e-books on writing. Even though these gems were inexpensive and quick, they provided me with some valuable lessons to apply to my writing craft.

Here they are:

  • 2940045351874_p0_v2_s192x300Self-publishing a Book
    By Hank Quense
    Quense has a great series on self-publishing and this is the second one I’ve read. He’s great about explaining why he does it the way he does, but let’s the reader know everyone needs to self-publish the way that is best for himself. Good advice on what publisher to use. I will be coming back to this book as a reference.
  • 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
    2940152280371_p0_v1_s192x300By Rachel Aaron
    I loved Aaron’s Eli Monpress series and I can’t wait to read more of her stuff. She gives advice on how to increase the amount of writing that gets done during a writing session by applying her triangle of knowledge, time and enthusiasm. Now, if that sounds vague, she does get specific about what they mean in this book.
  • Writing from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone In Between
    By James Scott Bell
    9780910355117_p0_v1_s192x300I love Kill Zone, a blog for which Bell contributes as part of a community of writers. This book provided a fascinating piece of advice about character development for novel writing: the “Mirror Moment.” Once again, it’s something I knew already, but didn’t know I knew. This quick read will change the way you plan your novel–and it’s easy to apply to a draft you’ve already started.
  • Scrivener Superpowers: How to Use Cutting-Edge Software to Energize Your Creative Writing Process
    By M.G. Herron
    2940157649920_p0_v1_s192x300I already read several books on Scrivener when I first learned to use it. The difference between those books (although they were wonderful and helpful) and this one is that Scrivener Superpowers gets into the nitty-gritty of not just learning to use it, but how to use is as a writer. His No-Nonsense Novel Template is also great.

So if you’re looking for some quick lessons for improving your fiction writing with maximum impact, you should check these books out. I highly recommend them.

My reading plan for this year: read more “widely”

stack-of-books-1531138The biggest pet peeve I have with myself is how I don’t read widely enough. What I mean is, I don’t read across genres. I stick to the same kinds of books. At the end of each year, I look at the list of books I’ve read and I realize it’s two-thirds speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror and so on.

Now, if I could, I would read speculative fiction exclusively. It’s like eating nothing but dessert all the time. That’s not healthy. So, in an attempt to be more well-rounded, to be better educated, to read more widely, I used an Excel spreadsheet to get my 2016 reading plan started.

Here’s what I did:

Across the top of the spreadsheet, I listed different genres of books I want to touch upon throughout the year. Here is my list: General Literature/Best Sellers; textbooks; Science Fiction; Fantasy; Biography; Classics; Poetry; Drama; Graphic Novels; Short Story Anthology; Spiritual; History; Art; Writing Instruction; British Literature Middle Ages; British Literature Renaissance. These are the areas I want to read in this year; your list may be different.

Next, I take all the books I have on “TO READ” lists — and I have several different ones, both digital and hard copy — and consolidate them on the spreadsheet. Each book goes into one of the categories. A particular book might fit into more than one column, but you decide which genre you want to put it under.

Next, I select a book, read it, then go to the next column and pick a book in a different genre and read it, and so on, and so on. I read about 30-40 books a year, so this will ensure I go through the cycle about two times. The idea is to not read two books in the same column until you have read one from all the other columns.

As a result, by the end of the year, I am a more well-rounded reader.

Pros, Cons and Tips for this method:

  • Tip: I add books throughout the year as I hear about them.
  • Tip: Of course, I’m not going to be able to read every book on the list in one year. I can just use this as a running list so I also have suggestions for something to read.
  • Tip: I don’t necessarily read the book at the top of the column. I just pick a book in a column that strikes my fancy at that moment.
  • Tip: No need to be legalistic about using this spreadsheet. I will probably cheat and read an extra science fiction or fantasy novel here and there.
  • Pro: I end up reading a better balance of fiction and non-fiction books.
  • Pro: My mind is expanded by reading book I keep putting off to read.
  • Pro: By reading more widely, I become a better writer.
  • Con: If you like to just read for pleasure and not worry about reading across the genres, then this method would probably feel too constricting.
  • Con: You only get to read your favorite genres when they come around. But, as I mentioned earlier, I will probably cheat a little.

It’s simple. It’s effective.

Happy reading.

 

 

Support Self-Published Writers and Small Publishing Houses

printing-press-1181030.jpgAs I plan my reading list for 2016, I want to include several self-published writers and small, independent publishing companies. So far I plan to read the following:

Books on writing I read in 2015

Every year I try and read a couple of books on the writing craft. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but,  honestly, I love reading stuff on how to write fiction. Here is what I read in 2015:

2940151898539_p0_v3_s192x300Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir
by Hank Quense
Quense offers practical tips on how he writes his novels. What I want is something I haven’t heard before, and that’s what I got with this book. At the beginning, he suggests the reader to just take what he or she needs. Good advice. Not everyone thinks the same way, and, also, who wants to read the same thing over and over?

9780985780401_p0_v1_s192x300Structuring Your Novel
by K.M. Weiland
Weiland shows how to make the most of using the three-act structure as you write your novel. She has become sort of an online tutor/mentor to me because books like this one answer my questions about writing fiction.

51QhpMsap6L._UY250_Your Guide to Scrivener by Nicole Dionisio
Scrivener is a program to help writers organize their projects, both fiction and non-fiction. I can’t praise the software enough. There are dozens of books out there to show the writer how to use Scrivener, and I picked this by Nicole Dionisio. I admit I selected because it was the cheapest ebook on the subject I could find. But it’s all okay, because she did a great job and the book is short, so you can learn Scrivener quickly.

Some memoirs I read in 2015

I read several biographies/autobiographies/memoirs this past year, and here is what I thought of them:

9780316334310_p0_v2_s192x300Born With Teeth
by Kate Mulgrew
Actress Kate Mulgrew offers up vignettes of her life as an actress and also her personal triumphs and tragedies. Some remember her as Mary Ryan on Ryan’s Hope; some remember her as Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager; some now know her as Red on Orange Is the New Black. The nerd in me was hoping to get more behind-the-scenes stories about Voyager, and while she goes in to detail about how she landed that iconic role, she only glosses over her eight-year run as a captain for the Federation. But that’s okay. This memoir is well-written and is focused around her heartache of giving away a daughter at birth.

9781937009304_p0_v1_s192x300For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher
by Jason Sizemore
Jason Sizemore gives the history of how he started his own small publishing company of horror fiction. While this book would be interesting to those in the independent publishing field, I’m not sure the appeal goes beyond that. The problem with this book is that the author doesn’t seem to know what kind of book it’s supposed to be. Is it a memoir? Is it a how-to? He includes some well-told anecdotes, but I’m not sure most people would get into this one.

9780618871711_p0_v2_s192x300Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
by Alison Bechdel
A beautifully illustrated comic book style narrative about Bechdel’s dysfunctional childhood. The author had to be brave to share her story about her eccentric father and his early death. She struggles with her relationship with him and finds a connection with him in an unusual way. Warning: adult situations in this story.

9780374531263_p0_v5_s192x300A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
In the early 90’s, a boy from a village in Sierra Leone is forced to join the rebel’s army. This is the author’s version of his story and how he escape the fighting. Apparently there is some speculation about the accuracy of the author’s memories, but it’s still a great read that reveals the tragedy of children in politically-motivated combat.

9781453258132_p0_v1_s192x300The Man in the Empty Boat
by Mark Salzman
I enjoyed Salzman’s Iron and Silk and True Notebooks, but I realized he hadn’t written anything in a while. This book explains why. Salzman tells about his crippling anxiety and how it affected his life, including his writing, and also how he dealt with the death of his sister.