At Tweetspeak, books matter. We host a book club, we review books, and we publish them at TS 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 time of year — late fall — when I write a lot of words for my job. I have three big articles due right around Thanksgiving, each of which requires research and interviewing, and each year I basically stop reading while I work. But this year I was determined to not let that happen, mainly because I did not want to leave my November Wild Reads list empty. So I tried something new: I reread old favorites.
First, A Wrinkle in Time. I had already started it after including it in my list of Top 10 Books That Inspired Me (And You!) when Overdue covered it in their November list of books worth rereading. The new film adaptation of Wrinkle comes out in March, so do yourself a favor and read or read again this slim volume that feels as contemporary as ever.
Second, I reread A River Runs Through It, also on my Top 10 list. After struggling with words for weeks, it was healing balm to read Norman Maclean: “I could find words but not sentences they could fit.” My book version includes wood engravings by Barry Moser depicting the various flies used in the story, and the notes about each one were written by friend-of-the-Maclean-family George Croonenberghs. Each description reads like a tiny poem: “Santa Claus Streamer. Yields a few gifts when nothing else works. White polar bear hair gives fly good motion plus radiancy.”
2. They self-select reading material.
One afternoon while making butternut squash soup, I heard an interview with poet Kevin Young, who I first discovered while poetry buddying with Laura Lynn Brown. But the interview was about Young’s new nonfiction book, Bunk: The rise of hoaxes, humbug, plagiarists, phonies, post-facts, and fake news. If it had been written by anyone else, I wouldn’t have picked it up. This, friends, is a historic overview of a contemporary issue with deep roots, and because Young is a poet, his sentences are treasures. He also makes connections that perhaps most academics wouldn’t (although he is an academic in his own right; he serves as the poetry editor for The New Yorker and the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library). Read it for the discussion on fake memoir alone.
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
Traditionally, I use this space to talk about a book a friend recommended to me. In this case, author Karen Swallow Prior shared — Twitter-style — about a book, and I followed her recommendation. The book is Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners. It’s a collection of her essays, articles, and speeches. I left it with another reason why we should all be wild readers: Reading instills hope.
O’Connor writes, “People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel of course, is a way to have experience.”
4. They have reading plans.
Here at Tweetspeak, we’ve started a Children’s Book Club, which has required weekly trips to the library. Taking time with picture books restores my soul. This month I read The Tin Forest by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson (next week’s selection) and Days of the Blackbird by Tomie DePaola (next month’s). To learn more, join us Friday, December 8.
5. They show preferences.
While looking for a book of essays about writing by Diana Wynne Jones, I found one of her YA novels, The Lives of Christopher Chant. I’d first heard of her when Overdue covered her more well-known book, Howl’s Moving Castle. What I liked about Christopher Chant is how little world-building Jones does while still setting the story in a precise place. One of my favorite details is that in this world, silver keeps Christopher from doing magic. One of the silver things holding him back is a “mouth brace,” a type of temporary orthodontic appliance. Thus, braces prevent magic. Thus, braces are to blame for the decline of civilization. #JustSayNoToBraces.
Early Readers and Picture Books
Middle Grade and YA
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeliene L’Engle
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant, Diana Wynne Jones (The book I mentioned above has been reissued with this longer title to show where it fits in the series.)
Sliced (1/4 to 1/2 Only: Got What I Needed and Moved On or Plan to Finish Someday) and Abandoned (Not My Cup of Tea, It Bogged Down Quickly, or Others Beckoned)
The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired The Little House Books, Marta McDowell. (This one could be in either Sliced or Abandoned. It was not my cup of tea; however, I also got what I needed and will use parts of it in my upcoming workshop)
Started (The Jury is Still Out. Will I Finish?)
Bunk, Kevin Young (It’s long, but I will definitely finish.)
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 November pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
“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