Learning to be a Better Writer by Reading for Fun

Posted on May 23, 2013

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Following @Longreads on Twitter may seem more frivolous than some of my other teaching-related pursuits, but in truth it may be one of the most academic accounts I follow.

The site cultivates long form journalism, and brings to the fore articles that many of us may read in our customary pursuits, or we might miss.

mag-article-largeToday’s blast came from The Atlantic, which still excels at the now endangered skill of long form journalistic writing on stories that surround and swallow you with their subject matter and phrase turnings.The piece was entitled “The Girl Who Turned to Bone,” and told the story of Jeanie Peeper’s extraordinary life with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. The story is detailed and human, cold hard fact painted with a fictional artist’s technique.

Writing is unappreciated as a skill, let alone as an art form. But studying the execution of the true craft of writing–how words come together into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into stories–can help all of us become writing artists, as we emulate and copy previously unfamiliar styles.

So as academic thoughts are washed away with each dip in the pool, lay back on the floating raft that is journalistic feature writing at its best. It could be the most worthwhile vacation you’ve ever had.

BTW, here are some of the top books on my summer non-fiction list from some favorite journalists. What would you add?

  • Blood and Smoke, Charlie Leerhsen, the story of the first Indianapolis 500 from a former Sports Illustrated executive editor–and wonderful friend.
  • Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson. Believe the earlier hype–this book is an incredible look inside the life and mind of one of the few geniuses of our time. The more I work with Apple on iTunes U, the more I appreciate all it has contributed to our lives.
  • The Outpost: An untold story of American Valor, Jake Tapper, Afghanistan like you have not seen it written by CNN’s new star.
  • The Night of the Gun, David Carr‘s amazing investigative look of his own life.
  • The Run of His Life: The People v O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Toobin, in honor of O.J.’s quest for a new trial, check back in with this tome, the best of the bunch covering the trial.
  • And I can’t forget my absolute favorite book, The Year My Dad Went Bald, by my husband, Brian, presenting a 9-year-old’s view of his dad’s battle with cancer. The puking picture is a favorite.
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