At Tweetspeak, books matter. We host a book club, we review books, and we publish them at T.S. Poetry Press. We’re dedicated to literacy — for life. And we want to learn from each other about reading in the wild.
Do you want to be a wild reader? Are you reading wildly already? We’re using Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits to explore what it means to be a wild reader — someone most likely to embrace literacy for life. Read through these 5 characteristics and see which ones fit your reading style and which you might incorporate this month.
5 Main Characteristics of Wild Readers
1.They dedicate time to read.
This is the third month I’ve shared my pages with you. I’m getting more intentional about my reading because I have the accountability of sharing my finds. Which makes me wonder if we all need a friend or two to help us read better. Our lists don’t need to be public — just trade recs or favorites with a friend.
I’m also making time each week to hit the library, especially for children’s books. My best reading times are at lunch, with an afternoon salad, or on a weekend afternoon.
When my eyes need a break, I enjoy listening to books on Audible. This month I relistened to Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie as read by Dan Stevens (aka Matthew of Downton Abbey). He does all the accents. A new movie version of the mystery is coming out in November, and I decided I couldn’t wait that long to reacquaint myself with the only Christie mystery I can remember from my binge of her work when I was in middle school.
As I listened, I was reminded again how quietly funny Christie’s writing is, as in this comment from M. Bouc, who is sure the Italian did it and can’t convince detective Hercule Poirot. “This time M. Bouc did not mention the Italian. But he thought of him.”
2. They self-select reading material.
Each month I like to share one article because I enjoy short pieces of excellence. For July, it’s Chief Justice John Roberts’ commencement speech at his son’s ninth-grade graduation from a boarding school in New Hampshire.
Please, don’t read the article about the speech; read the actual speech. Especially for gems like this: “From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice.”
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
I’ve been yearning for a good nonfiction book — well-researched, well-written, with a documentary feel. I found it in Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. My friend Mark Osler recommended it, and my daughter had to read it in an economics class. It has a novelistic style and a vast cast of characters, each with great stand-alone sentences. Like Jaymie Mai, a pharmacist for the state of Washington, who copes with the stress of what she’s discovering by tending her roses. Quinones writes this jewel: “Mai’s backyard rose garden grew ornate as amid expanding death cases she tended it relentlessly to relieve the stress.”
P.S. In previous months I’ve talked about reading books because they won awards. Dreamland won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2015, but that’s not why I read it.
4. They have reading plans.
This is where I’m a bit of an outlier as a reader — I don’t have set plans. I read rather wildly. Reading one thing one month leads to reading something else the next.
In June’s pages, I wrote about the passing of Michael Bond, author of the Paddington Bear books. This month I was thrilled to find the 50th edition of A Bear Called Paddington, with illustrations by Peggy Fortnum, at the library. My favorite chapter is “A Visit to the Theatre” because I love theater, and Paddington saves the day by taking an actor’s performance more seriously than the actor himself. (I do not exagerate when I say Paddington saves the day. The newspaper in the story runs this headline: ‘PADDINGTON SAVES THE DAY!’)
We all have a job to do in this world, don’t we? Sometimes we need a Paddington to remind us why that job is important, especially when we lose sight of our purpose.
5. They show preferences.
There were days, I hate to admit, when my children chose to read something I found somehow subpar. To my horror, I found myself sniffing, “You’re reading that?” Now my kids are grown, and I’m atoning for my snobbery. This month that meant reading Mountain Bike Mania by Matt Christopher, “The #1 Sports Writer for Kids.” He wrote more than 100 middle-grade novels, mostly about sports, and his name is now a trademark carried on by his family. I’d never heard of him, but the dudes on the Overdue podcast covered a book one of them had loved as a kid called Skateboard Tough. (They debate whether Brett is a skateboard tough or rides his skateboard in a tough manner.) It was a surprisingly deep discussion about a kid with a potentially haunted skateboard.
Much to my dismay, my library did not have that book, but it did have the mountain bike one, plus a kid villain with a great name, Ace Diamond. The book has cliffhangers no one writes anymore, like this one at the end of chapter 4: “This was it. He had found the answer to all of his after-school problems! Nothing could ruin his happiness now!”
And isn’t this why we read in the first place? To find out what ruins our hero’s happiness? That’s worth stepping out of our comfort zone.
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick (On the returns cart at the library.)
Autumn Zinnias, Lianne Mercer (Lianne is a friend and poetry mentor.)
Dreamland, Sam Quinones
Early Readers and Picture Books
(Some of this month’s picture books are more early reader-ish than others)
The Buffalo Storm, Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Jan Ormerod (This month’s picture book club pick! Club meets August 18.)
Molly and Joe Want to Know: The Tongue Twister Secrets of B, L.L. Barkat, illustrated by LW Lindquist (Browse reading activities here.)
