Why You Should Read Outside of Your Comfort Zones

Today, I’m very happy to introduce the Write Practice regular and travel writer, Unisse Chua. She writes about her travels on her blog, Little Girl Travels. You’ll probably want to follow her on Google+ and Twitter (@lilgirltravels) because she’s super cool. Thanks for posting Unisse!

Writers read to expand their knowledge on different writing styles and patterns of other writers, established or not. It has been a constant reminder to writers to keep reading and reading something does not necessarily mean it has to be finished.

I can no longer remember the very first time I picked up a book and just sat down and read but I do remember the complete set of colorful picture storybooks my parents bought for me when I was a child. Those were my first books.

Bibliophile: A lover and collector of books.

My love for reading continued when I was in elementary. I was not a very outgoing child so I spent my time alone in the library, flipping though books with pictures. I eventually learned to love books without the colorful pictures when I read the Harry Potter series. That was my very first set of young adult fiction books.

As the years passed, I started to read more fiction books that young teenage girls read, like The Mediator series from Meg Cabot, the Mates Dates series from Cathy Hopkins, and the Year Abroad trilogy.

I noticed that once I like a book with a certain theme, I tend to search for other books with the similar theme.

Is Reading Books You’re Comfortable With Enough?

Is reading the same genre of books enough to help one develop as a writer? Wouldn’t that just limit the writer to write something similar?

It’s not limited to genres either. How about just reading short stories and novels, but never really paying attention to other forms of literature like poems, prose, or plays?

I have to admit that I was never really a poetry fan and I am very limited to a handful of novel authors. After reading a post here about collecting images for poetry (and for stories as well), I realized that I haven’t really explored other forms of literature and other genres that I stay away from.

We all have our comfort zones, in reading, writing and in our lives. Without stepping out of that small bubble of ours, our knowledge would not be able to grow and we would not know if we might be better in other fields of writing or not.

Realizations are one thing, but acting upon a realization is another.

I may not be able to write poems with measures and rhymes just yet, but I’ve decided to start reading more poems, analyze and criticize them without bias and eventually write some before completely scrapping it out of my writing experience.

What is a book you wouldn’t have normally chosen to read but which changed how you approach writing?



Today, I want to challenge you to read something new: a novel, book of short stories, book of poetry or even nonfiction book you wouldn’t normally choose on your own.

And in my opinion, the best way to find good new books is from friends. So in the comments, share what you normally read, and ask this wonderful little community to suggest something new to you.

If something catches your fancy, tell us what you’ve chosen.

Happy reading!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • R. E. Hunter

    The majority of books I’ve read are science fiction, often hard SF. All time favourites would include the Dune series, Rimworld series, the Empire series, various Heinlein books. With a few exceptions, such as Lord of the Rings, I’ve never really gotten into Fantasy (I never understood why these are lumped together, where I see them as polar opposites – magic and paranormal is the antithesis of science). I’ve read and enjoyed some historical fiction and non-fiction.

    I don’t read a lot of novels anymore because I’m an obsessive reader. I have great difficulty putting any book down until it’s finished. When I was young I could handle staying up all night and going to school with no sleep. Can’t do that anymore. So now I tend toward short stories because I can finish them quickly and get back to the stuff I’m supposed to be doing.

    • I can kind of relate with being an obsessive reader. Used to read all night without sleep too. But now that I have to work, I can’t even stay up past 10 anymore.

      Short stories are fun to read. Keep reading!

    • I can kind of relate with being an obsessive reader. Used to read all night without sleep too. But now that I have to work, I can’t even stay up past 10 anymore.

      Short stories are fun to read. Keep reading!

      • R. E. Hunter

        Yeah, having to work for a living is such a pain 8^). I wish I could be like Da Vinci, with a wealthy patron to take care of trivialities like living expenses.

        • Yes, please! 🙂

          • Yvette Carol

            Ditto! Wouldn’t mind a sugar daddy to take care of the mind-numbing, time-eating business of money.

