Where some rando tells you what to read

via Giphy

People like to be told what to read. Or just what to do in general. This is the basic operating belief behind this blog post. Wait, what do you mean that’s not true? I’ve already started writing. Well, I’m going to write this thing anyway.

Be it a famous author or a writing blog or the New York Times, the world is full of suggested reading. So what’s one more from some random keyboard tapper?

Let’s kick this thing off with two books I just finished reading (which is cheating since this is supposed to focus on upcoming reading, but fuck you this is my blog and I do what I want):

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters and The World Beneath by Aaron Gwyn. I bring these two up simply to remind myself how I arrived at reading them. I read The Last Policeman because Winters’s newest novel, Underground Airlines, is so damn good. After reading that book, I wanted to get my hands on everything Winters had written in the past. And I read The World Beneath after reading one of Gwyn’s short stories as part of my MFA program at Arcadia University. The story is called Drive, and you should go read it now. But only if you come back. If you don’t plan on coming back, then don’t read it.

The Last Policeman did not disappoint, and I’d like to say the same of The World Beneath, but I’d be lying. And I don’t lie to you (except when I need things, and when I want to, and sometimes even when I don’t want to). Aaron Gwyn’s debut novel takes too long to get going, and it doesn’t make the premise clear enough early on. When I bought the book, I wasn’t sure what I was getting — magical realism? fantasy? crime fiction? But halfway through the book, I think it’s fair to expect to know what you’re reading. And I didn’t. It wasn’t until much closer to the end when A) the book got really good and B) things became clear.

Now that those are out of the way, let’s take a look at October’s reading. Here’s the list:

Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
250 Things You Should Know About Writing by Chuck Wendig

So, Road Dogs . I’m ashamed to admit I had not even read Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard until I’d seen the movie. That was a mistake. Book first always if you can do it. So, the problem with having seen the movie first is the main character in Out of Sight and Leonard’s follow-up, Road Dogs, will always be George Clooney to me. But I’m working through that, and I’m finding (as people have pointed out to me in the past) that Leonard’s style of prose is very much up my alley. I intend to steal from him.

The Lone Ranger was recommended to me by my professor, and when I read he’d had his books banned in Arizona, I thought “fuckin’ Arizona.” But then I thought, “I better be reading his stuff.” And I’m excited by what I’ve seen so far. It seems Alexie’s focus in on his heritage with tales told from a fictional perspective that could very easily be non-fiction. Drinking, fighting, drugs, poverty. It all seems to be fair game in this collection of short stories. I’m excited to get through them and see what Alexie was able to do in his debut.

City of Bohane is my international flair for the month. I went to Edinburgh over the summer, and I find myself drawn into the literature of Scotland and Ireland and much of the EU now. Especially if it includes crime. Crime wins no matter where its set. Or, isn’t the phrase “crime pays”? Regardless, City of Bohane feels like it might be a cross between Ben Winters and Dennis Lehane. If so, I’m in for a treat. Feuding gangs, set in a futuristic world that doesn’t feel futuristic because humans fuck things up, Irish slang. All wins.

Finally, the craft book I’m reading this month comes from my new crush, Chuck Wendig. I’ll admit, I have not read any of Wendig’s novels, but I intend to pick up copies of Invasive and Zeroes. Wendig has achieved an incredible following on his blog, Terrible Minds. This is where I found Wendig’s craft books. He has a lot of them, and much of it is already on his blog, but when it’s packaged into a book, it feels more logical and carries more weight. Or something. But anyway, 250 Things You Should Know About Writing is hilarious and helpful. The thing I hate about a lot of writing books on craft is how dry they can be. Wendig is as far from dry as any human can possibly be.

So there you have it. October’s reading lists. Pick up copies of these books and read along with me. Or don’t. I’m still going to read them.

Some of you are looking at this list and saying, “Really? Just four books.” First of all, a frightening amount Americans don’t even read one book per year, and second of all, don’t be a dick. I might read more, I might read less. But who cares? If you read 150 books in a year, good for you. Just don’t be the guy who reads one and calls it good. Read more than one book, O.K.?

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