I try not to write too often about reading in this newsletter. Mainly because it’s easy to associate stories with books but as I’ve said before, stories come in all formats and mediums. It’s me acknowledging and trying to account for my bias. As a writer I can’t help but love to read. I was recently asked (by my therapist) what I did for fun as a kid and as I thought back I realized, I was often the kid holed up in a corner with a book, or walking down hallways reading between classes and recess (because I also loved to play).
So I’ve read a lot of books over the past decades and all of them have helped make me a better storyteller. I’m starting a new and fun project this week and its had me thinking back on books I’ve read throughout my life (more on that another time). So I thought I’d share a list of the books that shaped me as a person and storyteller. In no particular order except how they jump into my consciousness.
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster - the first non-picture book that was read to me and invited me into the magic of words, grammar and syntax.
Love You Forever, Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw – One of the first books to make me feel really strong emotion
all about love, bell hooks – A book that helped a more grown up me understand myself and my relationships better
All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes, Maya Angelou – When I realized I wasn’t the only Black woman to thrive on adventure and new places
All My Puny Sorrow, Mariam Toews – Helped me realize I wasn’t alone during a challenging period
The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois – Double consciousness
Sweetland, Michael Crummy – I learned poets were the very best writers when I read this (yes, Maya should have taught me that but I’m not always as quick on the uptake as I should be on some things). This is not a book I would have enjoyed written by anyone else.
What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, Lesley Nneka Arimah – The first short story collection I read and reread and reread learning they don’t all have to be serious (boring).
A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf – I learned about one of the key tools of writing from this one (and yes about the role of women in fiction)
Jane Austen. That’s right, just a name. I can’t choose just one so please don’t make me. Some stories are timeless and fun even centuries later.
There are SO MANY more. But these are the ones today. What are ten stories that shaped you? Have you ever thought to stop and ask and explore that? Remembering them, honouring them, may remind you about an element of your storytelling you may have forgotten. It did for me.
A Story Well Told
All of the above. But, seriously, check out Love You Forever or other books that may have been read to you as a kid (or that you read yourself, you lil genius). As someone with few humans under 30 in my daily life, I’m not often exposed to the rhythms and poetry of kids book. But what a delight, especially in these sometimes chaotic and unsettling times. Shockingly grounding.
Thanks for reading and I’ll “see” you next week. Whatever the world may bring, there will always be important stories that need you to tell them. I’ll be here to help.
Also, if you’re enjoying this or if there’s something you’d like me to cover in a future letter—an element of your storytelling you may be struggling with, please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’m here to help.