Outside Reading

The Outside Reading project. The idea is to expand outward, into a direction and a text of interest to you. and also, at the same time, to delve further into the ideas and issues of autobiographical nonfiction relevant to this course and your work in it.

Outside Reading project, step 1. Select an autobiography of your choice. Begin reading. The goal is to finish the book, and review it, by Friday. Be prepared in class to tell us about the book you have started. [for longer and thicker books, let’s make the goal that your read and review at least 200 pages

Consider: The choice of the book is entirely up to you. One suggestion: consider selecting a book that focuses on a topic or setting or issue that might relate to something you want to explore in your own autobiography (the final project of the course), a book that could serve as one of your mentors. Another idea: go old school, go back and read Franklin’s Autobiography or one of the other texts included in Classic American Autobiographies or mentioned in discussion (Autobiography of Malcolm X, for example). A third option: select something autobiographical from popular culture (celebrity, self-help, sports, etc) and see if you can recognize aspects of American autobiography that we are exploring in the course.

Outside Reading project, step 2. Post a book review to your blog.

Consider:  The review should be around 500-750 words and should consider the following:

  1. A review of what the book focuses on–with some discussion of some key points of interest in that focus.
  2. Some discussion of the craft: how the book is crafted, what aspects of the writing you think are strong and/or weak. To focus your attention on craft, your response must include reference to at least 2 of the Keywords we have encountered so far in reading and discussion.
  3. A book or author we have read thus far in the field of American autobiography that this book compares to or contrasts with.
  4. Some thought as to how this book might influence your own autobiographical writing–that is, what’s here that you could learn from or use in your final project.

Some book lists for autobiography and creative nonfiction you might find useful if you don’t have a book in mind.

A recent memoir that looks good, just won the National Book Critics Award for autobiography: Half a Life.


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