Books to change who you are

In Today’s Blog

  1. A Reading Plan
  2. A year of reading an author named Alma

At medium.com, Jon Westenberg offers a one-year reading plan to “transform who you are, what you do & how you do it.” 

It’s an intriguing idea and well worth checking out (link below) and it inspired me to offer my own reading plan.

Month 1: Transcending loss

Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay: I don’t know how this man knows what it means to *lose a country* but he does, he viscerally does, and this book rips my heart out every time I re-read it and I re-read it regularly.

There are many ways to fight against this loss and the entire book is a kind of poetry of courage and endurance and never giving up. And then there is Dianora – the tragic, transcendent Dianora who is one of the most memorable characters ever to grace any novel.

Month 2: Laughter

Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K Jerom: I challenge anyone to read this book without laughing out loud at least once – and for me, at least, it cemented the reasons why I don’t EVER want to go camping (and yes I am laughing again just thinking about it)

Month 3: Rising to your gifts

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

One of those books which came out of nowhere and totally captivated me – a lost tribe of super-runners, and the most engrossing race you’ve never heard about.

Month 4: A bit of history

Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric: For people like me who have roots in in the real-world history in which this novel takes place, it is riveting and heartbreaking. Even if it’s not your personal history, this novel by a Nobel Literature Prize winning author can leave you gasping. It is a tragedy. It is a determination to endure. It is a living thing with a beating heart.

Month 5: Through a glass darkly

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: It is a gift to be able to take something utterly UTTERLY familiar and recast it in a shape that makes it utterly UTTERLY strange. You go along on that journey believing every step of the way, or at the very least wanting to. I think this is the first Gaiman book I ever read, and I have read most everything the man has ever written purely on the strength of it.

Month 6: Art

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, Kate Elliot: Because I am a fantasy writer, why not pick a fantasy book with art as the central theme? This particular book is a rich reinvention of what it means to give yourself to your art, BODY and soul. And how immensely magical art can be. It’s the kind of thing that can be iffy – a book with three authors, but this WORKS. And you’ll never look at a painting the same way again.

Month 7: Poetry month

Here I am not going to say “go read THIS ONE or THAT ONE.” Start with the ones you might have heard of, the “classics”, like, oh, I don’t know, Sonnets from the Portuguese or something (Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Then go learn a bit about the poet and see if you can fit the poetry to the person. You can find stuff by Emily Bronte which is every bit as wild as her novel; you can go more modern and search recent journals publishing people you may never have heard of. Get adventurous. And if at the end of the month you still don’t like poetry, you’ll really know why.

Month 8: Visual art in story

There’s a new graphic novel of Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak”. Or you could give manga a try. Go outside your comfort zone. Stories are sometimes told with the help of pictures.

Month 9 : Writers from another continent.

Make a point of reading at least one book by a writer who lives on a different continent from you, perhaps even one which you might never have visited. Go and find out about writers from Africa, from Asia (India, China, Japan…), from South America, from Europe from North America (if you aren’t based there!), Specifically try some which come in translation, from a language you do not speak. Learn to think the thoughts of someone who comes from a different world than you. Broaden your horizons, literally and metaphorically.

Month 10: Visit the past

Read a novel or two from a different century. The Twentieth, particularly the early Twentieth, perhaps; or (if you can handle it) even delve into the Nineteenth, or even before. People were very different back then. But if you know where we came from, perhaps it might become easier to start understanding where we might be going.

Month 11: Jump to the future – or the weird.

Pick up books by Charles Stross, China Mieville, Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin.

Month 12: Plan a year of books for a youth

What would you recommend to a young person who is only just beginning their literary journey? Which books were important to YOU, growing up? Why? You might have to re-read them and make sure they hold up? Which books weren’t around when you were young, but you WISH they had been – books which you read as a grown-up but which you know would have changed your life if you had found them younger? Put a list together and then maybe give it as a Christmas present to a reader in your life. Maybe even with a package of the recommended books.

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A year of reading an author named Alma

Just in case you might want a monthly reading list on those topics drawn from my own work, on similar topics:

Month 1 : Transcending loss – Letters from the Fire – an epistolary novel told in emails, about war and love and courage and loss of country. It’s fiction, but this one is deeply rooted in a very recent historical past.

Month 2: Laughter – Spellspam, the second book in the Worldweavers series. If you like puns, you will quite enjoy the spellspams that lead off each chapter This one also leaves you with quite a bit to think about, though, when you’re done laughing.

Month 3: Rising to your gifts – the entire Worldweavers series, really. “Gift fo the Unmage”, “Spellspam”, “Cybermage” and “Dawn of magic” All about the Girl Who Couldn’t, the one of whom much was expected but who apparently failed to rise to those expectations…. right untilthe moment she did, and transcended them all.

Month 4: A bit of history – Empress, a story which is based in the immortal love story of Emperor Justninan of Byzantium and a girl from the Hippodrome named Theodora who became an Empress. This one’s alt-history, or historical fantasy – but it skates quite close to the real tale. Pick it up, read it, and you might be moved to find out about the Real Thing, afterwards…

Month 5: Through a glass darkly – The Were Chronicles (“Random”, “Wolf”, “Shifter”) This is a world that could so easily be our own, with just one major change. There are Were-creatures. And instead of the usual suspects (any people with a darker skin, Jews, lower social castes or classes,) it is the Were kind who are the lowest on the social totem pole. These are books that look at what that means, what it feels like, and how to rise above it…

Month 6: Art – Um. I have to give you a rest this month. i don’t do visual But if you want another medium.. I have a couple of books out as audiobooks (currently “Embers of Heaven” and “Gift fo the Unmage”, with “Empress” coming soon…)

Month 7: Poetry month – I DO have a book a poetry out, which my was instrumental in getting published when I was 18 years old. There aren’t many copies about. But I give you leave to read other poets, instead. Or email me and ask me for a poem. I’ll send you one.

Month 8: Visual art in story – I have a story that won a competition run by the BBC, no less. About a painting. It’s called “The Painting”. You can find it in Weight of Worlds, a collection of my short stories (only in ebook…)

Month 9 : Writers from another continent. Well, I’ve lived on a lot of continents, so wherever you are right now you can make a case of picking ANY of my books and you’d be safe. But I suggest “Midnight at Spanish Gardens” because it is about a real place which I left behind on another continent, a long time ago. And it might bring up some memories of your own.

Month 10: Visit the Past – Try my Jin-shei books – “The Secrets of Jin-shei” and “Embers of Heaven”. They are alt.history/historical fantasy but they are rooted in Imperial China and the Cultural Revolution, respectively. I did a ton of research for these books. They may be fantasy but they are truly “historical” in their own way.

Month 11: Jump to the future, or the weird. Try “AbduciCon”, especially if you are a Science Fiction fan who has ever been to a convention – you will have fun both hunting familiar SF tropes, and recognizing characters who will seem familiar.

Month 12: Visit “my books” at www.AlmaAlexander.org and plan a year of MY books for somebody…? (If you want to plot, you can always let me know and we can get them signed.)

LINKS
Jon Westenberg at medium.com HERE

5 significant books in an author’s life HERE

All my books HERE

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