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Beyond your work emails: The 7 types of things you should be reading

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My reading schedule is a haphazard mess. But I’m trying to get it done. It’s important to stay in tune with what matters to other people in order to be connected to this city, this world and this life. And written words are hugely how that information is shared.

Seven categories of reading I think you (and I) should spend time on, with specific recommendations for each one:

(1) Some form of local news

It feels weird (and kind of socially irresponsible) to know nothing about a crisis, for example, until people are posting about it with emojis on social media. I try to skim headlines on CharlotteObserver.com (I’m biased, I know) and tweets from local reporters to at least know whether something big (or just interesting) is unfolding. And newsletters are great for more bite-sized, personality driven updates that offer a similar connection. Of course there’s CharlotteFive, but the Observer and other local outlets have their own newsletters covering a wide range of topics.

(2) Local magazines

Print magazines make stories seem more prominent, more visual. You can pick up a monthly print magazine and know that a writer and editor thought topics were so significant they needed to be immortalized on paper — at least for a month. I gravitate toward SouthPark Magazine and QC Exclusive for profile pieces, snapshots of other people’s lives and ventures, and Charlotte Magazine for a more longform, sweeping view of the city’s hot topics, like bike life.

(3) Blogs

My theory is if you’re not reading other people’s personal thoughts you are way too deep into your own. I like to get out of my own head right now with blogs by Charlotte writers: like Peanut Butter Runner by Jen DeCurtins (thought-provoking yoga posts, workout posts and recipe posts galore) and The White Papers by Sam White (for existential, insightful musings).

White’s most recent slew of posts are about her choice to uproot from Charlotte for the sake of adventure. These words from one such post got me mobilized for the day: “Experiencing this moment while I can and taking it for everything it is worth? That cannot be replaced. If I come back poor, I will be rich with stories.”

(4) A form of national news

Again, you don’t want to live in a hole. It’s so easy to get caught in the daily grind of your tiny world of work-life-love balance that you lose perspective on everything else happening around you. I subscribe to the digital version of The New York Times, plus The Skimm.

(5) A book

Whether its digital or paperback, fiction or non-fiction, a book can remind you that your attention span is longer than a hashtag on Instagram or a disappearing SnapChat post. Read, digest.

I’m really into Lena Dunham’s memoir right now: “Not That Kind of Girl.” It’s raw, hilarious and relatable.

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(6) A focused topic

Pick your poison: poetry, food, business, charity, entertainment? I love following articles by beat writers so I can see how their direction shifts each day, but their overall focus stays static. Example: Kathleen Purvis, who has been a food writer at the Observer for as long as I’ve been alive, shifts her attention from drink recalls, to a street named after a drink, to a new restaurant — but always under her food beat.

Isn’t that kind of what life is like? Picking a focus and trying to stick to it, but trying to keep it fresh and fun and interesting? “I do get tired, sometimes,” Purvis shared in an email. “But when I feel low on inspiration, I grab one of the writers who inspires me, like Laurie Colwin or M.F.K. Fisher. That usually jumpstarts my enthusiasm. Or I’ll make a list of the stories I haven’t gotten to yet, the ones I would hate it if someone else got to do them.”

(7) City messages

I’ve touched on this before: Messages are right in front of us, everywhere. And I’m not talking cloud-shaped-like-an-octopus type of message to interpret, I’m talking written messages to read. On sidewalks, on walls, on sign posts, on stairs.

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Let these inspire you, or make you laugh, or just make you notice something. Get outside of yourself.

Photos: Katie Toussaint

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