A Bear Called Paddington, Michael Bond
The Story of Holly and Ivy, Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
James A. Michener Retells South Pacific, by James A. Michener, illustrated by Michael Hague
Upper Elementary to Middle Grade
Mountain Bike Mania, Matt Christopher
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer, Rick Riordan (Last month I read book 2. This is book 1. I have to wait until October for book 3.)
Sliced (1/4 to 1/2 Only: Got What I Needed and Moved On or Plan to Finish Someday)
& Abandoned (Not My Cup of Tea, It Bogged Down Quickly, or Others Beckoned)
Nope and nope.
Started (The Jury is Still Out. Will I Finish?)
Middlemarch, George Eliot (Listening on Audible. I need classics read to me in a British accent. I’m sufficiently engaged now that I expect to finish. Only 24 hours and 22 minutes to go!)
1. Share anything about you and the 5 main wild reader characteristics. How do you display them, or wish you did, or plan to in the future?
2. Share your July pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
Photo by kris krüg, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Megan Willome, author of The Joy of Poetry.
Browse more Reading in the Wild
“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro
- Perspective: The Two, The Only: Calvin and Hobbes - December 16, 2022
- Children’s Book Club: A Very Haunted Christmas - December 9, 2022
- By Heart: ‘The night is darkening round me’ by Emily Brontë - December 2, 2022
Read in July:
Dead on Your Feet by Stephen Puleston
After So Many Fires: Poems by Benjamin Webster
Knowing God: Reflections on Psalm 23 by Brian Johnston
The Legacy by Michael Phillips
Novel Advice by Kevin Johns
For One Who Knows How to Own Land: Poems by Scott Owens
The Porous Desert: Poems by David Chorlton
Death by the Book by Julianna Derring
Disruptive Discipleship by Sam Van Eman
The Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham
The Golden Shovel Anthology (Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks)
Humility: The Beauty of Holiness by Andrew Murray
Oceans Apart by Karen Kingsbury
Tales from Webster by John Shea
Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie
The Courtship of Miles Standish by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Uncle Abner: Master of Mystery by Melville Post
Divine Emblems: Poetry by John Bunyan
Housman Country: Into the Heart of England by Peter Parker
Megan Willome says
What I love about you, Glynn, is that you read so many things I’ve never heard of. Thank you for including your list here to enrich and widen my circle.
L.L. Barkat says
• I sliced American Cake. (Such a great book. Lots of historical recipes and also the history of the confection.)
• Martina the Beautiful Cockroach (I almost didn’t get this one because of its title, but I LOVED it and have read it to three friends, complete with a Spanish accent. And there is just something totally marvelous about rolling off “Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, beautiful muchacha…” (Callie Feyen, if you are in this comment box, take note. I think you would love this book!!! 🙂
• The Snowy Day (thank you for writing about it; we’d never read it. It made a doctor visit almost bearable for one of my children, as I took it along and we read it together and looked at the pictures and discussed them)
Still reading (and enjoying):
• How the Brain Learns to Read
• Antifragile (this guy is super smart, super opinionated, really funny at times, and then sometimes I think he’s totally missing something important I can’t put my finger on)
• Quantum Evolution (a real brain challenger that takes you back to things like how RNA and DNA work—absolutely fascinating, if slow reading. My Sara wanted me to read it with her. Quantum explains weirdnesses like how a particle should be somewhere, by all rights, but isn’t. And, vice versa, how sometimes a particle shouldn’t be somewhere, but it shows up by surprise!)
• Here’s Looking at Euclid (alternately fascinating and funny! Total hat tip to Monica Sharman. Thank you, thank you, thank you.)
• Mathematical Mindsets (this is where I got the idea to ask people to tell me how they would solve, without pencil and paper, 18 x 5. Their answers on FB were so, so interesting to me. And then when I thought I’d heard every possible way to solve it, my own daughter did it yet another way that involved thinking about geometry! 🙂 I am now on a mission to relearn math, beyond arithmetic and am thinking of buying an abacus. (The Euclid book was the abacus tipping point.)
Megan Willome says
Martina is a gift! I found her just sitting out in the children’s section of the library, and I recommended it to Sharon, and I think she recommended it to you. It’s a new fave.
Also glad to know you and your girls had a good experience with Peter and his snowy day.
The quantum book sounds interesting. I am a devoted listener to NPR’s “Science Friday” podcast, and every time they discuss quantum mechanics, even though I don’t understand the nuances, it just makes sense to me on some deep level.
Sharon A Gibbs says
Martina is one of my favs! Gorgeous illustrations, language, and meaning. Thanks for pointing that one out to me, Megan!
Laura Brown says
1. Yep. In general, evenings and Sunday afternoons are reading time.
2. Yep. Although I get recommendations too, and sometimes outright orders.
3. Yep. A friend bought the Brian Doyle book mentioned below after I started reading parts of it to her.
4. Not so much. Or if I make them, I don’t stick to them. I can see their benefit.
5. Yes in the sense that I’m drawn to some things, not others, and that I privately rank what I read. Not so much in the sense of judging what others read.
