Thursday, April 8, 2010

7 Novels that Made Me Want to be a Better Writer

Master of the Edge-of-your-Seat
You have to admire a concept this brilliant: a boy who finds a shoebox at his door which contains the suicide tapes his crush recorded before she took her own life…Just wow. At first I was afraid that the execution wouldn’t live up to the hype and concept, but I literally could not put this book down. I almost cancelled dinner plans in order to finish it—the story leading up to Hannah Baker’s suicide is just that compelling.

Masters of Many Worlds
MYST: THE BOOK OF ATRUS by Rand & Robyn Miller with David Wingrove
It’s hard to get people to take you seriously as a reader when you tell them that your favorite book of all time is based on a computer game. No, you didn’t misread that. Favorite book of all time. When books about “parallel worlds” are discussed, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons to Madeline L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME and Phillip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS (both of which are wonderful), but I’ve yet to find a story—fantasy or otherwise—that so fully captivated my attention as Atrus’s journey from his desert dwelling down into the subterranean world and desolate streets of the fallen D’ni civilization. Superb.

Master of Perception
Oh, Marcelo. Karsten loves Marcelo even though Marcelo speaks in the third person sometimes. Stork crafts a beautifully written novel about a boy who has trouble relating to the world around him, while writing him in such a way that he is instantly relatable to the reader.

Master of Timelessness

Verklempt. That’s the only word that could accurately describe my state of mind after I closed REMEMBERING THE GOOD TIMES. Some books you don’t just remember reading; you remember exactly where you were when you finished it. This is one of those books. To put it in perspective: it’s a 10-minute walk from the writing center where I tutor (and where I read the last page of this) to the subway, and I was glassy-eyed for the entire walk. I had to actively remind myself that it was a flagrant violation of man code for me to tear up about a book. I failed.

Master of Emotion

MY HEARTBEAT by Garrett Freymann-Weyr
I’ve read a fair number of books that have run the gamut of LGBQT topics, but I don’t think teen sexuality and confusion have ever been so realistically portrayed. Freymann-Weyr manages to expertly juggle the labyrinthine feelings of three different characters. Don’t be fooled—this book may be the color of pastel green Easter egg, but it has one of the most gripping final pages I’ve ever read.

Master of Setting
I guess New England should be so grateful to have such a large concentration of writers living in such close proximity. But what this also means? So, so, so many books set in or around Boston. Unfortunately, many of these books really waste this rich and vibrant city. Sure, they’ll do a little bit of name dropping to help their case—he drove over the Zakim Bridge; she took a stroll through the Boston Common. One man, however, writes Boston with such gritty realism that I can practically smell the food coming out of South Street Diner. I haven’t had a chance to read the other books in this series yet, but since Gone Baby Gone is one of my favorite movies, I plan to this summer. I tip my hat to you Dennis Lehane.

Master of Fantasy
SABRIEL by Garth Nix
As far as I’m concerned, Garth Nix is the master of young-adult high fantasy. Rather than re-treading on old conventions, Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) invents its own. Beautiful writing, three-dimensional characters, and an original world that has something new to contribute to the genre. I’ve never been so enthralled with necromancy, and you can practically feel the bandolier of bells strapped to your chest as you read…


  1. Agree with Marcelo, it was one of my favorites this semester.

  2. Thanks for this list. I'll be checking them out.