I read other books than the ones listed below, but they were non-fiction or fiction I didn’t want to include as a favorite.
Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror)
- A Dragon of a Different Color
by Rachel Aaron
This is the fourth installment of Aaron’s Heartstrikers series, the story of which proceeded nicely until this one. The middle of this book is a world-building info dump disguised as dialogue. Still worth it if you’re invested in the series. Lots of great things happen, but I hope the next one moves faster.
- We Are Legion
by Dennis E. Taylor
I bought this from Audible.com because it’s not available through my local library system. I was pleasantly surprised. Taylor’s protagonist is a snarky nerd who finds himself part of desperate space exploration program. Funny and sarcastic.
- The Very First Damned Thing
by Jodi Taylor
I admit I downloaded this for free from Audible.com. It’s an introduction to Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Mary’s universe, which looks good. Interesting, but didn’t blow me over. I’ll probably give the series a try.
- Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
I have been wanting to read this for quite a while. Rothfuss unleashes a beautiful writing style with this first book and the story kept me going. The story is complete, but there are some unanswered questions for the rest of this series to address.
by Connie Willis
The protagonist got on my nerves, but I so badly wanted to find out what was going on, I plowed through it. Not on the same level as Willis’s The Doomsday Book, but a fun read.
- Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods
by Sylvain Neuvel
This series has been a nominee for Goodread’s Best Books two years in a row, and I can see why. The story is told by a group of people involved in a project of finding robotic parts buried around the world and building mechanical giants. Neuvel includes a lot of twists and surprises.
- The Book of Lost Things
by John Connolly
Looks like a kid’s book, but with all the violence, sex and depressing imagery, it’s definitely for grown-ups. Connolly adds some adult themes to some beloved fairy tale icons and draws up this creepy tale.
- All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders
This turned out to be one of my surprise favorites of the year. Patricia and Lawrence keep crossing paths. At the end of the world, they become involved in a war, end up on opposite sides.
- Dark Matter
by Blake Crouch
Another surprise favorite for this year. Crouch takes the alternate reality trope and raises some interesting questions.
- Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater
A group of teens in backwater Virginia, get mixed up in dark matters in their search for a lost king.
by Rainbow Rowell
This popped up a couple of times as a book I should read, so I did. A woman tries to repair her marriage by magically talking with a younger version of her husband from the early days of their relationship. Didn’t really reveal how using an old landline phone could do that.
- A Visit from the Good Squad
by Jennifer Egan
While this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, I’m not sure it is any more thematic than any other similar piece of fiction. I did enjoy the complex characters Egan developed through a series of interrelated short stories.
- Invisible Monsters
by Chuck Palahniuk
Every page of this novel is insane. It creeped me out, but it was Palahniuk at his most bizarre and entertaining.
- No Country for Old Men
by Cormac McCarthy
Man stumbles across a lot of drug money. Lots of anti-heroes in this book. Good read and a good movie, too.
- Call Me by Your Name
by Andre Aciman
A coming-of-age story about an Italian teen in the seventies who falls for an older guy staying with his parents for the summer.
- Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
What would happen if books were illegal and burned when found? I need to read this one again and soon.
by Kurt Vonnegut
Billy Pilgrim descends into madness, or does he? He tells his tale as an unreliable narrator in this classic.
- A Separate Peace
by John Knowles
Sort of in the same category as Dead Poet’s Society.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls
by Ernest Hemingway
Finally, after three tries, I got through it. A slow-paced novel isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Hemingway’s case. It built up the tension.
- A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
Upon finishing this book, I have completed the Ernest Hemingway collection.
- Winesburg, Ohio
by Sherwood Anderson
A little depressing, with characters who are depressed. Still glad to add it to my classics repertoire.
Young Adult Fiction
- Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
Lots of controversy about this book and the Netflix series based upon it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think a girl would really kill herself over the reasons presented in this story. But news events in the last month have changed my mind. It does happen.
- The Outsiders
by S.E. HintonI decided to re-read this on its fiftieth anniversary. This is the novel that created the whole Young Adult genre–although I doubt Hinton saw herself as the one who would pave the way for all the vampire novels in the Young Adult section. It’s always fun to re-read a book to see how I’ve grown since the last time.
I still consider myself a new writer, but I was first published at twelve years old. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but it was before Ronald Reagan sat in the White House.
Here’s the thing: you’re constantly learning as a writer. You’re learning your craft. You’re learning how to use grammar to make your writing interesting. You’re learning about the publishing industry. Being a writer is an identity constantly in change.
But if I had to pick just five things to tell a new writer, here is what I would list for them:
- Read all kinds of books-This advice did not originate with me. Everyone who writes says it. Always be reading. Read various authors. Read all the books of just one author. Read everything you can in the genre for which you want to write. Read in all kinds of genres. Read both fiction and nonfiction. If you are like me, you are busy. I actually have to schedule time to read. But just always be reading something.
- Write every day you possibly can-Even if it’s only for a few minutes, write every day. And that can include planning, outlining, researching, editing, proofreading, or journaling. It could be deciding what you wrote yesterday isn’t that great after all and you need to start over. Have the writer’s mindset and realize every experience you have can be used in your writing. Just place your fingers on the keyboard (or grab the pencil) and write.
