Friday, September 6th, 2019

Happy National Read a Book Day!


I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I never finished Swann’s Way or Moby Dick. Never even tried to read Infinite Jest. Never read—this will shock you—a single Harry Potter book. Gasp! I know. I’ve gone three decades without reading some major [American/Western European] classics. We all have these reading gaps that may embarrass us at times, so why not use National Read a Book Day (today!) to crack open one of those books gathering dust on our bookshelves? Or, even better, why not go support our local bookstore and ask a clerk for their recommendation?

Now, for the hard part. I don’t know about you, but being held accountable—whether it’s via a class, a book club, or work—helps me stick to a book through the end. Keeping a reading journal comes in handy in all three scenarios. It also traces your evolution as a reader, which is fun to go back to.

We’ve previously talked about why it’s a good idea to keep a reading journal, and even offered some links and tips to get started. Reading through those, I realized that many of the questions I asked my creative writing students to consider before workshopping their peers’ work applies to this kind of journaling. I thought I’d share some of them in case you’re not sure what to write about:

Think about the book’s structure as a whole. Is there something about the format, chronology, chapter lengths, etc. that sparks something in you?

What emotional effect does the book leave you with? After I read a good story, poem, or book, it feels like I’ve been seen. Did you feel this or any other intense emotion? Did it leave you cold? Why? Write about it.

What about the book is unclear? Are there plot holes, underdeveloped characters? What would you have done differently?

Are there comparable titles or authors? In what ways are they similar? How do they differ?

What do you think personally drew you to seek out this book or root for/identify with a character? Your socioeconomic background? Your job? Past experiences? Did you find the book on a stoop?

Is there anything about the style or content that you may want to try or use in your own work? 

I hope you found this helpful! And don’t forget to get your hands on one of our Webnotebooks or Goalbooks before you embark on your reading journey.

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