Poly-Reader Notes: SEPTEMBER 2020

This month’s reading has been a bit more productive, if primarily because I’ve been focusing on finishing a number of books that were fairly well-along already. I’m going to have to implement a rule that keeps me from reading multiple books of the same genre at the same time, because I find that’s almost always one of the reasons I stall-out on finishing things, and when you’re not in the mood for, say, a heavy biography, it becomes a bigger issue if four out of nine books are heavy biographies. Or writing-craft books. Or nonfiction science-adventure books. Or dark short stories. Yeah, you get the point.

That said, I will allow that my rule not to surpass a dozen books is a good one. It definitely helps me to see when I’m starting more than I can finish in a reasonable timeframe. So there has been a bit of book turnover from last month, which feels very nice indeed. And reading in the evenings has been a great process for getting more reading done.

Currently Reading:


In the Best Families- I picked this one up because sometimes you just need a little Nero Wolfe in your life, you know? And it’s fun. And I was reading a lot of grumpy, angry, political stuff up until recently, and I just needed a snarky break. Also, I love Rex Stout. Haven’t gotten too far in this one yet, but I imagine once I finish Page Turner I’ll make more time for it.

The Power Broker- Haven’t progressed much on this one yet, mainly because I was focusing all my auto/biography reading on Wild Swans, which I’ve moved no less than five times and hadn’t read in over fifteen years of having on my shelf. So I finished that one! And this one’s next on the biography list, so it’ll be getting a bit trimmed off this month. I really do like it so far. For such a massive tome, it’s surprisingly readable and engaging.

How to Write a Page Turner- After finishing Creativity for Life, this has been my writing/craft-related book to focus on. I’m just a couple chapters shy of wrapping it up, and thus far my feelings are a bit mixed. I’ve put together a post for in a couple weeks that talks about the weird process of learning how to write, and this is one of those books that hasn’t really led to any locks being opened for me. Your experience may differ! Mostly, I feel like this one has pretty much regurgitated the same old advice I’ve been hearing for years, but without adding those unusual or unexpected insights that help me think about the issue in a new way that might help me better grasp the concepts. The author has a book on scene building which might be interesting, but I worry it’ll be all the same advice again, without any new way to approach it that might make it click for me. But we’ll see. I’ve got other books to read before that one.

Dad is Fat – Haven’t made a lot of progress on this one, again, because listening time hasn’t been super available lately. This may change once school officially begins, and I can take walks with just Goldbug in the stroller, but we’ll see. I’ve got a backlog of audiobooks I’d really like to listen to, but finding time for them…tough. Comedy especially, because laughing out loud is not conducive to stable napping…

Meander, Spiral, Explode – Haven’t touched this one in a while, mainly for focusing on How to Write a Page Turner. So far, in the first few segments, I’ve really liked this book, and definitely feel like there may be some tidbits that unlock some writing skill for me. Particularly, her talking about pacing–how narrative can be really fast (a cut in the scene), fast (summary), realtime (scene), slow (what Alison calls “dilation,” or when “text time takes longer than real time”–say a precise description of a car accident, piece by piece), and stopped (a pause, “lots of text, but no event” (51)–which could be used to amp the tension for what comes shortly after). I mean, WHOA. With her examples, it’s an absolutely, fantastically different way to think about pacing, and I. Love. It. Does this indicate that I am, indeed, more of a pantser on the panster-to-plotter spectrum?

Story Trumps Structure – Haven’t touched this one in a while, not for lack of interest, but because I’ve been plowing through Page Turner. Same subject matter, different approach, though at least in the beginning of this one I felt a bit more kinship with the methodology (perhaps that’s part of learning the writing craft: finding successful authors whose methods are kin to your own?) But this’ll be on the docket soon, though I may finish Meander first, because it’s just so philosophical and interesting.

White Fragility – Haven’t touched this one yet. Truth is, that Atlantic article kind of took the wind out of my sails, and the first bit of it does reflect a lot of what I’ve already had to work through, so I’m not sure it’ll give me a whole lot of new thoughts, but I ought to plow through it just to get it off the list, and you never know if there’s some little thought that won’t stick.

Journey to the Center of the Earth – Chugging along in this one, though a few late bedtimes this past week put us a couple chapters behind where we would otherwise be. Can I just say I’m loving the short chapters in this one? It’s a biiiiit dry, to be honest, and there’s a lot of geological chat, which is fine for an adult, but pretty dull for a six year old (not that it was written for a six year old–I’m just saying as a choice for a bedtime story, this one has a few slow spots that might not be ideal for the very quickly bored–and/or the kid whose boredom leads to goofiness rather than falling asleep). But we’re making progress, and I’m already starting to think ahead to what the next chapter book to read will be. B-Bug wants The Wild Robot again, which I honestly don’t mind, because Roz is freakin’ awesome. I think we’ve read it three times now.

The Color of Magic – Picked this one up on the fly, becauseI realized that I’ve been neglecting fiction lately. And I’ve (*gasp!*) never read Terry Pratchett. I KNOW, OKAY?! I’ve got a number of used books coming of authors I really should have read by now, so you’ll see those trickling onto this list over the next couple months. And yes, I AM ashamed, okay? But I’m getting to them now!

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