Reading essays to become a writer

WRIGHT FALADE: I’m reading “Born in Blackness” by Howard W. French. He is revisiting the role that Africa played in Europe’s modernity. When I’m writing fiction I tend to read nonfiction, a lot of history.

BOOKS: Is that book typical of the kind of history you like to read?

WRIGHT FALADE: Yeah. I’m a slow reader, so these big books take a while. I was reading a smaller book, Norman Ohler’s “The Bohemians,” which is about this couple in pre-war Germany and their resistance to Nazism. I also read a lot of books by journalists, whom I respect so much. I just don’t have those kind of muscles, to write the first draft of history using primary sources. The last journalistic book I read was a little bit of a slow read — Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s book about Harvey Weinstein, “ella She Said” — but it was great.

BOOKS: What other kind of book do you like to read?

WRIGHT FALADE: I read essays. When I began to think about becoming a writer I read a lot of James Baldwin’s essays. I find myself reading Baldwin more than the contemporary essayists. The last thing I read that was more contemporary was Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me.” I read a couple of poems every day. I’m reading Monica Berlin’s collection, “Nostalgia for a World Where We Can Live.” It is totally rich in a quiet way. I’m also reading Corey Van Landingham’s “Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens,” which is explicitly political in a way I like. I do still read fiction. A few weeks ago I finished David Diop’s “At Night All Blood Is Black.” I found that quietly evocative and really, really layered.

BOOKS: What kind of reader were you growing up?

WRIGHT FALADE: I was surrounded by readers. My mom was a huge reader. She sometimes would read a book in a day. Both my sisters were readers. But I just wasn’t a reader. It wasn’t until I went abroad in 1987 to play football professionally in England and then in France that I began to read. Once I decided to be a writer I realized I needed to be a better reader. American books were expensive in Paris but I found the American Library. There in the African American section, I read Baldwin and Ishmael Reed.

BOOKS: Who else did you read there?

WRIGHT FALADE: When I left the US I had been reading Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” which was a hard read for me because it was so layered. But I thought I should read more Morrison. The American Library in Paris didn’t get “Beloved” until a year of so after it was published, but when the book finally arrived there, I read it five times in a row. Over the years I’ve read “Beloved” 13 to 15 times.

BOOKS: What was the last classic you read?

WRIGHT FALADE: My classics reading is super scattered. When I was at Carleton College, I was a French major so I read the French classics, like Moliere. I’ve never read Shakespeare. We were supposed to in high school but I was a football player so I didn’t.

BOOKS: What books do a good job of capturing Texas?

WRIGHT FALADE: HG Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights” is exactly the world I grew up in though it’s a totally different part of Texas. I read more nonfiction about Texas. This fall I read Annette Gordon-Reed’s memoir of growing up in Houston, “On Juneteenth.” I’ve read books about the Comanche, such as SC Gwyne’s “Empire of the Summer Moon,” because their territory was exactly where I grew up in the Panhandle. I also read Hampton Sides’s “Blood and Thunder,” a book about Kit Carson. I read these books to make sense of where I come from.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane” and she can be reached at

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