Monday, January 31, 2011

Resolved for 2011: Read More Books

Hi Girlfriends,

So, I'm one of those people who celebrates the new year twice. Once in September -- because as a college professor, my life still revolves around the academic calendar -- and again in January. Somehow September always feels more like a new beginning to me, but January always gets me with that must-write list of resolutions.

This year was no different. However, this January I just didn't have it in me to make a long to-do list of activities that inevitably I'd stop doing around March 15, like exercising every day or making more than the minimum payment on my credit card bill. When I really took stock of what I wanted to do differently this year, what I wanted to do better, what I wanted to spend an entire year working on, it became crystal clear. Write. More specifically, I want to write another novel. A better novel than my first one, Substitute Me.

Don't get me wrong, I love my first novel, but I know it's not perfect. I figure I have about five more books in me before I get to "perfection" (perfection being loosely defined as 'really, really good' and possibly receiving the kind of award that comes with a gold sticker slapped on the cover.). So, I decided that before I dive into writing that next book, what I need to do is read. A lot. Novels to be specific. And I don't mean haphazard pluck a book off the bookshelf because it has a pretty cover reading. I mean reading with purpose. I mean selecting specific authors because they have mastered their craft. Because they make people weep with their eloquent prose. Because they tell rich and compelling stories that leave readers gasping for air when they turn the last page. This will be my year of reading dangerously and courageously. This will be my year to fall passionately in love with the written word all over again. As an adult. As a student. As a writer.

Now, of course this means I need to compile a pretty good list of what to read. Here's what I have so far.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Room by Emma Donoghue
What is the What by Dave Eggers
If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary (Release date May 2011)

That's five books for the first five months of the year. Needless to say, I need more titles to add to the list. If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them. Tell me the best book you've ever read or the book that inspired you to be a writer, or even the book you ignored your kids and hid in the bathroom to finish. I have an entire year to keep reading and this year I plan to keep my resolution.

Lori L. Tharps is the author of the novel, Substitute Me. She blogs regularly at My American


  1. LOVED Room. It was one of my favs last year. The Diaz book has an amazing voice. I'll have to check out the others.

  2. The Help was my favorite book from 2009, and if you haven't read it, it's great. I just finished Still Alice and the themes haunt me.
    Happy Reading!

  3. OSCAR WAO was my favorite book of the aughts. I also loved WENCH by Dolen Perkins Valdez, GLORIOUS by Bernice McFadden, and BLACK WATER RISING by Attica Locke. I also loved PRACTICAL MAGIC by Alice Hoffman (so much better than the movie) and pretty much anything from the 90s by Banana Yoshimoto.

    Oh and wait, don't forget the men: THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman, KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon, MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides, NEVER LET YOU GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Housseni, and BLINDNESS by Jose Saragamo


  4. I think you are so right about reading your way to better writing. A reading jag is a great teacher--craft and technique ideas there for the taking. So easy, it almost feels like cheating.

  5. I'm in the middle of UNBROKEN, Laura Hillenbrand. Very different from what I usually read. I also decided to get on a reading jag; it's like refueling. If I'm reading a really good book it makes me say, "Oh, I want to do that..."

  6. I think Song of Solomon is perhaps my all-time favorite book. On a contemporary note, Just Kids by Patti Smith is an amazing read.

  7. I'm making it a resolution to read more this year, too, Lori! So far, I'm doing pretty well. Some favorite books of all time that I highly recommend: LYING AWAKE by Mark Salzman and EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE by Margot Livesey. Loved them both so much I read them twice! (And probably will read them again sometime.) Some good recent reads written by fellow Girlfriends: THE OTHER LIFE by Ellen Meister and THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB by Maria Geraci. Ellen's made me want to cry and Maria's made me chuckle!

  8. Lori, I recommend Kings of the Earth, my favorite novel of 2010; and Little Bee, my favorite novel of 2009.

  9. Karin,
    I looked for Room yesterday at the Library but it wasn't there :) I may just have to buy it. But I will admit, it's taken me a minute to pluck up the courage to read it. There's nothing that freaks me out more than kidnapping and children. But I'm too intrigued not to read it.

    I really enjoyed The Help as well. And I got to read it before all the hype.

    You know we are too much alike. Besides Oscar Wao, I've read all the books on your list of women writers and LOVE them all, and Middlesex has to be one of my all time favs. Bookworms rock.

    I so agree. My agent once told me that before there were MFA programs, writers just read a whole heck of a lot. Hmmm...

    That's exactly how I feel. Let the refueling begin.

    Thanks, I 'll check both of those out.

    It's good to know I'm not alone :) Thanks for the suggestions. I'm not familiar with those authors (not our girlfriends, the others), so I will def. check them out.

    I also liked Little Bee. I'll check out Kings of the Earth.

    Thanks everyone for all of your suggestions,

    Lori T.