    • I love Dune too, Mr. Hunter. I think at it’s core it’s about hierarchy, access to new, fantastic worlds, and the good guys returning to their rightful place of authority. And this might be a stretch, but you could make a case that that is the context for every just about every traditional British novel from Austen to Dickens to Julian Fellowes.

      Have you read any Dickens? Oliver Twist might be an interesting one for you. Similar plot line as Dune except in 19th c London.

      • R. E. Hunter

        No, I haven’t read Dickens or many other classics. One of many things I’ve always wanted to do and haven’t got to. I’ll see if I can squeeze Oliver Twist in.

        Actually, I neglected to mention that most of my reading has been non-fiction, especially various sciences, history and computers. I love learning new things in almost any field. I’m enjoying now reading so much about the craft of writing. I have “Outlining Your Novel” by K. M. Weiland and “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks on the go right now, as well as “The Art of Intrusion” by Kevin Mitnick (as research for one of two novels I’m planning).

        • R.E.H…. I know what yu mean about long novels. I prefer shorter novels, myself. J.M. Coetzee, for instance. I like to get on to new material, see how another writer does it. Coetzee does it very well. In fact, I rewrote my last novel after falling love with Coetzee’s point of view. Third person limited. I made mine ‘very limited’. Almost first person. Good luck with your novels.

          • R. E. Hunter

            Thanks, PJ

        • Nice. I’ve been on a nonfiction kick myself. I love Malcolm Gladwell the most.

  • I love reading fantasy books as well as science fiction. I’m a fan of George R.R. Martin and I love the books he wrote.
    I also love Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels.

    I love this new post because it helps us broaden our field. We don’t have to just say in one part of the “book world” or else we’ll be missing out on a whole lot of things.

    Thanks for the advice Unisse! 🙂

    • Marianne Vest

      Agatha is great. Dorothy Sayers is another good English murder mystery writer and M.C. Beaton (she is funny!!!) They are really good to listen to when your going on a trip in the car

      • I always wanted to know what clues Hercule Pirot was noticing so that I could try to solve the crimes as well. I felt the same way when reading Sherlock Holmes.

        I’ve only read one short story by Dorothy Sayers. I would like to read some more of her work.

        • Marianne Vest

          Dorothy wrote maybe seven or nine novels with Peter Whimsey as the main detective. They are best read in chronological order. Lord Peter Whimsey and Harriet Vane have a romance that develops as the series progresses. I think she’s a great writer and she was a great feminist. She wrote a book containing two essays called “Are Women Human” that is very telling about that time not so long ago when women were fighting for their rights. A funny thing about her writing is the very flat character of Peter Whimsey becomes very real as you read though the series. I like “The Nine Tailors” the best of the Whimsey books. She was also a theologian and wrote a book called “Mind of the Maker” that I think is interesting.

      • Thanks for the suggestions Marianne! I’ll try and hunt the books written by these authors! 🙂

      • Yvette Carol

        Yes, Poirot is one of the fictional characters I relish reading about. Loved ‘Death on the Nile’. Did you know that Poirot was the only fictional character to be given an obituary in the NYT? They broke the news in 1975 with the headline “Hercule Poirot is dead”.
        I am fascinated by the fact that Christie herself despised her own creation. She called Poirot, “insufferable” and a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep”.

  • My publisher and I were discussing my novel’s theme… and he suggested I read Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. I never would have otherwise looked into it. Turns out to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. So, YES, I almost always go where my literate friends direct me.

    • That’s awesome. I’ve never read Hardy, but I’ve heard good things.

      The Hardy Boys on the other hand… 🙂

    • Yvette Carol

      Was it Thomas Hardy who wrote ‘A man for all seasons’? I can remember reading that when I was younger….
      PJ, while you’re here, did you ever look back at the comments section to your post last week? I put a comment up there. May have been one of the last on. I’ve been reading your book and grappling with my story structure for book two of my series ever since. And I’ve been really hoping you might say something that would help shine a light!!

