My Favorite Fiction Books from 2017

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)

21

  • 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.

    22

  • 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.

    18

  • 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.

    09

  • 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.

    16

  • Crosstalk
    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.

    17     24

  • 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.

    07

  • 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.

    15

  • 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.

    19

  • Dark Matter
    by Blake Crouch
    Another surprise favorite for this year. Crouch takes the alternate reality trope and raises some interesting questions.

    17675462

  • 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.

Mainstream Fiction

14

  • Landline
    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.

    12

  • 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.

    11

  • 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.

    05

  • 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.

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  • 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.

Classics

01

  • 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.

    02

  • Slaughterhouse-Five
    by Kurt Vonnegut
    Billy Pilgrim descends into madness, or does he? He tells his tale as an unreliable narrator in this classic.

    03

  • A Separate Peace
    by John Knowles
    Sort of in the same category as Dead Poet’s Society.

    06

  • 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.

    04

  • A Farewell to Arms
    by Ernest Hemingway
    Upon finishing this book, I have completed the Ernest Hemingway collection.

    08

  • 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

20

  • 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.

    10

  • 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.

 

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Five tips for new writers

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.

Twitter:@AndrewMFriday

In honor of fifty years of YA novels

reading-1309980In 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.

 

The Reading Mediums

old-machines-1232583Several years ago, when I bought my Kindle, I felt like I was betraying the book publishing industry. Maybe I was. I got over it quick, though, because I love the convenience of reading a digital book. Now I read books on my iPad mini either through the Kindle app or through the public library’s ebook website which is powered by Overdrive.

So now, in this first quarter of the twenty-first century, flying cars are not common, but electronic books are.

At first, there was terror in the streets with cries of “Ebooks are going to kill the print book!” but what has happened is ebooks are just one more way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, and ebook. Don’t panic.

And, these days, we don’t even read our books. We listen to them. I have listened to more books this year than read any. Audible.com  is the Amazon of audio book selection (in fact, I think it’s part of Amazon somehow). My local public library also has a nice audio book collection I use to listen to books to and from work.

So, this is the break down of the medium of books I read: audio books in my car, ebooks while I sit in bed before I go to sleep and traditional print books at the coffee shop.

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.

What I’m Reading …

file-nov-15-8-01-35-pmI have been a fan of Connie Willis for a long time. Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog are two of her books I love. I just finished rereading Doomsday Book for the upteenth time. This is  unusually, because only a few books have been written that I read more than once, let alone several times. I just got a copy of her new book from the library. It’s called Crosstalk. Here’s the blurb:

“Science fiction icon Connie Willis brilliantly mixes a speculative plot, the wit of Nora Ephron, and the comedic flair of P. G. Wodehouse in Crosstalk—a genre-bending novel that pushes social media, smartphone technology, and twenty-four-hour availability to hilarious and chilling extremes as one young woman abruptly finds herself with way more connectivity than she ever desired.”

Hope it’s good.

Find my latest book on Amazon: Christ Simply, A Chronological Self-Guided Study through the Life of Christ.

My reading plan for this year: read more “widely”

stack-of-books-1531138The biggest pet peeve I have with myself is how I don’t read widely enough. What I mean is, I don’t read across genres. I stick to the same kinds of books. At the end of each year, I look at the list of books I’ve read and I realize it’s two-thirds speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror and so on.

Now, if I could, I would read speculative fiction exclusively. It’s like eating nothing but dessert all the time. That’s not healthy. So, in an attempt to be more well-rounded, to be better educated, to read more widely, I used an Excel spreadsheet to get my 2016 reading plan started.

Here’s what I did:

Across the top of the spreadsheet, I listed different genres of books I want to touch upon throughout the year. Here is my list: General Literature/Best Sellers; textbooks; Science Fiction; Fantasy; Biography; Classics; Poetry; Drama; Graphic Novels; Short Story Anthology; Spiritual; History; Art; Writing Instruction; British Literature Middle Ages; British Literature Renaissance. These are the areas I want to read in this year; your list may be different.

Next, I take all the books I have on “TO READ” lists — and I have several different ones, both digital and hard copy — and consolidate them on the spreadsheet. Each book goes into one of the categories. A particular book might fit into more than one column, but you decide which genre you want to put it under.

Next, I select a book, read it, then go to the next column and pick a book in a different genre and read it, and so on, and so on. I read about 30-40 books a year, so this will ensure I go through the cycle about two times. The idea is to not read two books in the same column until you have read one from all the other columns.

As a result, by the end of the year, I am a more well-rounded reader.

Pros, Cons and Tips for this method:

  • Tip: I add books throughout the year as I hear about them.
  • Tip: Of course, I’m not going to be able to read every book on the list in one year. I can just use this as a running list so I also have suggestions for something to read.
  • Tip: I don’t necessarily read the book at the top of the column. I just pick a book in a column that strikes my fancy at that moment.
  • Tip: No need to be legalistic about using this spreadsheet. I will probably cheat and read an extra science fiction or fantasy novel here and there.
  • Pro: I end up reading a better balance of fiction and non-fiction books.
  • Pro: My mind is expanded by reading book I keep putting off to read.
  • Pro: By reading more widely, I become a better writer.
  • Con: If you like to just read for pleasure and not worry about reading across the genres, then this method would probably feel too constricting.
  • Con: You only get to read your favorite genres when they come around. But, as I mentioned earlier, I will probably cheat a little.

It’s simple. It’s effective.

Happy reading.

 

 

Support Self-Published Writers and Small Publishing Houses

printing-press-1181030.jpgAs 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: