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.


  • 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)


  • 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!

9 thoughts on “Introducing – The Wheelhouse Project

  1. Pingback: The Wheelhouse Project: Story | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  2. Pingback: The Wheelhouse Project: Character | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  3. Pingback: The Wheelhouse Project: Retellings of Myths and Fairy Tales — 'Till We Have Faces' & 'Circe' | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  4. Pingback: The Night is Dark and Full of Wonders: The Winternight Trilogy | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  5. Pingback: On Being a Credulous Reader | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  6. Pingback: Beyond Dystopia | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  7. Pingback: Summertime Reading | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  8. Pingback: The Wheelhouse Project: Language | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

  9. Pingback: The Wheelhouse Project – New Addition! – Tantalizing Taste Books | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

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