February 21, 2014

A Year of Start Here

Thirteen months ago, I first posted about START HERE, the reading guide edited by Jeff O'Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky of Book Riot. The book contains essays on 25 major authors with recommendations on where to start reading their work. I decided I would use these suggestions to structure part of my 2013 reading, and I began working my way through the alphabetical list of authors.

Now that I've finally tackled Dickens, I thought it was time to take a look back at how this reading project played out for me during the past year-and-a-bit. Under the guidance of START HERE, I read the work of 7 authors. Of those, Alexie, Calvino, Dick, and the long-dreaded Dickens were brand new to me, and they were all authors I'd always meant to read, so this was a great motivation. Atwood is a long-time favorite, and I'd read some Bradbury before, and for each of those the suggestions involved one reread along with new discoveries. I'd read Austen previously as well, but only the year before.

At the start of this project, I probably expected to get to more of the 25 authors, though I certainly didn't think I could do all of them in a year. However, I didn't anticipate that I'd end up reading more than one book for nearly everyone I tried. In total, I read 16 books for this project, and it made up more than a third of my reading for last year.

Thanks to START HERE, I read some books I really liked that I might not have known about or ever gotten around to. I also read some books I didn't much care for. I'm not sorry about reading any of it. This project was a great experience, and even doing just 7 authors involved a lot of variety.

At this point, I'm putting a stop to my START HERE project, but I'll definitely keep referring to the book for advice. Of the remaining 18 authors, over half are writers I've never tried, often because I wasn't sure where to begin, and the rest are mostly authors I'd like to read more of. Whenever I'm ready to get started or continue on with these writers, I know where to look.

And wait, there's more! Just recently, the fine folks at Book Riot released a second volume of START HERE, with reading pathways for 25 more authors. This new collection features another fabulous and varied set of writers, and I'll be eagerly referencing it as well.

Incidentally, in my original post about my project, I said that I was also planning to spend the year making some alphabetical progress through all the unread books on my shelves. It turns out that aside from a few START HERE recommendations that I already owned, I read almost nothing that was on my bookshelves at the beginning of last year. So I guess that's something to look forward to accomplishing in 2014?

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Sarah McCarry has launched a series focused on writers who identify as living/struggling with depression and mental illness. In these interviews, writers speak frankly about their experiences and coping mechanisms. "There's the myth, right, of the Tortured Artist, and then there's the reality, which is most often exhausting and difficult and not at all glamorous." (Thanks, Nathan Bransford!)


Andrea Blythe said...

It's fun to stretch and read what you might not read. Sometimes you discover gems and sometimes, like you noted, you find others you're not that into (for me that would be Faulkner). Good fun. :)

Lisa Eckstein said...

Faulkner is definitely an author I wouldn't know where to start with, and also that I'm not sure I'd like either. But if I do decide to try him, conveniently he's included in volume 2! :)

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