      • Jessice

        That was Robert Bolt, Yvette.

        “The Mayor of Casterbridge” is excellent and nothing like as gruelling as the snuff-film-in-book-form of “Tess” – it’s taken awhile but Thomas Hardy has become one of my favorite authors. They’re not all as emotionally drop-kicky as “Tess” or “Jude”.

        • Yvette Carol

          Thank you Jessice!

      • Yvette… your comment is right here on the front tier of my mind. I did just happen to see it late yesterday, read it twice, and most certain intend to comment back atcha. So now that you know that, I’ll feel easier about heading to the beach this morning and reenter this word-world later in the day. But as I remember, you’ve got a pretty good handle on your long arcs over the course of your trilogy. We’ll talk soon. PJ in Mazatlan.

        • Yvette Carol

          Thank you Mr. Reece! Appreciate that. I read more of your book last night, man, it deserves to become a classic. It’s that good. I keep getting blown away by it, and then I have to go back and read it again. You have rocked my world. Therefore I wish you every success with it!! I have realized that I did not love my main character enough to really let him have it. I kept trying to save him all the time, you know, bring him back from the brink? Now I feel like a naughty boy, all I want to do is (get back into my story and) PUSH him over, see if he swims or not….:-)

    • Marianne Vest

      I just got “The Mayor of Casterbridge” on my Kindle and it was free. It may not be formatted well but I love the free books. I have to finish some short stories and “Goodbye Columbus” before I start that though.

    • I had to read Tess of the D’urbervilles in high school. I don’t think I could endure Hardy again after that experience.

  • You bring up a great point. Experience to a writer is like paint to a painter. The more rich the palette the more rich the story portrayed on paper or canvass. Reading different styles is a great way to add to the palette.

  • I love reading. My reading and writing time is late at night when the kidlets are asleep, so I have to divide that time between both pursuits.

    I have a handful of favorite authors: Stephen King, Amy Tan, Pearl Buck, and Diana Gabaldon. I also read Jane Eyre and Dracula over and over again, as well as the Emily Trilogy by L.M. Montgomery.

    I read a lot of children’s fiction as well. I’ve read children’s fiction of E.B. White several times. Many picture books: Bill Peet, Marc Brown, and Russell Hoban are some family favorites. We’ve enjoyed the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and we are working on the first few Harry Potter novels.

    I really like poetry, particularly the anonymous Scottish ballads and Robert Burns. I spend a lot of time reading them aloud in dialect, while the older kids roll their eyes at me. The younger ones appreciate the musicality of it. I also like reading The Random House Book of Poetry for Children to the kids. I am also partial to Robert Louis Stevenson. I found some of his poetry set to music for children (Ted Jacobs–who also set other poets to music as well) and it is a wonderful way to enjoy it. I fancy that my singing voice is improving because of it.

    • It’s wonderful that you share your love for reading with your kids! It’s one of the few things children need these days with the technology advancing at such a fast pace.

    • Yvette Carol

      My parents loved to buy me books of poetry when I was little. My first books from them (and that I ever owned) were books on Mythology and books of illustrated poems. I pored over those poetry books again & again and yet I didn’t carry that interest on into adulthood (until just recently, that is!) The mythology on the other hand I still find deeply satisfying. I own a lot of books now on mythology from different parts of the world.

      • Marianne Vest

        Oh mythology I forgot all about that. I loved that stuff when I was younger. Do you know anything about Hindu mythology or other mythologies that are fairly easy to read. I only know the Greek and Roman ones, and of course old Beowulf.

        • Yvette Carol

          Marianne, you have to find a book on it. Hindu mythology is fantastic, and I love the illustrations that go with them. You have these powerful figures Krishna, Buddha, Shakti, Shiva in the Vedas and the Upanishads, and then the Mahabharata and Ramayana which correspond to the sort of epic tales of the West like the Iliad and Homer’s Odyssey. Glorious stuff!

