One of my favourite things about going to University was the syllabus. Every fall and Winter semester, I’d excitedly pour over the books on my course lists before running over to the campus bookstore and filling my bag with hundreds of books. Being an English major, there were always a lot of novels to read, which I loved! When I left school, it felt strange—like I’d lost something special. Recenlty, while in a writing rut, I decided to create my own writerly syllabus for inspiration. If you’ve ever been (or are currently) in a rut, consider these titles. Or, better yet, why not add on some new ones?
Honing your craft 101: Inspiration & Other Important Writerly Things
- Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg & Julia Cameron
- The Trickster’s Hat, by Nick Bantock
- The Pocket Muse, by Monica Wood
- The Art of Character, by David Corbett
- Damn Fine Story, Chuck Wendig
- Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
- Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway
- The Superior Person’s Book of Words, by Peter Bowler
- Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
- Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
- The Seven Basic Plots, by Christopher Booker
- Naming the World, by Bret Anthony Johnston
Bruised Ego 201: a salve for the burn of rejection
- Real Artists Have Day Jobs, by Sara Benincasa
- The Gift, by Lewis Hyde
- How to Get Published in Literary Magazines, by Allison K Williams
- Zen and the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
- Daring Greatly, Brene Brown
How Did They Do It 301: Following in the Paths of the Greats
- House of Dreams, by Liz Rosenberg
- On Writing, Stephen King
- Negotiating with the Dead, Margaret Atwood
- Jane Austen at Home, Lucy Worsley
- The Bronte Myth, Lucasta Miller
- J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter
- Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin
Independent Study 401: Read Widely
…This one is really up to you. Sometimes, I like to make myself a list of books from the same genre that I’m writing in, or even books that might evoke the same feeling that I am trying to convey in my own book. If that doesn’t work, read what you love and inspiration will follow.
What books do you read to help inspire your writing practice? Why not write them in the comments below?
This week for Top Ten Tuesday, it’s all about my favourite books that I’ve read so far this year. Tough choice! There were a lot that I thought about listing, but in the end, these books stuck with me:
- My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix – I blew through this one in a day while floating in an inner tube at the cottage. My husband had to bring me food periodically, because I refused to put the book down. Seriously, it was that good. (Stay tuned for a full review of this book on Friday).
- The Girl with All of the Gifts, by M.R. Carey – This is another deeply creepy narrative, but told from the fascinating perspective of a zombie girl who is discovering what it means to be “alive.” I liked it because it felt in places like a twisted coming of age story.
- The Favorite Sister, by Jessica Knoll – Not only is this book a great thriller from the first page, but there is an interesting discussion around female success and cattiness. Also: it’s all about reality TV. If you’re like me and you like tuning in to The Bachelor, then this book will keep you reading.
- Educated, by Tara Westover – Heartfelt, disturbing and powerful, this memoir had me captivated. It reads like a cult – escape narrative in some ways, which kept the momentum quick, but what struck me as the most fascinating were the family dynamics that Westover describes.
- Strong Female Protagonist, by Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag – I loved this graphic novel because it was campy and quick-paced and the artwork was excellent, but I also appreciated the original perspective on the super hero narrative.
- The Witches of New York, by Ami McKay – I know that I talk about this book a lot, but to be fair, it is really fantastic. I loved the atmosphere that McKay creates and the beautiful prose, among other things. Read more about it here.
- The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak – I picked this book up because it described 80’s nostalgia, and I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. What I ended up loving was the quirky romance and the hilarious heist narrative that piggy-backs on the larger story about a boy who loves to code video games. I would compare it to Ready Player One, but for me, it was better.
- Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch – Fun, flirty and set in Italy? Who wouldn’t want to read this book?
- The Last Black Unicorn, by Tiffany Haddish – I’m not normally interested in reading celebrity autobiographies, but this one was hard to put down simply because of all the crazy stuff that Haddish had to go through in her life. It was enlightening and at times quite funny.
- Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero – If you loved Welcome to Night Vale and Scooby Doo, then this book will have you riveted. I loved all of the nods towards the classic TV show and found the plot to be captivating.
What are some of your favourite books that you’ve read (so far) this year?
You don’t have to be a kid to love picture books, and if you’re like me and can’t resist a beautifully told story with fantastic illustrations then these books might just be up your alley:
- The Fog, Kyo Maclear – I absolutely love all of Kyo Maclear’s picture books. They are all equally clever and beautiful. The Fog, an environmental fable about a bird who is a human-watcher looks like it will be just as gorgeous.
- Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel – When it is discovered that there are no more tacos left in the world, the dragons will have to do something about it to make sure that their beloved tacos are no longer extinct. Having read the first one in this series to my son about eight million times, there’s no way I’ll miss picking up this delightful sequel.
- Goldfish Ghost, by Lemony Snicket – I love everything by Lemony Snicket and this new picture book looks like it will be just as fantastic. Following the story of a childhood pet gone “belly up,” Snicket takes a clever look at the afterlife.
- Life on Mars, by Jon Agee – Playing with visual jokes, a martian follows a little astronaut through the pages of this witty book as he attempts to share some chocolate cupcakes.
- Triangle, by Mac Barnett – Triangle plays a trick on his friend square…what will happen? (I don’t know, but if you loved I Want My Hat Back this looks like it will be just as hilarious.
- Sparkle Boy, by Lesléa Newman – A sweet book about acceptance and being yourself, Sparkle Boy is about Casey, who loves to play with trucks and puzzles but also loves all things glittery and sparkly.
- Ox, Ox: A Love Story, by Adam Rex & illustrated by Andrew Arnold – Told in an epistolary style, Ox Ox is a love story between an ox and a gazelle. Need I say more?
- Not Quite Narwhal, by Jessie Sima – The story of a young unicorn who grew up with a family of narwhals, Not Quite Narwhal is a beautifully told story about not-quite fitting in.
- Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, by Kwame Alexander – With bright, beautiful pictures to accompany original poems that pay homage to famous poets, this books is definitely going to be a favourite at bedtime for a long time.
- Stack the Cats, by Susie Ghahremani – “One cat sleeps. Two cats play. Three cats stack!” This purrrrfect counting book will be sure to motivate little readers who love cats to learn to count.