"I am always happy to take credit where blame is due."--John Davis Frain
For me, I suppose The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I hadn't read much of that genre and it was very eye-opening for me. (For your information, I am twelve, and this was a YA Book with lots of cursing). I learned more about the world today and about the BlackLivesMatter movement in a way that felt real to me. Most of all, the characters stayed with me long after I finished. I can't wait for any new books Ms. Thomas writes--I'll be the first in line!
I can’t say it had a big “impact” on me, but I found Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster” fascinating, which I did not expect. I was fascinated not only by the skill required to survive the climb but by how crowded the summit can get in climbing season, by the dead bodies on the mountain , and by the amount of garbage left up there.I read the entire Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen and love his writing style. It’s bare bones and crisp, not an easy thing to accomplish. That did have an impact on me because now I know it can be done.
"Tell us about the book you read in the last year or so that had the biggest impact on you and why."This is NOT a political statement I’m simply answering the question.Fire and Fury by Michael WolffAs a nonfiction writer I found it fascinating that Wolff’s book is based almost entirely on observation. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction (no debate here, it’s both) is up for grabs but that a guy could sit around, observe all day, and have it explode as such a gossipy blockbuster says something about him as a writer, his subject, and us as citizen readers. I wouldn’t say it was entertaining or particularly informative. It felt like I was peeking in someone’s window, or more like wearing mirrored sunglasses. You know the kind. You can see them but they don’t know you’re watching. If I had it to do over I would have spent my money on candy, cake and ice cream. Although like the book, it would have satisfied me momentarily and upset my stomach later.
I've been reading mostly contemporary debut novels and last year there were quite a few outstanding ones. The one that had the most impact on me was "The Animators" in that it seemed to violate most of the Rules for writing - no story question on first page, meandering first chapter, no antagonist, etc. - except one. Write a damn good story. And write one, she did. I'm still thinking of the ending and grieving for one of the characters.Two years back, it was "The Nix" that had a profound effect on me. Nathan Hill was no Dennis Lehane story-wise and no Anthony Doerr prose-wise. And yet as soon as I finished, the only thing I wanted to do was to read it all over again. While (to me at least) he may have lacked the mentioned authors' attributes, he had a story he wanted to tell and he told it in a fun, somewhat bombastic manner. And it worked! The fact that he wrote the book over 10 years gave me pause, though.
I’ve been dying to talk about this book. It’s been a while since I couldn’t put a book down. And I didn’t expect to enjoy this YA fantasy that was an instant NYT bestseller: Sky in the Deep. A close friend told me the author’s story of overnight success. The wise Barbara Poelle recognized the potential. From the first words of the book, I recognized the author’s gift with words. I LOVED the book. At the same I was surprised by a lot of the book: full of participles and passive language, but it didn’t matter at all because the pacing was intense and brilliant. It was was full of gore and violence that I was shocked would be so popular. The author, Adrienne Young, is open and gracious, over on Instagram answering questions for writers. I learned A LOT from this book!
I read a lot. If I wrote half as much as I read I would have at least one book completed!I pay attention to how a book is structured, what I enjoy and what annoys me. I watch for author tricks: prologues used as hooks, flashbacks, POV shifts, chapters ending on cliffhangers, a narrator’s voice and presence.I really loved Beartown and the follow up, Us Against You by Fredrick Backman. Beartown uses a hooky prologue but I see why it is needed. There is an obvious narrator explaining undercurrents through the story but I liked that too, even when it gets a bit too cute. I loved the story because he shows every single character’s depths and moral struggles. I admired the way the book makes a sudden turn from a sweet Disney movie about an underdog hockey team to a dark moral crises which affects every character in the story.I also admire Ann Cleeve’s Vera series because in the ones I’ve read so far the story goes in a straight timeline, beginning to end, and I admire a writer who can keep suspense going without jumping around to tease us. And I prefer third person POV to first, unless the first person is truly captivating.I also love the Shetland series and I intend to re-read them but my sister has them now!BTW what are the chances two Reiders would find out they were on the opposite ends of the same road at the same time?
