Daily Archives: April 6, 2012

{Reading Circles} And the winner is…


The Giver, by Lois Lowry

If you missed it, on BPB’s Facebook page, we held a vote to see what the next Reading Circle’s read will be. It was close, but the winner is The Giver, by Lois Lowry. It’s an award-winning, best-selling YA novel about a young boy growing up in what appears to be a utopian society. He gets selected to play a special role in the community, one that is both prestigious and exciting…until it reveals some darker secrets. Intriguing, isn’t it?

Don’t worry, those of you who were rooting for The Book Thief. We will get to that one – because, heck! I wanna’ read that one too!

Being a YA novel, The Giver should be a quick, easy, engaging read. But it’s also on the literary side so we’ll have some meat to sink our teeth into as well.

In reading this example of fiction, we’re going to do some practices on reading with a writer’s eye. We’ll read, using this work as an example to show us how other writer’s have tackled common problems, and learn how to improve our own work by seeing how others do things well.

You non-fiction writers aren’t let off the hook though either! Just because this is a work of fiction doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it too. Good writing is good writing, whether it’s reporting a fact or illustrating something imagined. There’s more overlap than you might think. For example, whether you’re writing a blog post, news story, a critical essay, a dissertation, or a novel, you always have to start with a good hook. How do you hook your reader? How do you get them past the first sentence? The first paragraph? The first page…until they’ve stayed up half the night reading to find out what it is you’ve got to say. That is just one of the many questions we’ll address here.

Some of you have mentioned not knowing how to read books with a writer’s eye, or being unsure how to read critically in general. I’ll help you with that too. For me, the best way to read analytically is to have a question in your mind, just like the ones I posed in the paragraph above. Sometimes great writing just leaps out at you from the page and you notice how well an author has turned a phrase or elucidated a point. These are lucky moments. But if you read to look for something in particular, to observe the way the author uses words or structure to accomplish a goal, there is a lot more that you can see.

So as we continue reading, I’ll pose some questions to help with that. I hope they’ll be questions useful to readers and writers of all stripes. But of course, feel free to share anything you’ve learned or observed along the way with the rest of us!

To give everyone time to get the book, we’ll start with The Giver next week. In the meantime, let’s whet our appetites with a little short story, shall we? This week, I want to share with you “Sexy” by Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, originally published in her collection entitled The Interpreter of Maladies, it has been republished here by The New Yorker: click HERE for the short story. There appears to be some formatting issues on the page, but you should be able to read it. The short story, “Sexy,” begins with the line “It was a wife’s worst nightmare.”

How’s that for a hook?

As we read this story, let’s pay attention to details – the telling kind. These details are the ones that give us insight into a character or setting without blatantly stating anything. They bring a world to life through signals and hints, like how you know an old woman has lived a fulfilling life, not because she told you, but because her wrinkles are in all the right places.

Share with us: What details do you notice in this story? What do they tell you? What do they bring to life?