      • I didn’t get to read much mythology when I was younger. I’m homeschooling my kids, and I’ve been using it as an opportunity to read them myself. It’s been mostly Greek and Roman myths, but I want to add Norse myths as well.

        • Awesome. I never got it when I was a kid either. I love that you’re getting your kids to read it.

        • Yvette Carol

          The Roman myths don’t do it for me at all, pale replicas of the Greeks’ in my mind. The Norse myths are great and take no prisoners. Casey, you say you’re home-schooling four kids??? How do you find time to write girl???

      • I really enjoy mythology as well. Read the whole Percy Jackson series and I’m still craving for more books with this theme. Though I don’t always find what I like. I’m not quite clear with Norse mythology and the others yet, but I’d love to know what you read!

        • Yvette Carol

          Oooh thank you for asking Unisse! I tend to linger in second-hand book shops way longer than my budget recommends, but if there’s a good mythology section I can’t leave. Of course the Greek myths are de rigeur. I have a number of books on their mythology. Norse mythology I find particularly blood-stirring. I really enjoy the P Jackson series, and also, anything that includes a mythological element, like the movie last year ‘Thor’. The myths that make me dwell and dream have to be Japanese and Indian (the former being my top read). I also have a simply beautiful book on North American Indian Mythology which is to die for. While we’re on the subject, it was a New Zealand myth, that of Rata & Tane, that stirred up my creative juices into a ferment and created the genesis pool that produced the series I’m working on at present, ‘The Grandfather Diaries’….It wasn’t until I had the mythical element down that I felt grounded into my story….

          • Japanese mythology! Oooh! Haven’t actually ventured on that yet! Waaaa. My reading list just got longer. (@_@)

    • Marianne Vest

      It’s great to read to kids and to read with them. I read my daughter three books a night when she was little. I can remember knowing some of the Bernstein Bear books by heart by the time she started to read to herself. It was hard when I was tried after working all day but she loves reading now. I can’t think of the name of the man who wrote “Where the sidewalk ends” but those are great books of poetry for kids.

      • Shel Silverstein!

        • Marianne Vest

          That’s it. Isn’t he amazing?

  • Marianne Vest

    I read Jane Austen, the Brontes, Pearl S. Buck, and Thomas Costain when I was a teenager, because they were on the bookshelves at my parents house. My father’s family read poetry and particularly liked to recite Poe and Kipling so I read them but never could recite like the older people. I think reading that kind of rhyming poetry aloud is good for developing rhythm in your own writing. Now, poetry wise, I like Claudia Emerson, Merwin, Armantrout, and if I am in a good mood Sylvia Plath. I guess William Blake is also considered a poet and he’s good but you have to be very alert and attentive to read him. My favorite author is Virginia Woolf but she’s not to everyone’s taste. I suspend the need to know what’s going on and just move forward with her stream of consciousness and I love it. I feel like I really am with her.

    For those who really want to maybe read something new and not always comfortable, I would recommend reading a good literary magazine like Tin House, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, Crazy Horse, or Black Warrior Review. Willow Springs and Cake Train are good too but more experimental. These magazines have stories that can be upsetting to some people. But sometimes we need to be shocked IMO. You also get some good visual art with most of these which again can be a bit over the top for some people, but that’s where I would love to be published so that’s what I read mostly.

    My real love is short stories and right now I’m reading a collection by Peter Taylor. It is good and not likely to shock, another good one is William Trevor for great writing that is subtle and rich.

    • Yvette Carol

      Marianne I’ve long looked up to people who could remember and recite poetry. My parents belong to a music club. Being English, they have all these old English poems, and rhyming sea shanties in their heads. So they go along once a week, and will stand up and recount one of their old poems or shanties. I sit there in awe. Yet one time I saw this young couple turn to each other and roll their eyes. I wondered at that impatience that is so prevalent these days…and thought about this dying art…it’s sad. Me, on the other hand, I can’t keep them in my head, so I won’t be able to keep the tradition going….

      • What a delightful practice! And shame on the eye-rollers!

