What I’ve Been Reading || The Non-Fiction Edition

It’s often a good idea to, every once in a while, take a step back from the writing – be it blogging or working on your manuscript – and read. I could throw in a few of those overused, oh-so-cliche quotes about reading and how it affects one’s writing, but I shall refrain.

Last year I hit a reading rut. I just didn’t want to. Anytime someone mentioned books or curling up in a cozy chair with hot chocolate (or wine, whichever you prefer), I had this strange inner reaction. Throughout my life I’ve made it a point to go against the grain and not do what was deemed popular at the time.

Clothes one to two seasons out of style = check.
Star Trek and X-Files watcher instead of Dawson’s Creek or FRIENDS = check.
Got the NERDS Blizzard from Dairy Queen instead of Oreos or normal chocolate = check.

I didn’t come out of my “no reading” funk until I did an experiment earlier this year where I didn’t turn on my television for an entire month. As a direct result, my reading time skyrocketed. Surprised? No? I wasn’t either. According to my Kindle statistics, I’ve read for sixteen weeks in a row – from mid March to now. I’ve also smashed my original reading goal of twenty books (low goal, I know) and upped it to forty.

Those numbers don’t include the paper/hardback copies I’ve read. And those books have mostly been of the non-fiction variety. So here are four non-fiction books I’ve been reading (or have already read…or need to read) this year. Some are on this list, others are brand new and I’ve yet to update the page to include them. As I always say, I hope you enjoy this post and perhaps you’ll find something new to read!

1,000 CHARACTER REACTIONS FROM HEAD TO TOE by Valerie Howard

This book, the newest addition to my self-help collection, is part of a series designed to help spark creativity and get out of one’s rut of using the same words over and over again. One of this series’ other books, 1,000 STRONG VERBS, arrived on my doorstep earlier this week.

While it’s not a complete list of every reaction a character can have, Howard does include spaces after each specific section where you can put your own spin on what’s provided. In reality, it’s a two-in-one book and workbook.

What drew me to this book was her blurb: “As an author, are your characters always sighing and nodding? Did you just sigh and nod? If so, this handy little booklet is for you!” I can handle dialogue just fine, and I adore world building. Character interactions and movements are my biggest problems.

Not only that, when I now pick up a book to read for pleasure, these nuances are forever front and center because I’m paying attention to an author’s style. Flow and odd interactions never stood out to me as a teen. Now they can make or break a book.

I refuse to stay in my rut, so I’ll be keeping these little booklets on my desk for future reference.

True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen
edited by Sarah A. Chrisman

Apparently I missed the memo when I began my writing journey that there’s an arsenal of books from the Victorian era that many historical fiction writers use. TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN is one of those books.

I also didn’t know this book existed until a research stint a few weeks later when I stumbled upon this title and immediately drooled over the cover. Okay, I didn’t actually drool. I metaphorically drooled.

Modern nuances in historical novels has always annoyed me, and that applies to character mannerisms as well. Historical novelists are always faced with this conundrum: do we write a book filled with historical references but modernize its characters to fit the current state of things, or do we write according to the time period we choose and try to be as historically accurate as possible?

No matter what’s chosen, I’m afraid that choice is always met with criticism from readers who prefer the former or latter of the aforementioned situations. Then, do we explain and defend ourselves in a preface or epilogue note at the end of the story?

TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN is a reference I’m glad still exists. It gives insight into the unique and complex social proprieties of the day. I’m still unsure if it was originally published in 2015 or if it’s an edited version from an earlier publication.

Whichever the case, more research and reading is most definitely required!

Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges by Todd Wilson and Helen Wilson

Images of America, in case you’re unawares, is a vast collection of historical imagery archives compiled into books by subject. Of course, for me, the Pittsburgh series have become an invaluable resource and catalyst for furthering my interest in what “the ‘burgh” looked like before my parents were even born.

My last surviving grandmother is 84 years old (born in 1936), so some of these books have been like walking down memory lane for her. As such, she’s also conducting her own deep dive into Hartman history and connections within Southwestern Pennsylvania.

It’s because of my grandmother’s interest in my great great great grandfather’s bakery in Allegheny City that I picked this up.

I *may* have to interview her one of these days about him.

Hmm…

I digress, as usual!

PITTSBURGH’S BRIDGES proved itself to be an accurate resource, and let’s just say that one of my book’s pivotal scenes was inspired by a fact found within its pages.

Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland

I know, I know. Not this book again. But I saved it for last because I didn’t want you guys to feel like I’m beating you over the head with this series.

However, Weiland’s books are just that good.

While I’ve read each one at least thrice over, I still refer to them (them being CREATING CHARACTER ARCS, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL and STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL) time and again when I need a refresher.

I highly, highly doubt that any one person can know absolutely everything about writing. Sometimes I’ll freeze in the middle of a scene and will need a reminder right then and there.

Thank goodness my home is only 625 sq. ft., and my non-fiction bookshelf is but twenty paces from my writing desk. Correction: fifteen paces. I got up and checked.

Here’s my point. You don’t need a reference from me to find what resources work best for you and your stories. Let’s face it – I’m still a “noob” when it comes to this thing called writing. However, Ms. Weiland was one of the first authors I connected with when I first began looking for community online. She’s always been willing to answer small questions here and there, and her experience is both highly valuable and unproblematic. And that’s really refreshing.

Did you find anything worth diving into?

I love making these short book lists as they force me to go back to my stacks and rediscover old favorites or books I’d forgotten about. In all honesty, I’d completely forgotten about the Improve Your Writing book (my apologies to Ms. Hahn!)

What are some books you own but recently rediscovered? You’re in a judge-free zone, so don’t be shy and share those titles in the comments below! Let us all discover something new today. Happy reading and have a great writing week!

Published by Leigh A. Hartman

Hey all! Welcome to my website! I'm currently writing my first novel series called The Firedamp Chronicles. Check out the following links to find out more about why I write!

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