Why We Write edited by Meredith Maran

why we writeHere I go again. Another book that I absolutely loved. Why We Write edited by Meredith Maran is a simple book, and that is the beauty of it. She took 20 well known authors both of fiction and non-fiction, commercial writers and literary writers (Ann Patchett,Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Egan, Michael Lewis etc.) and asked them one simple question: Why do you write? The answers are all slightly different but drift back towards one truth: writers write because they can’t not write. As a notable aside, a portion of the sales goes to 826 National, a youth literacy program started by Dave Eggers.

Each chapters focuses on one writer. It starts with a short excerpt from their most recent work, follows with some background material, before breaking into a section called The Vitals which includes date of birth, hometown, day job, awards and notable notes. The Vitals was  in fact one of my favorite things about the layout of the book – a quick snapshot of the person you were dealing with. Not surprisingly, the next section listed the writer’s collected works. Finally we get to the bulk of the chapter in which the writers answers why they write. This section is written in a very casual, conversational way. Often other questions from Maran are interspersed in the narrative. The final color-blocked portion is Wisdom for Writers, in which these famed writers distill what they have learned about writing into three or four bullet points.

One of the reasons I liked Why We Write so much is because it granted me access to a unique club and made me feel as though I belonged there. It is certainly nice to know that blockbuster author David Baldacci, Pultizer prize winner Jennifer Egan and I all write for the same reasons. I also appreciated knowing that I shared some key characteristics with Michael Lewis (late night writing) and Susan Orlean (love of researching). Above all, Why We Write inspired me to keep doing what I am doing, and that feels good.

Who would like this book? This book is for the person in your life who loves reading, loves writing and loves reading about writing. I also think it would be perfect as a graduation present for the right person. If only someone had encouraged me when I was younger instead of telling me there is no money in writing, then I might be somewhere else right now. It is an easy read, but it is an enlightening read.

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