Happy March everyone! This week’s TTT topic was a little open—it’s just a list of books to read if you’re in the mood for _____. I’ve been trying to get back into writing and was thinking of some of the books I’ve read that have really taught me a thing or two about writing along the way. I suppose you could say they are helping me become a better writer. (They’re all favorites and well worth re-reading just for how awesome they are, even if you aren’t a writer, BTW.) In no particular order…
Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle, for the art of subtlety. You know how some authors feel the need to info-dump every few pages? Or they have a clever reveal that they just can’t resist hitting you over the head with instead of letting you figure it out on your own? This book is a master class is how to do the opposite: write something lyrical and dark yet lovely, and unspool the story crumb by crumb so you can fully appreciate it as you put it all together.
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell, for the art of writing in multiple POVs. I usually hate books with multiple characters all “talking” chapter by chapter, especially books that try to give each character a first-person voice. They’re a mess. (Allegiant, I’m looking at you.) But Mitchell is the master of it. This book is amazing for many other reasons, but I was really blown away by the way each new section has such a dramatically different voice. Even before you know who the new “I” is, you can tell it’s a radically different character.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, for the art of a jaw-dropping twist that makes perfect sense. I read somewhere once that for a mystery to be truly great, the reveal should be so shocking you never saw it coming, and yet once you think about it, it has to make perfect sense. Without giving away spoilers (for those few of you living under rocks who don’t know the plot), that is this book in a perfect nutshell.
Night Film and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl, for the art of vivid imagery. I’m only about halfway through Calamity Physics but can already tell it will be a favorite. Pessl has a way of describing a person, a look, or an object with such a deft turn of phrase that you can see it perfectly. Her writing is the total opposite of pedestrian. Be forewarned, these books are hefty and the beginnings can feel a bit slow, but patience is very much rewarded.
A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin, for the art of the antihero. I think this was the first series I read that really dove into antihero territory hardcore. Very few of the characters in this series are purely good or evil; they’re all shades of gray, and so very human therefore, and I just love it. I’ve seen very few other character lists so complex.
A tie between The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern), The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey), and Neil Gaiman’s books, for the art of magical realism. Some authors either barely add enough detail for you to know what’s going on, or else they hit you full in the face with something weird right off the bat, so you’re not sure what to think of the story. I think it’s really hard to hit that fine balance, but all of these authors do it so well.
The Map of Time, The Map of the Sky, The Map of Chaos (The Victorian Trilogy), by Felix J. Palma, for the art of not starting from scratch. Retellings or stories that start with a real person or event at their center are a rough go; either they’re going to be boring (because we already know what to expect) or they’ll feel inauthentic. This trilogy uses the author H.G. Wells and his books as a starting point, and (as far as I can tell) stays quite true to the real-life Wells in his initial character and life, but turns into a wonderful sci-fi/dark fantasy epic as it unfolds. The blend of real history and a real person with a fantasy plot line turned out just perfect, in my opinion.