What I’m Reading — I’m Trying to Read it All
“Each man is the bard of his own existence.”
— Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
I am an avid reader. Insatiable maybe. I read a lot, and I write a lot. It’s a passion that I’ve had since I was very young, and it’s one I’m sure will be with me until I’m very old. According to a 2014 article in The Atlantic, the average American reads just five books per year. That number includes fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been keeping track of the number of books I read each year since 2012 ( I was inspired then by a fantastic book my wife gave me about reading and loving books called One for The Books, by Joe Queenan). Not including the first eight weeks of 2016, I’ve read 166 books in that time. That’s an average of 41 books per year. Now my wife and I have a “friendly” reading competition every year.
She has beaten me every year we’ve played.
So what I’m reading is lots of things, and often more than one book at a time. A coworker once asked me about this habit, wondering how I was able to keep things straight in my mind. My answer is simple: reading more than one book at a time is like changing channels, only there is always something good on.
If Cormac McCarthy’s landscapes become too violent, too bleak, I can look for solace in Peter Heller. When reality is imperfect, I can escape with George Martin. I read Bill Bryson to wonder, Frank Herbert to imagine, and James Salter in awe. I read John Williams to feel real again. I could never name a favorite, they all feel like family.
As a graduate student of literature, reading and writing are even more fundamental elements of my life now. Not only do I read for pleasure, I have to read as a part of my program. I am also a copywriter and copyeditor, and working in those roles requires me to read different texts that I might not normally be exposed to. As an aspiring author myself, it is particularly fascinating to examine the process of publication; a journey that can be traced from the spark of creative inspiration all the way to dust jacket.
I’ve provided quite a lot of background without answering the question: what am I reading? There are several things on my nightstand right now, but the most pertinent to this blog is a book called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book. The book was written by New York Times bestselling author Guy Kawasaki and “tech wizard” Shawn Welch. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? I have been working on editing a novel, and was encouraged by the author to read this book. The author I’m working with is particularly interested in self-publishing, and after what I’ve read, so am I.
APE works to help writers take control of their writing careers by publishing their own work. Specifically, Kawasaki and Welch argue that when an author fills three roles (author, publisher, and entrepreneur), the potential for success is far greater than with traditional publishing. The authors call this “artisanal publishing”. The book is for writers who want to control every aspect of their craft, offering tactical and practical inspiration, and a comprehensive guide to self-publishing.
APE has been exceptionally well received since it was released in 2012, attracting the attention of the likes of marketing demigod Seth Godin, among others. Godin’s blurb is featured on the book’s cover, and provides not just legitimacy, but motivation: “Nuts, bolts, and inspiration too. Once again, Guy delivers, kicking the shiitake out of anyone who would tell you that you shouldn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t write a book.”
What I’m reading is always changing, always shifting to follow my interests and my passion. Long may it be so. Reading expands both the breadth and depth of my knowledge, and in the case of Kawasaki and Welch’s book, provides me specific inspiration and instruction for offering that knowledge to others.
The written word is perhaps our most powerful cultural medium — we should cherish, appreciate, and embrace it.