START HERE: READ YOUR WAY INTO 25 AMAZING AUTHORS is a fantastic guide to approaching potentially intimidating literature. The book, edited by Jeff O'Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky of the great site Book Riot, is a collection of essays from contributors who each champion the work of a different author.
Every essay offers a reading sequence through three or more of the author's works. A best known or most ambitious novel isn't always the best starting point, so there's a suggestion for a first book that serves as the ideal introduction, then a progression for continuing that will provide a solid foundation. The reading pathways take various approaches, with some building toward a major work and others offering samples from different parts of a wide-ranging career.
It's a wonderful idea, and it's very well executed. The START HERE page at Book Riot lists the 25 authors featured and includes ordering links. The book is currently only available as an ebook because the initial small print run sold out, but there may be another print run in the future.
As I was reading START HERE, I found myself thinking that one could use it to structure a reading plan for 2013, if one were the sort inclined to do such a thing. I might be, but I also had another plan in mind for the year, which was to make some serious headway on reading the many unread books on my shelves. My collection is arranged alphabetically by author, so I thought I'd go through them in that order. I really don't expect to get through the whole alphabet, especially since I'm sure to also read a whole bunch of other books that come to my attention, but it would be a start.
Well, as it happens, START HERE is also arranged alphabetically by author, and there's a certain amount of overlap with books already on my shelves. So, I thought I might combine the projects. Again, I don't expect to get through all of START HERE this year, and I'm not necessarily going to do the full pathway for each author, but I'll try the first suggested work for each author I get to (or another one, if I've already read it).
Anyone else want to join me in Starting Here?
Good Stuff Out There:
→ At Beyond the Margins, Dell Smith offers an Anatomy of a First Chapter: "I knew I had to approach the first chapter in a new way. I started by reading it over, and making a few small changes. Nothing major, just getting my feet wet. Then I broke down the structure of it. It's only 11 pages, but it needs to introduce the main character, show his roadblocks, let us know what he wants, and set him in motion."