You can’t be a writer without being a reader. Books feed the imagination and shape you into an author. They are the best teachers you’ll ever have.
Always an avid reader, I’ve found it difficult to read as much as I would have liked in the past year. Between writing my novel and caring for my daughter, my forehead is black and blue from getting hit by my Kindle as I fall asleep mid-sentence in the evening. I almost considered covering it in bubblewrap to make it less of a hazard.
If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you’ll know I’m in the process of querying agents. Last week I even received my first full manuscript request. Yeah me!
While I wait for answers, I finally have time to reconnect with reading, my first passion. This post is about my favorite books and how reading them made me a writer.
Here are the 5 books that have inspired me most as an author:
1) The Life of an Unknown Man, Andrei Makine:
A frustrated Russian writer meets an old musician in Saint Petersburg. The old man, Volsky, confides in him.
What ensues is a tale of lost and found love, of Volsky’s hardships during the Leningrad Siege, of courage and the secret of true happiness.
The Life of an Unknown Man is the kind of novel that haunts you long after you’ve closed the book, one that resonates within your soul and makes you aspire to literary greatness.
It could hardly be more different than what I write, but what I’ve tried to keep from this novel is Makine’s talent at capturing universal emotions in a few simple words.
Whether it’s something as simple as the truth about motherhood or the will to live stronger than any hardship, it’s the universality of the feeling that will suck the reader in and make him relate to your story.
2) The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch:
God is disappointed with the human race. He wants his stone tablets back. His angels manipulate many generations in order to create the man they need to accomplish God’s task.
The Discovery of Heaven is a story of love and friendship, a great saga depicted over nearly a century. Fate is ineluctable and will exact its price on the people designed to play a part in its plans without mercy. In the great scheme of things, humans are mere puppets and their feelings amount to too little to be taken in consideration.
What I keep from this novel: There is nothing trivial or pointless in your characters’ actions. Every step they take pushes the narrative forward. The characters are all connected in the story. Each individual action forms the narrative web and together they constitute a novel.
3) Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling:
Harry Potter needs no introduction. Its success has reached the ears of practically everyone.
The series is the perfect example of imagination unbound. People need to dream, they want to believe in the impossible, which explains the success of the books.
It’s a great reminder to a writer that nothing is off limits and as long as the world of the story is thoroughly built, it will come to life – no matter how unbelievable it may seem.
4) One for the money, Janet Evanovich:
Stephanie Plum is your average girl in her twenties. No steady job, no boyfriend, and a very invasive family. Needing to make rent, she blackmails her cousin Vinnie to give her a job as bounty hunter for his bail bond agency. She’s the least able for her job which leads to a series of laughed out loud situations.
My mother, my elder sister and I started the novel at the same time, almost twenty years ago. We barely left our rooms in the chalet we had rented for the holidays, too ensconced in our reading.
What I remember most vividly was our three voices erupting in laughter at regular intervals and marveling at how great it must be to stir up such joy with a book, what power it is to lift readers up from their every day concerns and put a smile on their faces instead.
The element of comedy in all my stories comes from One for the Money and the books that followed in the series.
5) Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding:
Another single gal trying to figure her life out. Bridget is thirty, she hates her job and she’s afraid she’ll die alone, eaten by cats. She writes a diary to tell the truth about Bridget Jones, the whole truth, and hopefully find a way out of a life of singledom.
I loved this book for its sincerity. Bridget is far from being your typical romantic heroine, which is precisely why she connected with so many women readers. She smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, she’s a little overweight, she has no control over her life and she always falls for the wrong guys – like most women I know. She’s universal and relatable.
What I’ve learned from Bridget Jones’s Diary: Flaws are good, they are what makes a character human. Flaws will develop empathy from the reader and make him care about your heroine. The reader will root for her success and her personal growth will be even more remarkable for her initial difficulties.
I wouldn’t be who I am as an author without any of these books and many more that I unfortunately don’t have time to list. I’m grateful for their authors and their genius.
Please, share! As writers, what are the books that have shaped you into an author? As readers, what are your favorite books and why?