CLICK TO ORDER ON:Rhythm & Bones Press
Jane Fleming’s Top Five Books List
Every writer (I’d hope) has a list of books that helped influence them to write and shaped the way that they write. The list below is not necessarily my top five books ever, but it is a list of the books that inspired me as I was writing Violence/Joy/Chaos.
The Argonauts (2015), Maggie Nelson: There is a reason that this book is in the number one slot. I know that it is not for everyone and that some took issue with portions of the book, but for me, I was absolutely floored by Nelson’s lyricism and raw honesty. After I finished this book, I immediately sat down and began to write.
Ceremony (1977), Leslie Marmon Silko: I first read Ceremony when I was taking a Native American literature course during undergrad and have read it at least two or three other times since. It was the first time that I was exposed to a text that blended both poetry and prose, which really blew my mind. In addition to that, I really felt as though Silko’s book was a wonderful example of moving, self-reflective storytelling.
Tracks (1988), Louise Erdrich: Louise Erdrich, like Maggie Nelson, is just generally one of my favorite writers. I will read virtually anything that she puts out. Tracks is special to me, though, because it was the first time that I read and fell in love with lyrical prose.
Bird by Bird (1994), Anne Lamott: If you are a writer, you need to go read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird right now. It has without a doubt improved my writing. In particular, I am a huge fan of using Lamott’s “one inch picture frame” technique wherein she encourages writers, if they are stuck, to just start by writing “everything you can see through a one-inch picture frame.” I almost always take that advice to heart and it forces me to write detailed scenes with a sense of depth in a way I was not writing before I read Lamott’s book.
Wild (2012), Cheryl Strayed: I know, I know, this is a super pop-culture pick, but we can’t always be the high-brow [A]rtist that we want to be. When I first read Strayed’s memoir, I was totally enthralled by her journey. As a result, when I sat down to write my own book, it was one of the books that came to mind as a potential influence. In particular, I tried to channel Strayed’s willingness to share both the good and the bad with the reader to offer a complex, whole story.