In my previous post I talked about the sequence that I go through in writing a trade book for general readers.  I must admit, I’ve never systematically thought through that sequence until yesterday!  I just have a way of working, and when I thought about what that was, I realized it was this sequence.  1. Doing basic research/reading/and outlining; 2. Writing a prospectus for the publisher; 3. Reading massively; 4. Outlining the book; 5. Writing it; 6.  Revising it.   I will describe how I go about doing each of these steps in the following posts.

The first question is this: if one needs to do some basic research and reading, leading to a basic outline, as the first step – how does one decide what to read?     That’s an especially acute question if you want to be working in a field that you are not overly familiar with, as was my case when I wanted this past March to start reading about “memory” – both from psychological perspectives (especially cognitive psychology) and social (“collective” memory).   I had only vague ideas about these areas.   So how do I know where to start?

It occurs to me that this may be a question readers of the blog frequently have themselves – not because they want to write books necessarily, but because they want simply to be well informed, or to *get* well-informed, about some field of scholarly inquiry that they are interested in but not well versed in.   How do you know where to start begin reading so as to get a good sense of what the best scholars have to say?

Scholars have their own ways of doing such things, but let me tell you my preferred mode, as I think it could be of general use to others.   My approach is NOT to ….


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