        • Yvette Carol

          I agree Steph. I’d like to see the eye-rollers stand up in front of a couple of hundred people and recite a poem from memory! My parents have retired to a seaside town, a couple of hours down country from here, and believe me, they have a thriving social life with all sorts of good things like the music club. I think they fell on their feet there.
          And Marianne, I think that sounds like a fun night out too! I know a fellow, who is called a ‘storyteller’ here in NZ. He lives off a small inheritance, travels around the countryside (and lives) in an old van. He gets meals and a shower from people who he recounts stories aloud too. Sort of like the bards of old….

          • Marianne Vest

            Wow someone could probably write a good story or even book about him.

      • Marianne Vest

        That’s wonderful that they have a club like that. I have heard that in NYC they have “readings” when people get up on the stage and read poems. I’d like to see that.

    • You’re amazing, Marianne. I’m always impressed and humbled when I hear what you’re reading.

  • Great post!

    I tend to step outside of my comfort zones in spurts. When I was younger, I was heavily read in fantasy. Then someone pitched me Asimov’s “Foundation” series and I did the science fiction genre for a long while.

    Afterwards, it was on to Douglas Coupland and his quirky narrative style.
    During University, I took courses in Utopian/Dystopian Literature, Children’s Literature, American Literature and Canadian Literature just to get a survey of everything – all while majoring in Religious Studies.

    Outside of University, I read a lot of nonfiction (subjects are based on where I am in life)

    My ‘spurt’ right now is psychoanalysis and religion… mainly as a research field.

    I find that had I not stepped out of my comfort zone, my life would be completely devoid of some really wonderful literature.

    • Wow! That’s great!

      I feel like I’m missing a lot by not reading other stuff out of my comfort zone. It feels like I’m being left behind by the world.

  • I’m not sure I’m brave enough to comment knowing someone’s going to tell me to read Dickens. Right now I read whatever I can get my hands on cheaply which means I’m getting what I paid for. In the past I have loved work by Jennifer Rogers Spinola, Julia Alvarez, Hemingway, Brandilyn Collins, Ginny Yttrup, Sandra Cisneros… I’ve also enjoyed the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games, Catch-22…


    • Yvette Carol

      Ha! I know what you mean, I thought I hope Joe doesn’t get me to read Dickins! I always buy classics and have them sitting in my bookcase, waiting for the day I might open them, which then never comes. I bought Jules Verne, Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne last year and still haven’t opened them. My sister bought me Jane Eyre, and I dutifully slogged my way through it but I didn’t enjoy it one little bit. However Harry Potter on the other hand, I lapped up like a saucer of milk. Hmm yum!

      • Classics!! Another one out of my comfort zone! We used to be forced to read them for school but as much as possible I stay away because I’m afraid it’ll be boring. I actually have a bunch of classic novels sitting in my bookshelf that haven’t been read at all!

        • KatieAxelson

          Unfortunately sometimes school ruins books… Luckily for us, it didn’t ruin reading altogether. I will say I enjoyed Huck Finn and Farewell to Arms and The Good Earth and some other classics I read for school, but I have yet to read any voluntarily. Tried Tale of Two Cities once and thought I was going to die. (Since I didn’t, Joe will kill me for saying that). I also just graduated so maybe in a few years I’ll be braver. Wait. Who am I kidding?

          I will say reading for school has helped me as a writer. Like reading Kerouac taught me I hate spontaneous prose and the importance of always escorting your reader where you’re going. (Not that I always do that but I sure appreciate authors who do).


          • No Tale of Two Cities is kind of boring, except for a few parts. I agree with you on that.

          • nevillegirl

            *gasp* Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’s best book in my opinion ! 😀

      • Yes, Yvette. I’m going to make you read Dickens and you’re going to like it.


        • Yvette Carol

          You made me laugh out loud Joe! I see you have an underlying bully streak….but I may just have to do so now that you’ve set me homework.