Read in July, as far as I can remember (and I hope it’s OK to mention partly read books, which I intend to finish reading this month):
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball
A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary by Brian Doyle
Half of Sister Age by M.F.K. Fisher
Part of Animal Mineral Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren
Part of The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat: A Young Woman’s Search for Ethical Food by Marissa Landrigan
She Just Wants by Beverly Rollwagen
The Mill Hunk’s Daughter Meets the Queen of the Sky by Lori Jakiela
Eve’s Striptease by Julia Kasdorf
And many journal articles, and many bits and pieces in preparation for the Words You Can Taste writing workshop.
Megan Willome says
Partly read books are acceptable and encouraged. The first Reading in the Wild posts by L.L. Barkat had more entries in that category.
I loved “The Dirty Life”–read it on the recommendation of a friend shortly after it came out.
I’m interested in “The Vegatarian’s Guide to Eating Meat” from the title alone.
Laura Lynn Brown says
The opening scene is of her in rubber boots standing in a slaughterhouse. The second chapter (which I heard her read recently) is an essay about growing up the odd woman out in a family of Italian cooks. Very engaging, a mix of memoir and research.
L.L. Barkat says
She hunted elk? Oh my. 🙂
I’m not sure my food identity would need that kind of testing. 😉
I’ve finished “The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50” by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.
Currently I’m reading “Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection” by Sharon Salzburg.
Next up: Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams” ; Mark Bowden’s “Hue 1968”, and Sherman Alexie’s memoir “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”.
As I’m packing to move, almost all of my poetry books, including newly published collections, are in boxes, though I’m still jumping in and out of the collected poems of Robert Lowell.
L.L. Barkat says
I like this from the Amazon description:
“We must develop a compelling vision of later life: one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty, but one that recognizes it as a time of change, grown, and new learning; a time when ‘our courage gives us hope.'” ―from The Third Chapter
Megan Willome says
Oh! Tell me how you like the Sherman Alexie memoir. I loved his YA book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” And I know he’s a poet too.
Sharon A Gibbs says
Maureen, Would you recommend “Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection” by Sharon Salzburg?
Kim Hileman says
Reading in the Wild is excellent! Read it two years ago with a group of fellow teachers.
Books read in July:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredik Backman
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Wonder (YA fiction) by R.J. Palacio
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Moth: 50 True Stories – edited by Catherine Burns
South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion
Life Stories by Dorothy Gallagher
Why I Wake Early: New Poems by Mary Oliver
Love, Etc. by L.L.Barkat
and a manila envelope lovingly handed to me by my daughter overflowing with poetry and prose
L.L. Barkat says
How did you like the Joan Didion?
And of course the Barkat book made me smile. But? The manila envelope melted my heart!
Megan Willome says
Yes, the Manila envelope–that’s the best kind of reading.
You have books on your list that I have not read by authors I have (Ann Patchett, Joan Didion, Mary Oliver). A good reminder to return to authors and poets I’ve loved before. Thanks!
Sharon A Gibbs says
My summer took a wonderfully surprising turn towards children’s books (thanks, L.L.). I sit in my library’s children’s section with piles of picture books by my feet. 🙂 I enjoy reading them over and over again to discover layers, patterns, and new meanings. Here are only a few of the ones I have explored.
Oxcart Man by Donald Hall
Island Boy by Barbara Cooney
Hattie and the Wild Waves by Barbara Cooney
My Life with the Wave by Catherine Cowan and Mark Buehner
Stella, Star of the Sea by Marie-Louise Gay
Eleanor by Barbara Cooney
Nic and Nellie by Astrid Sheckles
Whopper Cake by Karma Wilson
Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming
Voices in the Park by Anthony Brow
Courage by Bernard Waber
What the Sea Left Behind by Mimi Carpenter
There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi and Laurel Molk
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate
Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration to Young Poets by Paul Janeczko
Have You Been to the Beach Lately? By Ralph Fletcher
Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs
American Cake by Ann Bym
Spin by Claire Burge
Enjoying my Audible version of Curious by Ian Leslie
The Watercolor Course by Leslie Frontz
The Natural Way to Draw by Nicolaides
Megan, thanks for the Overdue Podcast link.
Deb Crawford says
Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller
Good read but I just have to do my own kind of “rest” on Sabbath and not imitate what others do. It just didn’t work for me.
Take Me with You by Catherine Hyde
I picked this book up at a Little Free Library in Pinedale, Wyoming. I was there on a mission trip. The book is a wonderful story of the friendship of a man and two boys that are not his. It is set mostly in Yellowstone.
Reformation Women by Rebecca BanDoodewaard
Interesting biographical sketches on lesser known women who promoted the cause of Christianity during the reformation.
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle
Deeper Waters by Denise J. Hughes
On Writing by Stephen King
To Find a Blessing (Poetry) by Dorothy Johnson
Megan Willome says
Deb, thanks so much for your list. “Take Me With You” looks interesting. And I definitely need to reread “A Circle of Quiet.”