- Try National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)-Every November, thousands of people around the world write fifty thousand words in one month. That’s about 1600 words a day. If it sounds daunting, try it and see what happens. It gave me the confidence to realize, “Hey, I can create a long piece of fiction.” Now, of course, what is written for NaNoWriMo is rough. But I have four rough novels I’m finishing thanks to the contest. That’s more than what I had before I tried it.
- Subscribe to writing blogs and websites-Wow, there are so many out there, but here’s a few of my favorites to get you started:
- Use software for writers-This is not for everyone, but I would say try the software and return it if not satisfied. First, for outlining and planning, try Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method software. Next, try Scrivener for writing your manuscript. Writers kept saying, “Try Scrivener.” I was like, “Sure, sure.” When I finally got around to using it, I was like, “Holy macaroni! Why didn’t I start using this a long time ago!
To use a cliché, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could say, “Go to YouTube and search for writers with video blogs,” or “A neat idea generator for SF and fantasy writers is Seventh Sanctum.”
I’d like to include more, but one thing I’ve realized is this: I can spend all kinds of time learning Scrivener or reading articles on writing, but the best thing to do to get experience as a writer is to just start writing.
In honor of its fiftieth anniversary, I read The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton again after about twenty-five years. Hinton has been said to single-handedly jump started the YA publishing market.
I went through a period of reading YA novels. Most of Hinton’s–That Was Then, This Is Now; Rumble Fish–and tackled Paul Zindel’s books beginning with The Pigman. To my repertoire of YA novels, I read Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and many more.
Even as an adult, I’ve enjoyed YA fiction more than ever. As an adult, I’ve read classics like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler just to name a few. I have never thought YA novels were only for young adults.
YA fiction has ruled pop culture the last fifteen to twenty years: The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, and The Harry Potter series are the tip of the iceberg.
Here’s an article by a young adult author about her writing experience. It’s hilarious:
A Crash Course in YA Taught Me How to Write.
From the Huffington Post:
Soak up these family dramas, advice column collections and near-future hijinks.
This summer, in addition to the obvious 2016 warm-weather pastime of drinking watermelon water while listening to “Lemonade,” we’re looking forward to reading new books! Because, although we are big proponents of couch lounging, reading in the grass while using a book to shield your eyes from the sun has its particular joys.
Thankfully, there’re a lot to choose from. It may not be the summer of “the next next ‘Gone Girl,’” but there’s a meticulously wrought new thriller out in June, one that examines a violently broken relationship between sisters. There’s also a wry adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” a screwball story set in 2052, and a new slate of advice columns from Heather Havrilesky, aka Ask Polly. Choose wisely, dear readers; in our opinion, you can’t go wrong with one of the following.
When I was on vacation earlier this month, I read some e-books on writing. Even though these gems were inexpensive and quick, they provided me with some valuable lessons to apply to my writing craft.
Here they are:
- Self-publishing a Book
By Hank Quense
Quense has a great series on self-publishing and this is the second one I’ve read. He’s great about explaining why he does it the way he does, but let’s the reader know everyone needs to self-publish the way that is best for himself. Good advice on what publisher to use. I will be coming back to this book as a reference.
- 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
By Rachel Aaron
I loved Aaron’s Eli Monpress series and I can’t wait to read more of her stuff. She gives advice on how to increase the amount of writing that gets done during a writing session by applying her triangle of knowledge, time and enthusiasm. Now, if that sounds vague, she does get specific about what they mean in this book.
- Writing from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone In Between
By James Scott Bell
I love Kill Zone, a blog for which Bell contributes as part of a community of writers. This book provided a fascinating piece of advice about character development for novel writing: the “Mirror Moment.” Once again, it’s something I knew already, but didn’t know I knew. This quick read will change the way you plan your novel–and it’s easy to apply to a draft you’ve already started.
- Scrivener Superpowers: How to Use Cutting-Edge Software to Energize Your Creative Writing Process
By M.G. Herron
I already read several books on Scrivener when I first learned to use it. The difference between those books (although they were wonderful and helpful) and this one is that Scrivener Superpowers gets into the nitty-gritty of not just learning to use it, but how to use is as a writer. His No-Nonsense Novel Template is also great.
So if you’re looking for some quick lessons for improving your fiction writing with maximum impact, you should check these books out. I highly recommend them.
As I plan my reading list for 2016, I want to include several self-published writers and small, independent publishing companies. So far I plan to read the following:
Check out JR Wirth‘s new book In Passing. I designed the cover! Here’s some promo copy:
“Trying to bring closure to her haunted youth, Mary Elizabeth Stroll’s past and present converge during a haunting, day-long interview. In Passing is a dark, yet romantic, paranormal tale, which thrusts two adolescent, suicide victims into a haunting afterlife odyssey where they find love and meaning. The journey leads them to intervene in the lives of other distressed young people, all the while amorous feelings grow. The two are then reunited with their lifeless bodies to search for the truth and their lost love.”