    • You’re so funny, Katie. I like Sandra Cisneros a lot. Also, I love that all the authors you mentioned were women except Hemingway and Heller, who both didn’t really write about women at all.

      Have you ever read Annie Proulx? I think you’d like her a lot.

      • I wrote my undergrad thesis on The House On Mango Street so I’m done with Cisneros for awhile.

        Thanks for the recommendation.

    • I really think that you should read Dickens, Katie. ;p

  • I have very eclectic tastes. Recently though I’ve been doing a Children’s Fiction evening class and have read much more children’s fiction than I normally would. Really enjoyed it too and I’m now much moer prepared to think about writing seriously for children than I had been earlier. Now for a total contrast I’m reading Balzac in the original French (with copious introduction and notes in English), I thought that would be way out of my comfort zone but I’m learning a lot from his very perceptive observations on characters and social conventions and actually enjoying the book too!

    • Marianne Vest

      I wish I could read another language. I have one writing friend that speaks four languages, and he writes in English which makes me happy. I just think there must be so much more to the great French writers if you can read them in their native language. I remember reading Guy De Maupassant (I’m sure that’s spelled incorrectly) when I was in high school in French and it was beautiful in a way that I’m not sure held up in English although he’s a good writer any way you cut the cake.

    • Balzac. Nice. He had the craziest writing process. He would basically go out into Paris for a month with his notebook capturing every little detail of people for his work in progress. Then he’d shut himself up for another month and come out pale as ivory with a finished manuscript.

  • I read children’s novels from the era of LM Montgomery, Susan Coolidge, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott, from North America, Noel Streatfield, Edith Nesbit and Enid Blyton. I like a child’s tale to have a moral in it, or tragedy followed by happy ever after, or a bad character that comes good in a redemptive transformation. Feminist fiction then takes a good part of my reading: Fay Weldon, Marilyn French, Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood would be authors I would admire. Short stories by Saki, Alan Sillitoe, Angela Carter, Jack Lonsaac Asimov. Crime by Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, James Patterson and Val McDermid and the classic detective novels by Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, and science fiction: Anne MacCaffrey and Terry Pratchett.
    When I am actively writing though I read nothing not even the newspaper because I feel somehow the way other people write will rub off on mine.

    • I feel the same way about not reading while writing because I tend to see that my writing has become a somewhat copy of what I’ve read. Then I start to feel bad about myself for being a copycat. But that’s one way of finding our writing voice, I guess.

      That’s a huge collection of authors! James Patterson crime novels are queued in my reading list right now. I started liking crime novels after my aunt introduced Patterson to me.

      • Marianne Vest

        I think you never really have your own way of writing. The way we write is based on what we have learned from first reading and then writing. An art teacher (printing making was the class) told us to remember that nothing we do is original, hasn’t been done before. With all the elements of story telling, I feel that is as true if not truer in written art than in the visual arts. Even the most cutting edge experimental writers are telling stories that we know on some level. That is one of the reasons to read good stuff, to read what you want to write, even if it’s a bit harder than the entertaining best seller on the grocery store shelf. Reading for entertainment has it’s place too but serious reading is essential for any writer (excepting maybe screenwriters who look at movies the way most of us look at books – the analyze what they are seeing).

  • August McLaughlin

    Welcome! Kristen Lamb’s “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer,” changed my attitude and approach to blogging for the better in ways I never dreamed possible. So many books inspire me…including those I don’t particularly like. Learning what we dislike in a novel can also help sculpt our work.

    • Blogging is so much different from writing regular stories or novels! There are so many things to take note of like the readability of the post and other things.

      I’ve only recently read through blogging tips to help make my travel blog easier to read for everyone and I’d love to know the link for Kristen Lamb’s blog!

      • Yvette Carol

        Kristen is brilliant. From memory I think she’s at warriorwriter @ wordpress.com
        but if you have any trouble with that just let me know, and I’ll go look it up properly for you.