Biggest impact? A book I discovered by accident. I'm developing a main character and needed a biography on an ESTJ and found 'Truman' by David McCullough. 1000 + pages. A door stop, but wow - SO well written - primary sources, interviews - and it read like a novel. I gained a deeper appreciation into how all of us are shaped by our times, how we can be misunderstood by even those closest to us. And aquired a great deal more sympathy for those called to make tough and terrible decisions.Now, to wrap that into my new protagonist!
The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee. Beautifully written, saturated with detail for such a short book. Not an extraneous word anywhere. I read it for two reasons: setting research for my werewolf trilogy, as I am from New Jersey but not from the The Barrens, and my own personal edification, as I am from New Jersey but not the Pine Barrens.
Probably Uprooted, by Naomi Novik.Not only is it a gorgeous, fresh, deeply feminine fantasy, but the notPoland setting and the depth of the language and storytelling gave me goals to focus on when writing my notRomania fairy tale fantasy.
Nothing has really knocked me on my ass this year. I have been taking a little powdered bat wing from here and eye of newt from there, though.
"War's Unwomanly Face" by Svetlana Alexievich. It's firsthand accounts of the Soviet women soldiers in WW2. It was gruesome and terrifying, and it was very human. It documented the thoughts and feelings and things that stayed with the narrators, without going into what unit moved where and what weapons were used. I read it in one day and thought it'd give me nightmares. It was as beautiful as it was awful; like how these 16-20 year old girls wanted to be pretty and feminine, and also wanted to prove they were braver than the men. From a writer's perspective, it was a wealth of research information on the time and place. It demonstrated that you CAN write a war story without going into technical details, because it's the story that'll stay with you, whether or not it included division numbers and the shifting of the front line.
I'll count this because I re-read it this past year: Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. It's stunning for its inventive style, fascinating characters, and gripping plot.
Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O'Nan. To me, this is a perfect book. It's written in simple, yet beautiful, prose and tells the story of the people working the final shift at a Red Lobster restaurant on its last night in business. And a perfect - and perfectly hilarious - picture book: A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting, by Michelle Robinson and David Roberts. This is the kind of book that inspires me to keep writing and working hard, so that someday I can make a kid laugh as hard as I laughed while reading this one :-)
Well, I have to go back to a couple of years ago: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I don't know why it took me so long to get to reading it. I was never assigned it in school, never picked it up on my own, never read it with my older kids when they were younger (we were busy reading other great books), but I did read it with my youngest child. And I think the timing may have been just right for us. I'm glad I didn't have someone else (e.g., a teacher, the writer of a study guide, etc.) pointing out what s/he saw as the important parts. I know that can be helpful, but without them, the book was ours when we read it, and I'm very happy about that.The scene that has stayed with me the most is when Huck feels his conscience--his conscience!--has been getting on him to turn in Jim. As if that's the right thing to do. As Hermina said so well above, "I gained a deeper appreciation into how all of us are shaped by our times." Just the day before yesterday, the scene from Huck came to mind when I was standing in my kitchen thinking about something. The scene has come to mind many times. It gets me wondering, among other things, about how we and our views--even the ones we are certain are right and just--might be judged by people years from now.
AReefVisitor Angie's next book is already in the making, it's called On The Come Up and I have no doubt it will be as wonderful as THUG. And the movie for THUG comes out in October!I'm looking forward to both. And since you've read THUG, have you also read Nic Stone's Dear Martin? Or Simon Vs. by Becky Albertalli? It turns some of out the characters from those books have a familial/friend connection :) I loved all three of those books. Everything I've read this year has been pretty amazing, but I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and American Panda are what stick out in terms of making an impact.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. A Lithuanian American, she tells the story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic Sea at the end of WWII as people flee from the Soviet Red Army. It's told from 4 young adult POVs. Three have secrets and they are on the run: a Lithuanian nurse, a Prussian art restorer, and a Polish woman. They link up with a wandering boy and a shoe poet.It was hard to attach to the protagonists at the very beginning. But I appreciated the structure Sepetys used and I stayed up late then woke early the next morning to finish reading it. Now I want to reread it to better savor the story.
