Prescription for 2023: Read more.
I’m wondering if anyone else out there had a hard 2022? Things were… weird. I’m not in the mood for a recap, because I do that in nearly every other post I write. So, today? Today we are steely-jawed, eyes on the future, standing straight and tall, stepping out into our destiny that is 2023. Are you with me? *cue bagpipes* They might take our liiives but they canna take our freeedommmm!
(For those of you who are curious as to why I suddenly escalated my 2022 into a scene from Braveheart it’s because I am always trying to find a way to use Scottish dialect in my writing. It’s lovely.)
Instead of rehashing battle wounds, let’s talk books. I’m pretty sure William Wallace didn’t have much time for reading, but I did, and for that I’m grateful. Books make great weapons (ok, not literally, William). But also? They heal. They’re paradoxical and surprising and lethal and loving, and I must have all of them.
So, in no particular order (except for the last one) here are my favorite reads from 2022:
1.Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. Austin Kleon. I read Kleon’s book as a refresher for a college course I was teaching on creativity. Kleon’s writing is like a comic book for your brain. His ideas seem to come out of that jumbled craft drawer you had as a kid, where you could dig around and find all sorts of goodies for your diorama on the platypus. For my class (no dioramas, unfortunately, but it’s an idea for the next time I teach the class) I planned on suggesting it as a supplemental read, but I ended up buying each student a copy. It is that good, and necessary, for them to have.
2. Flow: They Psychology of Optimal Experience. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This was also for my class, and we spent the entirety of the semester skirting around the issue that none of us could figure out how to pronounce Mihaly’s name. So, we just referred to him as Big C. This book was science and story, combined, which is the best possible combination (You know how I love story; I created a whole podcast around it). It’s very research-y, but it also gave me lesson ideas like writing a love letter to your younger self, and when the students read them aloud, I cried. This is optimal. Subsequently, I let my students out ten minutes early and forgot about the homework. Great job, Big C!
3. Remarkably Bright Creatures. Shelby Van Pelt. Uh, an octopus that communicates with an aging woman because they both feel a bit forgotten and lonely? And then they sorta become friends? And there’s an addiction and recovery side-story? Yep. It’s in there. Also, you will fall in love with the octopus, and now I want to go find a lonely octopus of my own *waves hands about* out there somewhere and befriend it. Yes, I live in Kansas, but books that give you big dreams? That’s the stuff right there.
4. The Artful Edit. Susan Bell. I’m reading this because I am enrolled in this course to become a certified book coach. Now, I have authored two books and have been a writing and English teacher since the dawn of time. I’ve had my share of editing experiences. This process can cause me much despondency and gnashing of teeth. One time while editing, I threw my pen across the room and it scared Bob, but she forgot to unhook her claws from her bed before she leapt about, so that ended well. Bell’s book is creative, full of story, and massively helpful. I’d put it up there with Bird by Bird and On Writing.
5. The Fox and I. Catherine Raven. I don’t really know what prompted me to take this one off the bookshelf at the library, but I’m glad I did. Now I want to go find a fox and befriend it too. This book is meditative and makes you feel like you’ve gone on a good long walk in the sun and wind when you read it. Also, last I checked, the author has no social media or platform. She still lives out there, somewhere, in a cabin, with her dreams and her writing. I like to think about that.
6. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. Michelle McNamara. This book is harrowing and endlessly fascinating and all the while there’s a background thrumming that McNamara’s vision and work and focus will lead to tragedy. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s some of the best true crime literature I’ve ever read.
7. Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide. John Cleese. Can we just take a moment to appreciate the world treasure that is John Cleese? I read this in one sitting and I could HEAR him reading it to me. That is all you need to know.
And finally…. the best for last:
8. Fairy Tale. Stephen King. When I finished this book, my husband Brian was just coming up to bed. It was around midnight. I was just sitting there, clutching the book to my chest and when he settled under the covers, I started to tell him about it. I had to talk to someone about it. It’s a hero’s quest, a mythical journey, a recovery story, a coming of age tale, a dog’s life, and more than a bit terrifying. All in one. I begged for characters to stay alive and for the dad to stay sober. It was the complete book.
Oh! And here is an honorable mention. I found it because Stephen King recommended it on Twitter, and we should all do whatever Stephen King says. I went out that day and checked it out, and then created this, which the author RESPONDED to, so now we’re besties. As is the way.
So, there you go! I’m hoping you will message me with your favorite reads this year, so I can add to my list. There’s always more books in the sea, along with an octopus, out there, somewhere, waiting for me to transform its life.
If you would like some researched and curated quick tips on this topic and more creative hacks, join me for Pie and Coffee: 3 Habits, 2 Helps, and 1 bit ‘o Hope, free of charge. Sign up below!