    • Yvette Carol

      I know what you mean August. I read Lamb’s book ‘We are not alone’ last year and thought phew, thank goodness I read that before I stumbled out here into the public arena and made a long string of mistakes! I love how books can change you, in fact, I wrote that in the first part of new book!!

    • Marianne Vest

      That’s true. It’s good to know what you think is bad. My problem is I get so bored with what I consider bad, trite, corny, writing that I can never finish the book so I’m not sure if I’ve given it a fair shot or not.

    • Nice, that sounds like a really interesting book, August. Thanks!

  • Thanks for this. I have just started to read Les Miserbles, not something I would usually read, but I am enjoying it. Years ago I read The Count of Monte Christo. They are quite lengthy but well worth the read for just how descriptive they are, and deep.

    thanks once again

    • I read Les Mis in high school. It took me about a year. Good luck, Barry! It really is a masterpiece but it’s so loooong!

  • Yvette Carol

    Yeah, I think you’re right Unisse. I only read middle-grade fiction for years – being the age group I write for – but when I finally did start to branch out (about 5 years ago) into reading all kinds of adult fiction as well, it only enriched my world and my work. I think it started because I frequented some book fairs, and garage sales and I ended up with a huge bunch of adult books. I particularly enjoy Margaret Atwood (woman is a genius), and Amy Tan. I usually avoid books of short stories, but Tan’s book ‘The opposite of fate’ changed all that. I admire the heck out of her effortless, natural style. I’m reading a book of SF short stories at the moment, by Marion Z Bradley that I have to say, are teaching me a lot. Short stories have shown me the essence, the pith of story-writing. And I am the same as you, I did a double-take after Keith Jennings post here about poetry. I have subscribed to his blog so I can continue to partake in that whole new world too. Non-fiction I find difficult to read. Nevertheless I’ve been working my way painstakingly through Joseph Campbell’s ‘A hero with a thousand faces’ for the last 6 months, a mouthful at a time….

  • Unisse, I think you are absolutely correct. The more varied a writer’s reading, the more knowledge of writing he/she will gain.
    I am an eclectic reader. I chose a book quickly, too quickly at times, by reading just a few lines. But my wife, who knows I love history, recommended Edward Rutherfurd and his books, New York, Russka, and others that carry the names of either coutnries or cities.

    He begins with a family from long ago. A Dutch family in his book, New York. You follow the generations of that family through history. You get a glimpse of how the family was affected by historical events. They are very well written history books. I gained a great deal from reading his books, books I would normally pass up.

    I can also recommend a Florida author if you enjoy comedy. Tim Dorsey. His main character is a serial killer, but the funniest thing is that your quickly begin to love the guy. I know, I know. Those who haven’t read him say, “Are you serious?” Yes, I am. He is a fantastic writer and I’ve gained a lot of knowledge reading his books.
    Put your preconceptions aside and give him a try, his character, Serge Storms is more lovable than you can ever imagine.

    • The history books sound amazing! I’m not the passionate about history but the way people are affected by historical events interest me. I’ll try some Edward Rutherfurd books. 🙂

      • They you’ll like his book titled, New York. It begins when the Dutch settled New York, through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the two great wars, and to the point of September 11th. He gives a very good account of how those historical events, as well as many others, affected the Masters family.

    • Thanks for bringing up Tim Dorsey, Angelo. Someone else had recommended him to me once before, and I had forgotten about him. Just ordered the first book!

      • I think you’ll enjoy the book. Serge is one of my favorite characters.

    • Wow, the history book sounds amazing. I love that kind of stuff.

  • My submission for this month’s contest was actually inspired by a book that I had just finished that was well outside my comfort zone, American Sniper. First, it is an autobiography. Second, it has co-writers (no offense to anyone’s favorite ghost writer here!). Third, it is a contemporary war book.

    For some reason, it caught my eye, and I really appreciated the read. Without giving too much away, there is a part where the author describes coming upon the lone contents of an abandoned building and he wonders what the story was behind the them. Well,….so did I, and my own story was born.