I have been reading a lot of nonfiction books on the brain and neuroscience and topics like motivation and resiliency, and happened upon this book, The Choice-Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger. She was an Auschwitz survivor who went on to live an amazing life.It is both memoir and inspirational, and I highly recommend it because it makes you realize how powerful the human spirit is and that while we cannot control events that happen to us, we can get through them and go on to live meaningful lives.
I don't know about impactful, but the book I enjoyed the most was Three Dark Crowns - a story of a world where when a queen leaves the throne, her triplets (who have been raised apart since they were young and each represent a different sect of society, each with their own magic) must fight to the death to become queen. I fell so in love with the characters and am waiting on tenterhooks for the final book.
The one that's caused the most action in my life is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingfisher. My husband and I have been reading it aloud for, oh, three or four years now. It can be distilled down to a Wendell Berry quote she loves, "“Eaters must understand ... that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” This year we moved around the corner from the farmer's market, where we now do much of our grocery-shopping. All of our meat comes from animals that stood in grass under sunshine and moved freely. Our meals consist of meat and veg and fat, nothing from a box. And last night after dinner my best friend told me, "This is the most nourished I've felt in a long time." Me too. Thanks, Barbara.
Thanks, Claire Bobrow, for mentioning “Last Night at the Lobster,” by Stewart O'Nan and why you liked it. I checked it out and ordered a copy. The book cover picture got me before I even looked inside.
Kitty: I hope you enjoy it! It's a book that has really stuck with me. I'm loving all the Reider suggestions - I've been googling titles like mad. Thanks, all!
I read so much, sometimes stories just get muddled together in my mind. One story that stands out that I read this past year was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It's sci-fi and about alternate dimensions, which is not really something I would normally read but it is so engaging and filled with tension. Hooked me from page one. One book on writing that I read this past year that was really insightful and also a pleasure to read was The Writer's Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Michael Noll. He weaves entertaining personal stories with analysis about pieces of fiction from well written contemporary work. It has great exercises too.I also loved The Hate U Give. Great book. If you like YA, I highly recommend Prisoner B-3087 (historical fiction about a boy surviving the Holocaust) by Alan Gratz and Unwind (dystopia about human rights) by Neal Shusterman. I once read the first chapter of Unwind to a class of 25 thirteen year old boys as a preview to the novel. It was the quietest that class had ever been, and every one of them begged me to continue reading. It is definitely a page turner kids relate to.
One I really enjoyed was The Martian. Partly because I loved the castaway story of him figuring out how to survive, and partly because it was one of the few books my husband and I both loved.
I read an ARC of Cinderella Boy by Kristina Meister--it's out today. Not only does it have a great take on gender fluidity, it is a necessary book for those of us who struggle with self-confidence. "Be the confidence you want to see in the world."I was also going to mention THUG, but AReefVisitor beat me to the punch. It really is a great book, and I'm glad Angie Thomas is coming out with more. Also loved Simon V. by Becky Abertalli.
Just finished A. J. Finn’s THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW. Psychological thrillers are my guilty pleasure, and this one was unputdownable. I loved it.But LINCOLN IN THE BARDO by George Saunders is the book that really got my attention. It is brave and brilliant.
I've read a few good ones this year that have really grabbed me. If I Fix You, by Abigail Johnson springs to mind and so does Orphan, Monster Spy by Matt Killeen. I also really enjoyed The Hate You Give which has been mentioned already, and American Panda by Gloria Chao.Actually, this has been a pretty good year for books, for me... I could keep going for a while.
