top of page

On Reading and Writing

I enjoy meeting with book clubs, both virtually and in person, because it’s a great way to connect with readers. I’m fascinated to hear where my stories took them, how they related to specific characters, and what kept them turning the pages. I’m asked questions about my writing process (there’s another Musing dealing with that), how story ideas originate (a future Musing), and whether I always wanted to be a writer (not until I was in my forties). But there’s another question that I’m always asked: what books would you recommend? That one is tricky. Everyone has different tastes and preferences—genres and styles, new or established authors, quick reads versus slower paced narratives—so my recommendations always come with disclaimers. But the question triggers another point. Seeking book recommendations from someone who reads a lot makes sense, and writers read a lot, a whole lot.


It’s been said that not all readers are (or want to be) writers, but that all writers must be readers. I agree.

Despite movies that sometimes depict the contrary, most people understand that writers’ fingers don’t just fly across the keyboard and poof—a page is written, and then another, and then another. Yes, sometimes writers get a rush and a couple pages easily materialize, but those times are rare. Mostly, writing is a grueling process. Writers agonize over the perfect word, juxtapose sentences, cut and paste, break paragraphs, and sometimes (ugh!) delete entire chapters. We read our work out loud, listen for tempo and cadence, and try not to be too critical too early. So, while it is widely understood that the craft of writing is honed by rewriting and revising, there’s an important ingredient, a crucial tool, that most people don’t always consider. Reading.


Like many things in life, we learn from others. We’ve all had teachers or mentors who shared their knowledge and experience—school, sports, music, business—and writing is no different. From the basics of grammar to the specifics of composition, others have taught us how to communicate through the written word. Creative writing takes all this to a different level. Yes, there are creative writing classes, there are advanced degrees (MFA), and thousands of how-to books for would-be authors. They’re terrific resources, and anyone considering writing fiction would be well-advised to study anything and everything relating to the field. But beyond the standard instruction model, reading well-crafted books—plot, pacing, turning a phrase, character development—is like listening to Santana if you’re a guitar player. It’s fun, and you learn from an expert.

I am not a voracious reader (there needs to be time to write), but I average three books a month. And, after having just expounded on the benefits of learning from top-notch writers, I will say I’ve also slogged through a few clunkers along the way. Interestingly though, I’ve benefited from (but not enjoyed) reading those books too. What not to do can carry the weight of a sledgehammer.


That said, here a few of my recent favorites:

Great Circle and Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult, Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, A Visit from The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, The Lies I Tell and The Last Flight by Julie Clark, and Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano. And, like millions of others, I occasionally sneak a quick fix with John Grisham, Harlan Coben, and David Baldacci.


Happy reading!

bottom of page