    I am currently reading a book entirely within my comfort zone: Dana Stabenow’s “Restless in the Grave.” For any Stabenow fans out there, Liam’s back! 🙂

    • There are ghosts here? Where?! I want to see! 😉

      Mmm… cool story about inspiration, Steph. I love to hear the stories behind the stories 🙂 And I didn’t get a chance to tell you, but I really think you should extend the story you submitted to the contest. I thought it was great, but that the format was too short for the ambitious tale you took on. It would make an excellent short story or even a novel, if you wanted to shoot for that. There were so many subplots you could have explored that would have been fascinating.

      • Thanks for the feedback, Joe. Yah…I felt the word vice closing in on me as I wrote. I think it probably took a pretty careful reading to figure out what happened offstage. I had to explain it to my husband, and when that happens, I know the story is doomed! Hope you have safe & happy travels home!

        • Yvette Carol

          Ha! Yeah Steph, as Bob Mayer advises writers, ‘never complain, never explain’!!

  • LKWatts

    Hi Unisse,

    You make a good point here. I think only reading books in your favourite genre can limit your creativity and potential. If you read a wide variety of books, surely you’ll get a wide variety of ideas :).

  • Great point Unisse and something I’ve been working on. I like a wide variety of styles but tend to drift back to my comfort zone. Some of my favorite books are Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, and anything Agatha Christy. I recently read a book outside of my comfort zone by Ian Morgan Cron called Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me. It’s a gutsy memoir; edgy, honest and redemptive. I don’t typically like memoirs but this one was fascinating and compelling.

    • It’s amazing when we find something that’s fascinating after thinking it might be something we don’t like. The saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” really works for books too!

  • The last 15 years has seen me read more online content but not develop the habit of the longer form of reading books. I have utilized my twitter account as a new challenge (in the form of a recorded timeline) to try to motivate myself to read books on a regular basis. A habit I have yet to acquire.

    I am beginning this reading quest with a few books which are mainly non-fiction, but I would like to add Shakespeare and people like James Joyce, who I have the wont to quote but have not really dug deeply into the full works. It makes me wonder whether acquiring a regular reading habit is akin to going to the gym?

    In the adoption of physical but variety enriched exercises for the body, the difference maker is a physically honed body of an athlete, rather than simply a strong but plump body of a construction worker.

    When it comes to online reading I am the equivalent currently of an construction worker, but I do wonder what changes or transformations will occur in my life, if I acquired a love of reading books. The book challenge I am currently embarking on is still sputtering but this blog post has provided a marker and incentive to continue with this new pursuit.

    I will still prefer reading non-fiction over fiction, and reading for any length of time, no matter what type of book it is, can test my attention span and my comfort zone. Yet I do agree with the assertion of reading outside one’s comfort zone is a good thing.

    Having spent the first half-century of existence avoiding reading, inculcating a love reading is going to be both a challenge and hopefully a wonder. Instead of dieting on daily wads of online links and information, it will be interesting what a commitment to delayed gratification will bring.

    Right now I begin my reading with Mike Malone who has written a bio about “Bill and Dave”. Then a couple more non-fiction books should follow and then I can start taking on the challenge of those Shakespeare plays or James Joyce novels or even a collection of “great fiction books” that includes novels by Dickens etc that do sit presently on my library shelf as literary decoration.

    The key is simply starting, which is the same as gym exercise. I don’t do physical exercise at all either, so the reality that deems most positive is what will happen when the physical regiment informs the intellectual one, and could the act of an intellectual regiment awaken the physical one. I call that a win-win relationship 🙂


    • That’s a wonderful resolve and glad that this post helped you too! 🙂

      Good luck with keeping away from online readings and books. But if you prefer reading electronically, you can still try eBooks. 🙂

  • Tim

    Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. My friend told me that the protagonist is stuck on a boat with a tiger named Richard. For some reason I assumed that meant a talking tiger from a magical world. Before reading that book I stuck strictly to fantasy. It opened my mind to a new world of fiction which I previously ignored.

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