Philip Graham on Craft and Reading

A beautiful essay on reading, emotional stress, and War and Peace:

“One day in seventh grade I ordered my usual stack of books from the Scholastic Books Service; one of them was an abridged version of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  A little skeptical, I figured I could skip past the peace parts if they proved too boring.  When the nine or so books I’d ordered finally arrived I saved Tolstoy’s novel for last—even abridged, the book was 500 pages long, longer than any book I’d ever read before.  But its length was not the challenge, not in the way the vocabulary of Henry Huggins had been for me years ago. The challenge was of an entirely different order.”

Also–selected crafted posts from Graham:

What’s the best book on writing you’ve ever read–and did it actually help you write?

I decided to crowd source the question—What’s the best book on writing you’ve ever read–and did it actually help you write?—and got a huge response! There is some repetition here, but I thought I’d leave it in because the responders are interesting writers themselves.
I’ll be blogging the responses over a few days. Readers please feel free to add to this.

Jeanne Simonoff I would have to say writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg—timed writing is my life.

Bettina Jane Lancaster Ditto -bc of her permission to write “the worst garbage in Amercia”

Michelle Holland _One Writer’s Beginnings_, Eudora Welty. Allowed permission to reach for and describe the intangible in our tangible world — to make connections from inside to outside and trust that an audience would come along for the ride.

Cirrelda Snider-Bryan me own mama loved that book – have and read her copy

Donna Hilbert Because it helped me to be a better reader, it has helped me be a better writer,”How to Read a Poem and Start a Poetry Circle,” by Molly Peacock. I have been waiting for someone to ask that question.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I have urged all of my workshop students to read it.

Stephanie West Allen The books by Donald Maass, and, yes, they were very helpful. He is working on another one and I am looking forward to the read.

Anne MacNaughton James’ Woods, “How Fiction Works.” Since I don’t write fiction, of little use there, but a true eye-opener on ‘voice’ and a huge assist in critiquing creative work from movies to novels to poetry.
The side effect is that I know too much about voice now and tend to complain about some of the hot popular movies and novels – and get obnoxious about it when folks start to praise them. Ruined my enjoyment of some ‘classics.’ But he’s brilliant!
Susan Nalder TO SHOW AND TELL by Phillip Lopate;THE WRITER’S PORTABLE MENTOR by Priscilla Long; YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP by Lee Gutkind; THE SITUATION AND THE STORY by Vivian Gornick; BEYOND THE WRITER’S WORKSHOP by Carol Bly; TELLING IT SLANT by Brenda Miller & Suzanne Paola. Selected chapters in each of these books; i use them to edit and inspire; some really good exercises; issues in creative nonfiction treated well –