I recently read that resource lists are the way to boost traffic to your blog. While I do care – immensely – that you’re here, I don’t really give a lick about boosting traffic to my blog just for the sake of numbers, as many bloggers do. I write essays and put them here because of selfish needs to write and share what I write.

But the idea of a resource list is still intriguing, so this week, instead of an essay, I’m trying it. What these books, blogs, and other things have in common: I like them. Selfish again. Here we go:

  • Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter (Graywolf Press, 1997) is a collection of his essays on fiction. I discovered Baxter’s short story “Gryphon” in graduate school in the book Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French. (I still regret not taking a course from Stuckey-French at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival when I had the chance.) “Gryphon” is so wonderful, I look forward to reading more of Baxter’s work.
  • I’ve already written about Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist in my blog posts Part 1 and Part 2. Stay tuned for Part 3, based on the chapter “Side Projects and Hobbies are Important.” In the meantime, buy this book.
  • My friend Denise is the one who told me about this Jonathan Gottschall interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered”: Jargon to Jabberwocky: 3 Books On Writing Well.
  • In his interview, Gottschall recommends Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, which I have read once and been wanting to reread for a year now. I fished it off the bookcase today and it is now on-deck.
  • Gottschall also recommends Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights, compiled and edited by Jon Winokur. I don’t usually enjoy books of quotes. But every time I pick it up and flip through a few pages (which is the only way I can digest it), I find gems.
  • Gottschall’s third pick is William Zinsser‘s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (Collins, 2006). I am currently reading this book. I am currently in love with this book. Read Chapter 7, “Usage,” yesterday while doing the laundry, and this one chapter alone is worth the price of the entire book ($14.99 paperback). Thanks again to Denise.
  • Zinsser cites the works of several nonfiction writers, among them Joan Didion, one of my writing heroes. When I read Didion’s The White Album I knew I would want to read everything she has ever written.
  • John Cheever is another of my writing heroes. I am currently reading The Stories of John Cheever, 700 pages, which nets out to one short story per day for the next two months. I’m not saying you should like Cheever too, although I don’t know why you wouldn’t, but I include this book as a reminder to you to read your heroes. Study them. Practice writing like they do.
  • My beloved Boswell Book Company, up the street from me on Milwaukee’s East Side, allowed me to pre-order Cheryl Strayed‘s tiny beautiful things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar (Vintage, 2012) online this past spring, and then called me when it was in-store. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a love affair with an indie bookstore near you. There are many reasons to do so. Customer service is only one.
  • tiny beautiful things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar is genius. Strayed talks about being Sugar in this interview with Jenn Godbout on The 99 Percent (not the 99 percent you might think).
  • My goal is to attend at least one author event per month. On July 11 my husband John and I went to hear Dean Bakopolous, author of My American Unhappiness, and Patrick Somerville, who wrote This Bright River. They were funny and engaging and we bought both of their books. On July 30 I plan to see Robert Goolrick. Stacie from Boswell sent me invitations to both of these because she thought I’d enjoy them. Love her for that.
  • The New York Times gave Patrick Somerville a bum review, but it wasn’t his fault: the reviewer misread the book and the Times later had to correct the review. Patrick writes about it at Salon.com in a piece titled “Thank you for killing my novel.”
  • I wanted to see Donald Ray Pollock at Boswell this past Tuesday but couldn’t. So Stacie had him sign both of his books, The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, a collection of short stories, for me and I picked them up the day after. He’s an Ohio boy and, like me, became a writer and got his master’s degree late in life.
  • This interview with Jonathan Franzen first ran on “Fresh Air” (NPR) a few years ago but I came across it only very recently on the blog Sometimes a Great Notion.
  • My friend Joan sent me the link to the brilliant Underground New York Public Library blog just last week. Photos of people reading books (and the titles they’re reading) on the New York City subways.
  • You’ve probably seen this one already. No? You haven’t? All right, here it is: English teacher David McCullough Jr.’s commencement address, You are Not Special, which he delivered at Wellesley High School in Boston this past spring.
Wishing you a good week. Until next time.


  1. While you did not intend to gratuitously increase web traffic, you did increase my desire to read. I have put Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” on my wish list, along with Zinsser’s “On Writing Well…”. Maybe even the Gottschall.

    I will have to hook up with Boswell’s and have them copy me on everything you read!

    • Denise: That email that I owe you…I was going to recommend that you check out Zinsser’s book. I keep thinking of you as I read it; the writing is very clean; I just think you’ll really like it. Promise I’ll write back tomorrow.

  2. Pingback: Thanks, but no thanks | Robin Graham

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