Why I’m not reading fiction this summer

I sort of blame this book that I read last summer:


In it, Alan Jacobs encouraged me to follow my reading whims and not try to complete an impressive reading list out of guilt, compulsion, or (an unfortunately influential reason for me) competition. He relieved a little English teacher guilt I’d been carrying around and freed me up to read what interested me. Somehow, that led to me reading, re-reading, flagging, highlighting, underlining, and taking this book with me on a weekend trip out of town:


Yep, that’s right. During summer break when I could be reading my beloved fiction, I’m reading an out-of-print book on the rhetoric of grammar that was published in 1993. And I’m relishing every sentence.

I don’t know that I started out with this aim when I began to read books about writing (and I’ve read quite a few!*), but looking back I think it all stems from a desire to pull back the curtain on the wizard and finally see that every book has an author and every author is no more than an ordinary person, no more than a child who loved books and grew up to write them, eventually.

I find hope in this, naturally. I find hope in the story of Frank McCourt, who wrote his bestselling Angela’s Ashes after 30 years of teaching English and Creative Writing. I hope perhaps there is a story I haven’t thought of yet or doesn’t seem interesting enough yet and I’m just learning how to tell it with every lesson I teach.

So, yes, during my first week off I intended to do more blogging and fiction reading, but so far I’ve been typing extensive lesson plans for teaching the rhetoric of pronouns and have been ordering books on Amazon about teaching grammar through positive imitation (rather than error hunting) and have been generally boring my poor husband with my overbearing zeal for well placed punctuation marks. Yes, it will benefit my students immensely, but I think I’m secretly hoping it will eventually benefit me.

* Here is a list of the books about writing that I can remember reading, listed in the order of how much I loved the book: Bird by Bird, On Writing, The Forest for the Trees, King of the Mild Frontier, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Truth and Beauty, On Writing Well, A Moveable Feast, The Blue Jay’s Dance, Walking on Water, Population 485 (or any other Michael Perry), Writing Down the Bones, and (although it doesn’t fit perfectly on this list) She Got Up Off the Couch.


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