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Reading Room: Austin Kleon’s top Substack reads
Reading Room is a series where writers share their favorite publications to read on Substack. Any Substack writer can now endorse their peers using our recommendations feature.
Great writers are great readers first, as the maxim goes. In this series, we explore what Substack writers are reading by asking them for a tour of their reading list.
This week, we spoke to New York Times best-selling author and artist Austin Kleon, who shares art, inspiration, and writing in his weekly Substack. Austin is the author of a trilogy of illustrated books about creativity in the digital age—Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work!, and Keep Going—and alongside writing is an avid reader, drawing on previous lives as a librarian, web designer, and copywriter. Here, he handpicks some of his current reads on Substack.
For more recommendations from Austin, you can browse the full list of Substack publications he subscribes to on his profile.
Hi, Austin! Can you start by describing your reading diet?
I read as much as I can and never enough. It was a great shock to me when I was younger and I realized that most great writers probably read at least five times as much as they write. As for what I read, I have no idea how to separate out personal interest and professional research. It all goes into the gumbo pot in my brain, and it all influences my work, somehow.
Describe your ideal or actual reading room. What does it look like?
I live in Texas in a tiny bungalow with my kids, so my favorite, most peaceful place to read is out back in the pool. Always with a pencil, scribbling notes and doodling in the margin. Sometimes I stand up and put my book on the coping [the edge of the pool] and sometimes I float on a raft until I fall asleep. I’ll even take gigantic hardback books out into the pool and just know they’re going to get wet. Books are a durable technology. They can take a pretty good beating.
I realized that most great writers probably read at least five times as much as they write.
Do you remember the first writer or book that really captured your attention?
I can’t remember the first one, but the writers/artists who made me want to do what I do include Kurt Vonnegut, Lynda Barry, Saul Steinberg, and Charles Schulz.
Austin Kleon’s recommended reads:
Substack I’m most excited to open: S/FJ. Sasha Frere-Jones turns me on to a ton of good music.
Most inspirational newsletters: DrawTogether by Wendy MacNaughton, The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker, and Subtle Maneuvers by Mason Currey. Wendy MacNaughton and Rob Walker are both good friends of mine, and the way they look at the world always inspires me to open my eyes and keep looking. Mason Currey’s newsletter is a great extension of his books about artists’ lives.
Substack that makes me think about my business: When it comes to books and publishing, Anne Trubek’s Notes from a Small Press always gives me something to consider.
Writer I’m amazed is on Substack: Lawrence Weschler’s newsletter is bonkers. It breaks almost every rule: it’s dense and it’s almost impossible to scan and it usually gets cut off in my email. But I love him. He did a “Taxonomy of Convergences” that was broken up over five issues, and it was so sprawling I had to take notes and diagram it out.
Writer not on Substack who I’d like to see join: I would love for my wife, Meghan, who edits my newsletter, to start her own! She’s the real writer in our family.
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