What Do You Read in Your Spare Time?

In my blogs, I often tell writers that if they want to get published in certain genres, they must do a lot of reading in that genre. Actually, regardless of the genre you want to write and get published in, you should be an avid reader of many genres.

I recently asked poets I know to tell me what kinds of materials they read—poetry aside—in their spare time. Most poets I know work full-time at jobs to earn a living, and when they have spare time, they often read poetry. However, these poets are also quite literate, so I figured they make a point of reading other genres, too.

Some of the poets, including myself, regularly publish in other genres. You’ll find in reading their eclectic responses that their range of interests can certainly provide them with knowledge and ideas to write anything.

Reading an article in a newspaper, for example, can give one ideas to write a poem, a personal essay, a short story, or any number of pieces.

I hope these responses give you suggestions and incentive to expand your reading interests, and hopefully, to write more.

Jennifer Dotson:

Mostly I read novels of all flavors – mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, lit. Just finished “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman, (sort of Harry Potter for adults), and before that, “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Currently on my bedside table is Erik Larson’s “In The Garden of the Beast,’ a history book about Berlin in the 30’s and Hitler’s rise to power.

Also, I subscribe to “The New Yorker,” “Runner’s World Magazine,” and “Saveur,” (I call this my “food porn”).

Michael Rehling:

“The Tao Te Ching.”

I read several translations, but Stephan Mitchell’s is a favorite.

Lorraine Brown:

Besides poetry, I like biographies and autobiographies. Not big on fiction. I read news articles, but not from one source. Hate “The New York Times.” I enjoy reading Christian books and the Bible.

My latest reads are John Eldredge “Waking the Dead”; “The Sacred Romance”; and “Desire”; and Elisabeth Elliot “Finding Your Way Through Loneliness,” (great for anyone grieving a loss); “Have a New You by Friday” by Dr. Kevin Leman.

I guess my favorite is Eldredge. His books are not only poetic, but true, and I find more value in filling my mind with truth vs. fiction.

I’m a nutrition nut, so I’m always reading articles and books on the subject. Also love cooking and recipe books. Magazines on the subject of food are fun. I write recipes, so not only do I post recipes regularly, but I love reading other blogs about food and recipes.

I’m in a neighborhood book club and we are reading a wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Honestly, most books bore me and I have a rather short attention span, so poetry, short stories and haiku are all short and sweet and escape the “boredom” category!

Incidentally, I love this quote by Elaine Olsen:
“As I open up God’s Word and crinkle the pages beneath my fingertips, I almost always hear the heartbeat of God ringing in my ears.”

Michael Dylan Welch:

I read the “Seattle Times” every day, skiing and racquetball magazines, fiction and nonfiction books, websites for news, and the occasional essay.

Joe Kirschner:

I read the political journal, “The Nation”; “The New York Review of Books”; “The New York Times”; “Reviews in American History”; and novels. I recently read a great novel, “The Madonnas of Leningrad.”

Chris Patchel:

Graphic design annuals, all manner of art books and magazines (does looking at pictures count?), books and articles on various aspects of science. Right now I’m reading the book, “One, Two, Three: Absolutely Elementary Mathematics” which is far more fascinating that the title might suggest.

Aubrie Cox:

Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Neil Gaiman.

Mike Montreuil:

Joseph Conrad.

Marsh Muirhead:

I read “The New Yorker,” “The Sunday New York Times,” and, after thirty years, am rereading Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice.”

Melissa Allen:

Lots of fiction, mostly literary. On my nightstand, I have A.S. Byatt’s “Babel Tower,” George Eliot’s “Middlemarch,” and several books of short stories by Haruki Murakami that I’m dipping into.

Lots of journalism, mostly about arts and culture, mostly on the Web. I read large parts of the “New York Times,” “The Guardian,” “Slate” pretty regularly, and bits and pieces from many other online sources (e.g., “Salon,” “The Paris Review,” “The New York Review of Books,” “The Rumpus,” and “The Onion”). Offline, I read “The New Yorker.”

I am really enjoying Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture,” at the moment.

I am a magpie, and in case it sounds like no one could have the time to read so much, when I speak of “reading,” most often I’m talking about just skimming or dipping into articles. I also just happen to read really fast.

Joshua Gage:

My primary reading is speculative fiction, primarily fantasy.

