Happy New Year and Merry Christmas and С наступающими праздниками and FUCK I HATE HOLIDAYS BECAUSE I WANT TO GET BACK TO WRITING AND READING, DAMMIT.
I had this idea. Actually, it was not my idea, you can blame Amanda Palmer. She started it. She wrote a blog post on books she read in 2014 and will read in 2015, and I was like, dude, I was thinking about posting something like that too! So here I go. After having thoroughly titivated myself, and, peeking in the mirror to make sure I look fucking pretty, I will drop this load of books on your head with obscure rapacious fervor―I'm just throwing random words here to sound fancy, you know, like a real writer―so you will squeal and cry and beg me for mercy. No mercy will be given, however. You bloody must read them all too. Well, no, don't. But at least check them out. You can get them all at the library or, if you want to buy them, consider doing it through your local bookstore or via IndieBound. They're all great folks trying to stay afloat in this turbulent sea of publishing wars, and your dollars will help them.
Well then, behold. I read a lot. Because reading it studying writing, as writing is practicing it. Yes, I have heard authors say that they can't read while they write. I call bullshit. This is biggest vat of steaming baloney I have every heard.
IF YOU DON'T READ, MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP ON WRITING.
You're not growing, not learning, you're staying stagnant in your own pathetic brain, if you don't read, and don't tell me you are some kind of a genius who doesn't need it. You aren't. Moreover, you need to learn to be humble to succeed, and arrogantly stating that reading books by others derails you from your own thinking is a sign of...how to say it politely...a brain the size of a nut. I can only tell you, GOOD LUCK, DARLING. Your books will gather dust in your sock drawer. And maybe that's where they should be.
Now, if you're still with me on how important reading is to writing, here is a little story for you, so you can understand my book choices better.
I've been only writing full time for 2+ years, so not long at all, and, on top of it, I have only been speaking English for 16 years or so. Therefore, I am on a mission to swallow as many books as you all have already read in high school, or when you were growing up, or suggested by friends. Books I haven't read. I am also on a mission to reread books I grew up on in English, to see how they sound (I'm still sometimes translating stuff in my head from Russian to English when writing). This is the answer to all my Russian friends on why I read Chekhov or Dostoyevsky in English. Because, bro, gotta know how to bloody translate better.
Okay, enough stories, here we go.
BOOKS THAT MADE MY 2014 (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, LINKED TO MY REVIEWS)
- Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. Bloody hysterical. I have started reading all Discworld novels (there are 40 of them, I believe), and this is only number 8, but I intend to read all 40. If you want to learn how to be funny, how to write funny, how to write parody, this is your man. Pratchett, I love you forever.
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. If you have never read this, do. Russian language entwined in the horror of the ultra-violent British boy Alex and his gang, raiding the streets for poor victims to beat up, to slash, to maim, and to rape. Coming of age gone wrong.
- Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. Fuck this, fuck that, fuck everything. No other fucking book fucking swears so fucking much with such fucking flair. Enter the world of drug addicts and a philosophical romp on the meaning of life. Sex, death, HIV, puddles of excrement and vomit, you got it all.
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Okay, if any of you are writing antihero novel, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. Enough said. (Although, beware of bloody super-gory torturous scenes of murders that will chill your blood.)
- The Stand by Stephen King. Epic doesn't get more epic than this, plus, Stephen King. Read it.
- Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. All writing is a series of sentences. This little book will unlock you and help you get through your fear of writing a book. Buy it and gift it to all your writing friends.
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. One of the masters of Russian literature newly translated and true to original Russian. Take it from me, I'm Russian. The search of one man for love. Heartbreaking and funny as hell (if you get Russian humor).
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This is a book you must read. It's all here. Sexism. Racism. Abuse. Rape. Violence. Oppression. The ugliness of human life and a one woman's way to find beauty in it, in the color purple. Stunning.
- The Road by Cormack McCarthy. Want to break writing rules? Want to learn how to strip story down to its bones? Want to experience poetry in prose? The love of father to son carries this darkness to light from page to page, across the barren road in the apocalyptic remains of America. I cried all the way through.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I have listened to this book on audio and have yet to reread it in text, but the story is so beautiful, and every sentence is such a gem, that it doesn't matter how you consume it. A book for all ages. And, of course, narrates from Death's point of view, what could be better?
- The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret. Any short story writers out there? YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. What authors say in 10 pages, Etgar packs into a sentence or two. He is a master of short prose, in my opinion. Read all of his work, and savor, and laugh. Yes, it's tragically funny.
- Matilda by Roald Dahl. Strong girl character? Fuck yeah! Forget Catwoman and Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander and the like. Matilda is it. I want to be like Matilda, a quiet girl with the brains to encompass the whole planet. And get ready for tissues, to wipe tears of laughter.
- The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Have I not screamed enough about how bloody important this book is? No? WELL I AM SCREAMING NOW. A glimpse into a private life of an artist and our struggle to ask for help. Beautiful and fragile. Read it.
- Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson. This is just one of the total 9 Moomin books, and you must read them all. This particular one is so funny, I got stomach ache. A gem of storytelling and humor.
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Prepare to cry. A lot. A tale of a retarded man turning genius as part of an experiment. It will break your heart. It will also teach you how to break a couple writing rules.
- The Magus by John Fowles. I must confess, I have a hard time reading thrillers, I don't usually enjoy them, but after reading this book I understood that I simply didn't read good thrillers until this one. Spectacular, mind-bending, sensuous, poetic. It will turn your brain inside out. Warning: has a couple torture scenes that are brutal and nearly made me sick.
What a lovely list of charming bedtime stories, don't you think? That is my brain for you. That is the stuff I like to read and, equally, to write about. Here is a list, a selection, rather, of books I plan to read in 2015. I have a list of 600+ of them on Goodreads, if you're curious, as well as the list of stuff I already read. These are the highlights.
- Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. My 11-year-old son told me I must. I will, Peter, I will! (He also told me to read Holes, which I did and loved.)
- The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. My boyfriend's 17-year-old son told me I must. So I will, Wyatt, thank you for suggestion.
- The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. New book by J.K. Rowling! Of course I will read it. Loved the first one in the series.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. One of those classics I will finally get my hands on.
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Yes, I will attempt to eat this beast in English after grinding my way through it in my teens in Russian.
- A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. This book had an important history behind it. It wasn't accepted by any publisher for 10+ years, and then it won a bundle of prizes. It's written in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, breaking all rules. Read it to learn how to do it.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison. Finally aim to read her brilliant work. Enough said.
- The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda. One of my new year's resolutions is to read more poetry. I have been neglecting it. And this was a gift from one of my friends, so I will read it and cherish it.
- Misery by Stephen King. No, I haven't read it. Yes, I am a Stephen King fan. No, I don't know how I missed it. I hear it's a must-read for every write, the struggles we have, the battles we fight. Well, it's on my bedside table. I AM GETTING TO IT.
- An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Heard so many great things about this novel and this author, am planning to read it.
- Also, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (haven't read him yet) and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Okay, I got lazy a bit at the end there. I read about 50-100 books a year, depending on the length and other annoying circumstances of life that tend to pull me away from reading. This is what I plan. Plans, deplorable bitches, tend to change. So, tell me in comments what you have read this year that blew your socks off, and what you plan to read. I'm always looking for great finds to bump to the top of my reading list.
And, next blog post will be about my best posts of 2014. Which tend to be things like how to write 4,000 words a day and how to write your first draft in 20 days and the like.