I’ve been meaning to post my Spring Reading List for weeks — in reality, I’ve done so much reading in the past year, it’s ironic that I slacked off sharing my reading lists.
Shaming me into it just the littlest bit today is one of my favorite activities with writing friends. A group of writers with Writer Unboxed meet via Facebook every other month to discuss the craft details that led to a breakout novel’s success. While I posted today’s questions and waited for discussion to start, well, there was just no excuse for not getting this post ready to go live.
So first off, shout out to my WU Breakout Novel Dissection group who are, as I type, in the throes of some really interesting analysis of everything from tittle to time structure.
And then, here’s to great reading. Let us know the best titles you’ve read lately, or releases you’re looking forward to.
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- Julianna Baggott, Harriett Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders (Aug. 2015). Julianna is one of the most forthright, witty, magical and generous writers I’ve met, over the years, and I have been really looking forward to reading this novel, which, itself, serves as essentially the missing 7th book in an imagined series. This book is full of surprises, and one of the few books I’ve given as a gift lately.
- Anthony Marra, The Tsar of Love and Techno (Oct. 2015). Anthony Marra has become one of my favorite writers –his Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2014) is the only book I have ever reviewed on this site, and makes my favorite read of year list — so I was excited to see this release. While identified as “stories,” this collection reads like a novel that is handed from one story to the next. I don’t want to oversell it… but it was new and smart and funny and… yeah, great.
- Tana French, In the Woods (2008). Something about workshopping with Ben Percy last year has had me in a mind of getting back to my reading roots: honoring the kinds of stories that first inspired me as a reader. I crave the mental puzzle of a good mystery — equally despising poorly written ones — so have been glad to discover French’s rich & flawless writing in her Dublin mystery series. Next up: Likeness. Next up after that: Faithful Place. Hooked.
- Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train (2015). Keeping with the mystery thread, this one finally made my reading list when it was selected by the group of writers I mentioned in the intro (Writer Unboxed Breakout Novel Book Dissection group). If you’d been holding out to read this once the paperback came out, it just released last week.
- Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries (2013). This novel has been in my almost-read pile for more than a year, and I’m only adding it here again because I actually read it this time. Incredible writing, great detail, my kind of topic. But the kind of over-writing where you got to each “reveal” about a hundred pages ahead of her. Really turned it tedious.
- Emily Carpenter, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls (April 26, 2016). I have really been looking forward to this debut novel, which uncovers the multigenerational mystery behind the disintegration of women in one Alabama family. Emily delivers a page-turning thriller with a bit of wit and magic. I look forward to more from her.
- Alexander Chee, Queen of the Night (Feb. 2016). Having followed Alexander online for years, I’ve been really excited to see the acclaim that has arisen around the release of this novel this year. Already a bestseller, a New York Times pick, and rising on numerous reading lists, it’s been described as a mesmerizing work, something like opera. I’ve read the opening chapter and look forward to more.
- Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life (2015). You may be the same: this one came home from the book store with me because so many people kept reporting what an emotional read it is. It was a Man Booker Prize Finalist, and made the “best book of the year” lists for more than 20 major publications.
- Sara Novic, Girl at War (May 2015). I’m really looking forward to this novel, a coming of age debut that has been an award winner and finalist internationally, with comparisons to two of my favorite novels: Tiger’s Wife and All the Light We Cannot See.
- Nicole Krauss, The History of Love (2005). I came to this one as a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer, Anthony Doerr, and Nathan Englander. Everything, from a starred Publishers Weekly review to excerpts and recommendations, has me looking forward to an unexpected point of view on love.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006). I previously read this author’s acclaimed Americanah (2013), but had several friends recommend her Orange Award winning earlier novel, so Half a Yellow Sun made my list. (If you prefer audiobooks, Julianne Stirling highly recommends Americanah via Audible, as she says the narrator, Adjoa Andoh, brings the African dialects to life.)
Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction
- Kwame Alexander, Crossover (2014). I’m excited to be able to add not only a diverse voice into my sons’/students’ reading this spring… but it’s a highly awarded novel in verse.
- Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). I keep forgetting to order this collection, but have heard it consistently recommended.
- Richard Engel, And Then All Hell Broke Loose (Feb. 2016). From elsewhere on the blog, you may be aware of the thread about dangers to conflict zone reporters that influences part of my novel draft. While researching and tracking one missing journalist, I was sorry to hear of the capture of Engel and his crew. If you’ve seen him report, he’s the real thing, honest to goodness, diehard reporter, and I look forward to his insights.
- Robert Young Pelton, The World’s Most Dangerous Places (1995, 2000, 2003). I first read the 1995 edition when writing Breathing Water, and returned to it, over the years, in writing about characters working in hot spots around the world. I tracked down the 2000 version this spring, as a resource a character in Never Said would have consulted before heading overseas. I got a kick out of the deadpan, gravedigger wit of this first time around — but the advice rings much more somber, post 9/11.
- Benjamin Percy, Thrill Me (Oct. 18, 2016). Yes, this one’s not coming out until October, although I’d love to get ahold of a galley to review. Of everyone I’ve workshopped with, Ben’s advice on fiction has been the most like rocket fuel.
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What About You?
What is on your current must-read list, or what books have you read recently that you highly recommend? How do you usually get your reading recommendations — suggestions from a friend? lists in the news? books on shelves in the store?
If you post your own reading list, feel free to share your link in the comments below. If you would like to join in a reading blog hop, let me know.
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Where do the book links take you?
For convenience, you can click book titles for their link on Amazon — or find them at your favorite indie bookseller through indiebound.org:
What’s my “VIDA Count”?
Equity or diversity in voices is an issue many of us are working on improving — some from the publication-end, and I’ve addressed it with curriculum in classrooms. The VIDA count is a done by a group that evaluates representation of gender and identity within publications each year. I’m not a part of their counting, but thought it was positive to see the number of women (11 out of 18) and marginalized voices (7) that coincidentally populate my reading list this time around.
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More on Books and Reading:
- My Fall Reading List 2014
- My Summer Reading List 2014
- My Reading List Winter 2014
- March Reading Challenge: The Books You Always Meant to Read
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