Roberta Beary:

I love reading novels. The first novel I remember reading is “Little Women,” at age 9. It made me feel safe and I wanted to read more. I bought it at a church book sale with the nuns’ approval. I remember reading “Gone With the Wind” at age 12. My parents had it on the bookshelf in the living room, and my older sister told my parents I was reading a ‘dirty book.’ I had no idea what she was talking about. I now have read both those books many, many times.

When I was growing up, my mom would take me to the public library at least once a week. She was a working mom and that was one of our few times together during the work week. We would go just as it was about to get dark. I always felt safe in the library, too. I still go there once a week.

Here is my current list of library books:

First the novels:

1Q84 by Murakami, Haruki
The Stranger’s Child : a novel by Hollinghurst, Alan
A Man of Parts : a novel by Lodge, David
The Prague Cemetery by Eco, Umberto
Until the Dawn’s Light, a Novel by Appelfeld, Aron

Followed by the mysteries:

A Trick of the Light, by Penny, Louise
V is for Vengeance, by Grafton, Sue
Jane and The Canterbury Tale, by Barron, Stephanie
Cargo of Eagles, by Allingham, Margery
Until Thy Wrath Be Past, by Larsson, Asa

I just noticed all the novels are by men and all the mysteries are by women. But sometimes it’s the other way around!

Tom Chockley:

I’m mostly retired. I read the politics, op-ed, and business sections of “The New York Times” and the “Washington Post” and dip into the “Chicago Tribune.” I read lots of science fiction, currently working my way through the Year’s “Best Anthology of Short SF Stories.” I have a new novel by Vernor Vinge waiting.

Michele Root-Bernstein:

On a regular basis, I leave worm holes in the daily and “Sunday New York Times” and “The New Yorker.” With a book club for support, I read books by Nobel Prize winners and other literary figures from around the world — most recently “Foucault’s Pendulum,” by Umberto Eco and “Labyrinths” by Borges. Almost done with “The Girl With A Dragon Tatoo,” by Stieg Larsson.

David McKee:

I read all kinds of stuff. Lately I’ve been reading the essays of Thomas Lynch, the writer-poet-undertaker (The Undertaking and Bodies at Rest and In Motion). He writes beautiful prose about death, grief and how we “do” those things in our culture. He also writes very poignantly about the agonies and ecstacies of his personal life.

I read a lot of buddhist literature and its intersections with Western psychology and psychotherapy. Best recent one is Barry Magid, “Ending the Pursuit of Happiness.” I’ve also been on a Wendell Berry binge over the last six months…working my way through all his books of essays, chronologically. I could go on and on…so many books, so little time.

Charlie Trumbull:

“The Santa Fe New Mexican” newspaper every day and “The New York Review of Books” fortnightly. The pleasure of reading novels and nonfiction just for fun is lavished on spy and detective novels and biographies of people and histories of events that pique my interest. E.g. a biography of Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS church, and Tony Judt’s history of postwar Europe. Currently on a Swedish kick, I am two-thirds through the Stig Larssen trilogy and well into the Henning Mankell series.

Heather Jagman:

I’ve been on a popular neuroscience kick for some time now. I’m currently reading “Sleights of mind : what the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions,” by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde in print. I have “Payback : why we retaliate, redirect aggression, and take revenge,” by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton loaded on my iphone.

A quick look at my library account reveals a few more: “Choke : what the secrets of the brain reveal about getting it right when you have to,” by Sian Beilock, and “Blur : how to know what’s true in the age of information overload”/Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel.

I also enjoy contemporary fiction and essays. I recently read “Her Fearful Symmetry,” by Audrey Niffenegger, and really enjoyed it. I’m especially looking forward to Haruki Murakami’s latest, “1Q84.” Other authors that come to mind include Banana Yoshimoto, Douglas Coupland, Kazuo Ishiguro, and essayists David Rakoff, David Sedaris, and Sarah Vowell.

I might be addicted to home design magazines. One recent obsession is Selvedge, a beautiful textile art and craft journal

Gayle Bull:

I read cookbooks the way others read novels, but never cook with a recipe. I also love memoirs of book sellers and bookstores. I am also slowly plodding my way through the “Journals of the Wisconsin Territorial Assembly.” I never seem to finish a book before I find something else I’m anxious to read and start that.
Doesn’t everybody have a huge pile of books beside the bed and favorite

Charlie Rossiter:

When it’s not poetry, it’s sometimes related to poetry. Merwin’s memoir of early years: “Summer Doorways.”

