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Happy November! It’s crazy that we’re two months away from 2018, and I thought what better way to prepare for the new year approaching is to talk about books, and help you build the perfect reading list for your journey. As a writer, reading is incredibly important because I need books in order to grow and prosper. A good book takes my mind away from all of the bad ideas, negativity, and distractions of the outside world. Even if you are not much of a reader or writer, there are so many books (print, digital, and audio) out there with a wide range of topics that will benefit your life in some way.
With that said, here are seven tips that will help you build the perfect reading list, and a few examples along the way.
1. Find a guilty pleasure.
Reading should be fun! There are so many novels with compelling, frightening, cutthroat, and romantic stories, and you deserve that type of book you refuse to put down. It doesn’t even have to be novels, it could be a cookbook, a picture book you love reading to your children, a magazine with interviews from your favorite musicians, a step by step guide to healthy eating– you know, books like that. The guilty pleasure that I hope to get soon and hopefully for Christmas is Gabrielle Union’s new book, We’re Going To Need More Wine.
2. Find books that equate to your interests and hobbies.
When I used to think of reading lists, I thought of school because that is where I did most of my reading and I trusted my professors and teachers to introduce me to books that I should read. However, I remember feeling excited about that “independent reading” time of the year, where I discovered books on my own, and found stories that I knew I was going to enjoy. When I started performing poetry back in high school, the first book I bought to teach me about it was Take The Mic: The Art of Performance Poetry, Slam, and The Spoken Word by Marc Kelly Smith.
3. Learn about the successors and originators of your profession.
I have so many biographies in my personal library, it’s crazy. As a Black female poet, I struggle with doubt and frustration in my journey, and reading about other African-American poets and writers from 1700s to the 2000s is extremely helpful for me. This eases down a lot of stress because you realize after reading someone else’s journey, it wasn’t easy for them either to become the greatest singer, performer, chef, fashion designer, and more other professions. A perfect example is this Hip Hop artist’s first book, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. Most of these authors also give you advice and tools to push your journey to the right direction.
4. Find out if one of your favorite shows and movies are books.
They say the book is always better than the movie and I can agree and disagree, but I love the fact that the movie or show itself is introducing me to a book that I wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t visually portrayed. I remember reading Alice Walker’s The Color Purple for the first time during my junior year of high school, and I instantly fell in love with it because I recognized the dialogue from the motion picture. However, I began to notice moments in the book that were different and actually answered some questions that I had from only seeing the movie. It is a really cool experience to read the author’s perspective of the story and search the similarities and differences between the two.
5. Find a book that will help you solve or understand a problem.
Whether you are applying for universities and need help writing your essay, going through a breakup and need words of guidance, or if you want to start a business and have no idea where to start, those books are out there. Everyone in the world needs a book that will help them grow and function in this world. Rupi Kaur’s poetry book, The Sun and Her Flowers is a great book that tackles toxic relationships, self-worth, femininity, and sacrifice. Find a book that you can commit to and help you be better than the person you are now.
6. Find a book that teaches you about your race and cultural history.
When I was a college freshman, I decided to take Black Studies classes and minor in it because at the time I was ashamed to have not known many pivotal Black figures, and I was struggling with my ethical identity. For those who don’t know, some African-Americans are not able to trace back to the specific countries and towns, original names, and history of their African ancestors, and I’m one of them. Books that teach me about African people before slavery, as well as figures who documented their experiences during and after slavery, keeps me empowered. Books like W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and Ivan Van Sertima’s They Came Before Columbus are great to start with.
7. Find a book that will teach you about other cultures.
This should be mandatory. In today’s society, we are still going through bigotry, racism, prejudice, and ignorance, and part of the reason is that we are not in complete understanding of others’ walks of life. I wish that I read about Native Americans and the beautiful culture when I was younger, to have a better understanding as an adult. Additionally, I’ve always wanted to be bilingual because knowing a completely different language is so beautiful to me and unites people even more. There are so many books out there like history, food, languages, travel, novels, and biographies, that will introduce you to something new. I have yet to read about Frida Kahlo.
I hope my tips for building a reading list helps you in your reading journey, and gives you a sense of direction of what books you want to read between now and the beginning of next year.