The Writers’ HQ November Reading List

3 minute read
Author: SarahWHQ

What did we put in our brains this month? Fewer novels in November and more shorts, but then who needs a concentration span anyway?

Let’s kick off with some pure unadulterated joy: Yes Yes More More by Anna Wood is absolute sunshine in a book. An examination of life with all its delights, regrets, heartbreaks and heart soars, these short stories are made for the depths of winter when what you really need is a tiny chink of light against the dark. 

We’re also going old school with Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, which imagines the story behind the girl in Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting, and which kick started a thousand ‘The Girl Who’ book titles. We give it the full Plotstormers 16 Point Plan shakedown here >>

This essay The evolution of stories: from mimesis to language, from fact to fiction by Brian Boyd is a super interesting read for some serious story nerdery. Despite some questionable ideas about men as hunters and women as gatherers (haven’t we decided it wasn’t quite like that?!), the central idea that stories evolved out of a necessity for survival mass communication is a compelling one. 

Yet it’s also somewhat in opposition to my other fave essay of the month, the great David Graeber’s What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?. I might be very wrong but I took the implication of this essay to be that stories also evolved because of our innate need to have fun. Anyhoo, I loved it, referenced it extensively in last week’s blog post about Writing As Play and, frankly, just wanted to steal it verbatim. 

Hypercompetent Characters Are Great Actually, by Rowan J Coleman is a short video that is more charming than it has any right to be, explaining why actually we often love a Mary Sue and that is okay. Highly recommended for anyone writing about a character who just so happens to be good at things. 

Unrelated to anything to do with stories, books, collapsing capitalism or any of the other stuff we normally wang on about, Slate’s Designer from MAiZE explains how corn mazes are made is lovely. Fun, weird, silly, and every word is a corker. Treat yourself to a light and breezy quick read. 

What is Left Unsaid: How Some Words Do—Or Don’t—Make It Into Print, by Sarah Ogilvie over on Lit Hub, exploring the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. We’ll just leave this extract here: 

“By the time that section of the letter C was published for the Oxford English Dictionary the only cunt that was listed by Murray was cunt– , a cross- reference to the prefixes cont– , count– with no mention whatsoever of the female body part. Fuck was also left out.”

Glasgow retreat rep and online workshop facilitator Melissa Stirling-Reid read All The Orphans In The Galaxy  by Carly Brown. “I loved this sci-fi novelette. I read it not knowing a thing about Star Trek and found it lovely and funny and moving, but I think for people who do enjoy that show there are lots of fun allusions to it.”

And that’s it for November! Tell us what you’ve been reading, watching and listening to over on the forums >>

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