Introducing – The Wheelhouse Project

The Reading Glasses podcast introduced me to the idea of the four “doorways,” those entry points that get us into a book. The doorways were created by Nancy Pearl as a more productive way for librarians and others to get readers to a new book they’d be more likely to enjoy. The doorways represent experiential entry points to reading and the theory behind them posits that readers want to re-create experiences of reading they found pleasurable. The doorways will, ideally, help re-connect readers to that experience while broadening their reading horizons. The doorways are:

  • Story (a.k.a. plot)
  • Character
  • Setting
  • Language

Reading Glasses also gave me the concept of reading wheelhouses. A reading wheelhouse includes those aspects of a book that will get you to pick it up. The concept helps you know yourself as a reader but also to share yourself as a reader.

Here is my work-in-progress wheelhouse. As it gets honed, I’ll make a new post if things have shifted enough or simply bold the updated items.

Fiction

  • Retellings of myths and fairy tales, bonus points for feminism, anti-racism, and/or realistic depictions of trauma and darkness. (Circe, Uprooted)
  • Fantasy/magic books grounded or with a toe into the real world (Harry Potter series, The Ten Thousand Doors of January)
  • Near future dystopias, utopias, or post-apocalypse fiction (Parable of the Sower/Talents, Station Eleven)
  • Speculative fiction and Magical Realism, bonus points if by a woman or Person of Color (Oryx and Crake, Underground Railroad)
  • Novels told through a collection of short stories (Winesburg, Ohio; Olive Kitteridge)
  • Significant jumps in time, often from different characters’ perspectives (A Visit from the Goon Squad)
  • Literature that is aware of literature—in dialogue with other works, drawing attention to itself as literature, etc. (The Starless Sea, The Daughter of Time)
  • Interesting, but not-gimicky playing with literary form. (Life After Life; Boy, Snow, Bird.)
  • Complicated friendships, particularly among or including women (Sula, Normal People)
  • Ambiguous endings, a.k.a. endings that are to be interpreted, that don’t hand the reader an answer (Passing)
  • Stories about grief and trauma that come at the subject slant (The Professor’s House, the Earthsea series)
  • Stories that explore ideas (The Buried Giant, Beloved)

Non-Fiction

  • Popular science, particularly astrophysics, physics, medicine, and death (Dr. Mutter’s Marvels, Reality is Not What it Seems)
  • Essay collections/books profiling and juxtaposing interesting figures (The Young Radicals, Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion)
  • Food memoirs (Home Cooking; Blood, Bones, and Butter)
  • Memoirs that make normal experience seem extraordinary (Educated, anything by Patti Smith)

Last, really good writing in any genre

Keeping my wheelhouse in mind, I intend to write a series of posts in 2020 that discuss each of the doorways and how my wheelhouse does or does not fit into them. I hope that this gives all of us greater insight into why we love what we love when it come to reading.

Feel free to share your wheelhouse in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s