How Do You Find Great Writing?

May 16, 2014


“My gratitude for good writing is unbounded;
I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.”

Anne Lamott

How do you decide what you’re going to read?

One time I decided to read every Pultizer Prize winning novel thinking that would be a “sure thing.”  I made it through most of the list only to discover the prize winners were not necessarily awarded for their best work (e.g., Willa Cather won for One of Ours rather than My Antonia).

I thought about tackling the National Book Awards, but then I saw a couple of John Updike novels… I. Just. Couldn’t.

You have to love Swedish authors to get the most out of the Nobel prize.

I tried Oprah’s recommendations, but found too many of the selections to be depressing.  So, as much as I love lists, (and you KNOW how I love lists!)  I don’t think there’s one perfectly suited for me.

As a result,  I figure out my reads either by raiding friends’ book shelves (thank you Sue), sending text messages to people I trust (Kathy and Patty, I’m looking at you!), or raiding my pre-teen’s book shelf.  (Don’t knock it – found A Wrinkle In Time, Chronicles of Narnia, Wonder all there!)

However, with only three school days left, I’m officially floundering for the summer reading list.

Do you have your (FICTION) picks selected?

Please share and tell me why it’s on your list!


14 Responses to “How Do You Find Great Writing?”

  1. Adam Shields Says:

    Check out It is a social media for book lovers

    I am reading through the royal spyness series, a cozy British mystery series set in 1930s. If you read ya and have not read John Green then you should read a Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Finding Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines.

    I am not bound to recent books, but one recent that deserved its praise is Beautiful Ruins.

    Personally I am trying to force myself to read books I already have instead of buying more, so I have been working through a bunch of classics that I should have read before. Some are good and many are not. Recent classics I have really enjoyed include pride and prejudice, great expectations and CS Lewis’ space trilogy. Ones that I have not enjoyed include Saul Bellow’s Hertzog and Ethan Fromme.

    Knowing your love of food, you might like Bruno, Chief of police. A mystery series set in France that spends a lot of time appreciating French food, wine and culture.

    I also have liked Matthew Quick books lately, of silver Linkngs Playbook fame. They are all about some level of mental illness, but they are unusually funny and very well done.


    • Joy Phenix Says:

      Thanks Adam. I have discovered John Green, but most of your other suggestions are new to me. I’ve been on Goodreads for awhile, but for one reason or another I haven’t engaged in the discussion there. I will have another look. Thanks for the tips!


  2. Mark Allman Says:

    I love to read. My favorite authors are James Rollins and Steve Berry. I always learn when I read their books. I’m a couple of Rollins books behind. I like Malcolm Gladwell books too. I thought The Tipping Point and Outliers were the best. I did like the teen series Divergent.


    • Joy Phenix Says:

      I have lots of non-fiction books in my stack, but the fiction reads have been more challenging for me to find. Lots of people are reading Divergent and I’ll likely go there when my daughter jumps into that pool! (I seem to pick up whatever she’s reading at some point!)


      • Mark Allman Says:

        Rollins and Berry write fiction and I enjoy it a great deal. Lot of what they write deals with historical facts and they weave a modern story of intrigue around that. As I said I always learn alot reading their books where at the end of their books they tell you what was true or not in their books.


  3. Chris Shull Says:

    This is why I am not a fiction reader. I, too, have tried all the “must read” lists out there and usually am disappointed. Either the book is way too erudite or “literary” or needlessly wordy (i.e. Pulitzer Prize, Book Awards, etc.), or way to vacuous and silly (i.e. Oprah and most best sellers). So I’ve given up on fiction altogether, save for anything by Pat Conroy, who has an amazing gift with the English language. I love, love, love Rick Bragg and Malcolm Gladwell. Let me know if you find anything out there actually worth reading!


    • Joy Phenix Says:

      Thanks Chris! I read so much non-fiction I crave an occasional novel. I DID love my most recent read, Let the Great World Spin which won the National Book Award.


  4. Courtney Wilson Says:

    I’ve done the lists, too, with mixed results. However, I do like NPR’s lists. Here’s last summer’s:

    Recent fiction reads I’ve enjoyed:
    A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
    Daughter of Smoke and Bone (1st in a 3-part YA series)
    The Sandcastle Girls
    The Goldfinch
    The Lowland
    The Orphan Master’s Son (I preferred the audio version)
    City of Women
    Code Name Verity (YA)


    • Joy Phenix Says:

      Thanks Courtney. You’re the third person to mention The Goldfinch and I’ve thought about The Sandcastle Girls. Thanks for the leads!


  5. Kimberly Gurley Says:

    Tuesdays with Morrie
    Gone with the Wind
    Last Days of Summer
    Good in Bed
    The History of Love
    Beautiful Ruins
    The Mitford Series
    Little Women
    Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series


    • Joy Phenix Says:

      Thanks Kimberly — Is there a book or two you love in the Robert B. Parker Spenser series? The list may outreach my ambition!


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