Alden Nowlan’s fiction.

I greatly enjoyed Jim Harrison’s latest, “The Great Leader.”

Another source is my college son’s classes…2 years ago it was Carmac
McCarthy and others writing about the west.

Now it’s cultural history, especially post 9-11 times.

I fall back on mysteries though I’m not a big mystery fan. I need them
set in locations I like:

Steve Hamilton in the UP of Michigan
Wm Kent Krueger around Duluth/Lake Superior area
Did some Nevada Barr for the Nat’l Parks location

Re-reading, as well, recently Richard Wright, “Black Boy and Native Son,” both absolutely top notch. Re-read Brautigan’s novels a few months back and recently, Herman Hesse Knulp.

“Herland,” a feminist utopian novel, is also highly recommended.

Donna Bauerly:

I am challenged by Karen Armstrong’s writings: her autobiography “The Spiral Staircase,” and “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.” And, just for fun, I am an avid reader of mysteries and have recently found two great writers: Carol O’Connell and Benjamin Black (who is also John Banville). I like to read entire series of authors.

And for historical fiction, who can beat Lindsey Davis and her marvelous “detective” Marcus Didius Falco. I have read all 17 (19) of them! I eagerly await the next. All set in Rome and environs, around the time of the building of the Coliseum.

Curtis Dunlap:

I did read three non-poetry books while recuperating from surgery last July. The books were:

A Feast of Snakes: A Novel, by Harry Crews

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers

The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene

Jeffrey Winke:

I read mysteries by contemporary authors like Ken Bruen and Henning Mankell; social science (currently reading books on psycholinguistics and eavesdropping); odds and ends, such as books by Piers Vitebsky on shaminism and native spiritualism in Siberia.

And I just finished “How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found,” which is based on interviews with a couple dozen people who have dropped out and changed their identities. Further, I skim-read about 20 construction industry trade magazines, and the “Economist” and “Time” magazines.

Charlotte Digregorio:

As for me, I read the Wall Street Journal six days a week to keep current on global affairs. I also like to read WSJ for its interesting feature articles that give me ideas to write poems, columns, and essays. (The front-page feature each day is the best!)

Recently, I’ve read a few biographies, including one on Magdalena Abakanovitz, a sculptor. I went to the library to find a book about her, after seeing one of her public sculptures that prompted me to write a free verse poem.

And, a few days ago, I checked out a library book on public policy. Being civic-minded, I thought this title, “The Deliberative Democracy Handbook: Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the 21st Century,” might give me some direction. It was recommended to me by someone who has totally different ideologies about public policy.

Copyright 2011 by Charlotte Digregorio.

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. In 2018, I was honored by the Governor of Illinois for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of seven books including: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; Your Original Personal Ad; and my latest, Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu by Charlotte Digregorio." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. I have won fifty-nine poetry awards, writing fourteen poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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6 Responses to What Do You Read in Your Spare Time?

  1. snowbirdpress says:

    Most of my reading is in research… Since I’m rather isolated I research an area that comes to my interest. A friend just sent some marvelous photos of the High Sierras… and so I’ve been researching the plant life in that area. I also do a lot of research on birds and wildlife. I’ve always loved text books my whole life. They don’t make them the way they used to… Today you gets lots of great photos and charts etc. but the text seldom gets down much below the surface of things. So I do a lot of research on my computer…
    When I want a relief I turn to haiku journals and books. I’ve always found that poetry has taught me a great deal but as I get older and older I’ve found that haiku takes me to levels that help me explore. I particularly love Modern Haiku and the great articles printed in the haiku journals. I guess that’s the way I get to haiku gatherings.
    When I was younger I read a lot of phylosophy, psychology etc. The workings of the human mind fascinate me still.
    This is a great list, Charlotte. Thanks.

  2. Hi Charlotte, Yes, an interesting Post–what a great idea. I read the Bible in various English translations. I’ve read all of Jan Karon’s novels–found her later than others, and reading her books one after the other revealed her steady growth as a writer. So much heart in her work.

    This year, I read Diane Ackerman’s memoir, ONE HUNDRED NAMES FOR LOVE A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing. Highly recommended. I think it should be required reading for people in the helping professions. And it offers honesty and hope to patients and caregivers.

    Blessings, Ellen

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