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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please join the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stretching Our Taste in Books Just a Tad

Some of us were English majors. Some not. Some of us thrived on Shakespeare. Some said phooey.

All of us are writers or readers. Regardless of our backgrounds, we’ve all heard that we should read. Authors should at least read books in the genre we write in. Readers should at least try to expand their interests and tastes.

I’m going to take it a step farther than that. I think we should all also read great books. Classics, if you will. Not necessarily all the time but often enough to inspire us to stretch just a bit, to reach for an important theme or a voice we haven’t tried. Or even to develop a turn of phrase, a metaphor, or a simile. Of course, readers may find a new favorite or new understanding by reading authors who write about the greatest themes of all.

Newsweek ran a list (www.newsweek.com/id/204478) of the greatest books ever written. Their choices may be arguable, but one can not argue with their intent. I thought it might be fun for you to see how many you’ve read. Gauge your relative success on your age. If you’re a senior you may have read more than if you are fifteen. If an English lit major, more (perhaps) than if you majored in engineering.

Actually, how many you’ve read is not nearly as important as how many you’re going to read. Or your motivation to set a goal. For the ambitious, how about a resolution to reread one you’ve already read and a pledge to read three more in the next year.

I hope you'll use my Noble (Not Nobel!) prize list for suggestions, too. It appears every January at MyShelf.com. And my columns are archived.

Back to those goals. For most of us--we busy ones--how about a commitment to read just one of them. C’mon. Just one.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.


  1. Guess I need to stretch, then. I was forced to read so many of the 'classics' in school and disliked most of them, but perhaps my tastes have changed.

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

  2. 1984 is probably the coolest book I have ever read. Maybe I'll give it another read.

    As to something from that list to read for the first time? Hm, I'd have to go with The Catcher in the Rye. Nope! I've never read it!

    I LOVE to read books. And I read so many books on a variety of subjects. Not just in the genre or subject I write in. There's nothing wrong with expanding our literary horizons! :)

  3. Anonymous10:47 AM

    I see many that I have not read. It's also a good list to share with your children. Dawn, I loved 1984 too! And "The Lord of the Rings." I just might have to read that one again.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Carolyn. Although, I do have quite a stack to go through at the moment. I'm constantly reading. I highly recommend the book I am reading now (no, it will not a classic list). The title is: "The Brain That Changes Itself" (by Norman Doidge).

    Allyn Evans

  4. Dawn and Diane, funny but 1984 is one book I haven't read (though I nagged my grandson to read it! LOL.).

    And, Allyn. I'd heard of the N. Doidge book. It sounds like a fascinating concept. I'm reading Chris Anderson's new marketing book "FREE." I'm getting so many idea to pass on to my many writing friends! (-:

  5. Anonymous11:48 PM

    Oh, I've read quite a few of these fiction ones already :) I didn't really like The Great Gatsby, but I loved To Kill a Mockingbird and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Lord of the Rings is one of my favourites :)

    take care,

  6. I have a list of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners that I am reading. My minor is in English (major in art education) but I missed many of the classics or was forced to read them to achieve a grade. Now I am reading them to determine WHY they are classics and how to learn from them as a writer. I am reading Absalom, Absalom now (Faulkner).


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