>OK, so my title is slightly misleading. I do read books, but not nearly as many as I should. In recent years, I became super lazy and spent most of my reading time on magazines, newspapers, and blogs. While I believe that many of these sources have superior writing (well, not newspapers - it's fucking pathetic how awful news reporting is these days), they also are not providing me with models for what makes a good book with a plot, which I hope to write some day.
Fortunately, my friend invited me to join her book club a few years ago, so I've read one quality book about every month or so. As it became clear to me that learning to write is not just done in writing workshops, I decided that I should make an effort to read more books to see what works and what doesn't. In the past few weeks, I found that the best-selling memoir A Girl Called Zippy by Haven Kimmel is nothing more than a few short essays sort of strung together; that some of the most best character development can take place in "trashy" popular fiction, as I adored Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (its sequel, Bangkok Tattoo, is not quite as good); and that I still believe that The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a masterpiece of creative non-fiction.
One of the things I most dreaded about MFA programs was the mandatory literary criticism coursework. This is both because I am an intellectual slacker at times, and also because I am afraid that such coursework will demonstrate that I am, in fact, a clueless idiot. Now that I better understand the value of dissecting books to learn from them as opposed to just enjoying them while I read (or worse, skim), I hope that I get into a program so that I can challenge myself with this work.
If I am not accepted off the wait list at New School, my plan is to apply to low residency programs (basically, you live at home, and twice a year for two weeks, you attend intensive on-campus seminars, workshops, and lectures, then are assigned a mentor with whom you develop a contract; you go home, do your reading and writing, and correspond with your mentor) that emphasize reading as well as writing. Probably I should have applied to low residency programs when I also applied to New School and Hunter last fall, but I stupidly did not do so.
Anyhow, if anyone has any suggestions for well-crafted books, I'm all ears.