I've read about 16 books this year and I have two favorites: ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman and YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE ANYONE I KNOW (memoir) by Heather Sellers. Both amazing stories.
Nothing so far for this last year. But, after reading everyone's comments, I know have a long list of books to buy. Thanks everyone!!!
CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein. I've always been a little afraid of getting old. In the book, the main characters (two girls in WWII era, one a pilot and one a spy) also mention getting old as one of their fears. That's at the beginning. By the end, they can't believe that used to be a fear. At the end, the only thing they wish is that they could get old. It was a 'real life' paradigm shift for me. Those are one of the things I treasure most in something I read.
My favorite book from the last year is Name of the Wind. Just top of the line fantasy. But the one that's had the most impact on me is The Shadow of What Was Lost and the sequel, An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington. Islington self-published Shadow, but it was such a success that I bought it at Barnes and Noble. The concept is really intricate and well executed; for example, it has time travel that feels very real and not gimmicky. But I realized halfway through Echo that the main characters all have exactly the same personality but with different capabilities. It got me thinking about whether a good agent/editor/publisher would have picked up on that and whether the books would have been even better if they'd gone through the traditional publishing process.
Goodbye, Things by Fumio SasakiThe pictures at the front were of spaces so stark that I thought he was a zealot, and I’d never become a minimalist like him. Well, I didn’t (unlike him I have a maximalist husband and four children under seven years old). But it shifted my mindset about stuff so dramatically I am no longer the same person. I borrowed the book so many times from the library that I felt like I was hogging it, so I bought my own copy.
I read Orwell for the first time last year. Animal Farm and 1984. Those books were both very well written and hard to put down, but they haunt me to this day. I can't say I enjoyed them. They are easily two of the most traumatic books I've ever read. But the stories and themes stick with me even as time passes. I say they had the biggest impact on me because they changed my overall perspective of humanity. They inspired me to do better and be better.
The book I learned the most from was Megan Abbott's YOU WILL KNOW ME. She really knows how to infuse suspense into a reading. It's been a great study for me.The book I couldn't put down was Don Winslow's THE FORCE. Oh my. You'll smile moments before you get pissed off and you'll want to shake someone's shoulders till they shut up and come around, but you'll never want to stop reading, especially after the final page.Two different kinds of impact, but both packed a wallop.
Bizarrely, the two books that have had the greatest impact on me this year are from a category I don't usually read; Young Adult.1) The Hate You Give. A great insight into contemporary race relations in the US, as well as being a genuinely entertaining and well written story.2) Every Day. This book BLEW MY MIND. The concept of an entity waking up in a different body everyday, and the way it was so cleverly executed, still sends shivers of bewilderment up my spine.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I actually first read it last year, finished one evening and immediately began reading it again. This year, I listened to the audio book twice and re-read it again. I still love it. I love the main char who is just plain nice, and who says things to himself like, "This is a poisonous pleasure; I had better not let myself get used to it." I love that there don't have to be wars and gore and evil darknesses for there to be an incredibly enthralling story. (I do read stories with wars and (some) gore and evil darknesses ... I'm just so pleased at how this one has none of those and yet is so good.) I love how race relations and politics and good morals and just plain common sense are snuck in, almost when you're not looking. And I love the use of language.
I decided to do some binge reading of non fiction picture books, because I had an idea for one, which i'm working on now. The one that has particularly stuck with me, is "Finding Winnie", about the true life story of the bear that helped inspire the Winnie the Pooh stories. Besides being a lifelong fan of Pooh Bear, the story made me think about how major decisions and events can be triggered by a completely random event, the kind that if you had been looking the other way, you would have missed it and everything would be different.Another book that really affected me is "This is What a Librarian Looks Like", by Kyle Cassidy. It's a photo essay with interviews with librarians, relating what it is they do and why they believe libraries to continue to be important in the age of the internet. There are longer essays by writers that talk about the impact libraries have had on their lives and their writing. It is one of the best books I've read this year. I think everyone should read it.
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