Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Recommend the Most

Recommending books can be stressful–especially when you’re continuously trying to win over converts to the “Written Word.” But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday assignment asks for our go-to recommendations and our commentary that go with them. Here are mine:

10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein - If you’ve wanted your whole life to read The Lord of the Rings but seem to never get around to it, try The Hobbit. Honestly, it’s my favorite of the 4. Is that blasphemous? It’s just a good time read with lots of adventure at a quick clip. And I’d choose Bilbo over Frodo any day.

9. Looking for Alaska by John Green – If you want to read another John Green book, but aren’t sure what, this is a good go-to. It won the Printz. It’s beautifully written with one of Green’s signature tropes. Basically, you won’t regret it.

8.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – If you love dogs you have to love this! Even people that hate to read love Art of Racing in the Rain. Plus it’s relatively short so people will fly through it unexpectedly.

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - So much less fluffy than it sounds. Perfect beach read. Perfect read period. Especially if you’re contemplating any European travel.

6. Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – Literary zombie book. I mean, even the title, right?

5. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – such a great high concept premise, it sells itself. Suicide note, a message for each person that contributed to said suicide on each side of the cassette tape. I read this in one sitting. A great YA read for our generation of YA.

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth – If looking for high action and want to get on the YA dystopian bandwagon, this is a great place to start. You and your friends will be talking about which faction you belong to for weeks.

3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – This is my writer girl crush. This book is so unexpectedly good. Honestly, you wouldn’t expect a Groundhog’s day premise to take on such meaning. But Oliver captures high school perfectly. It’ll certainly bring back memories–though maybe not fond ones.

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Unreliable narrators, a dissection of relationships, plus a thriller. Unputdownable

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – If you don’t cry during this you may be a robot.

Nerds Like Us

My friend, Jen Hayley, alerted me to this completely amazing quote from author John Green.

‎”Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff…
Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like
jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when
people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like
stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too
enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

Man, how true is that? So for Friday, here are the five things that I am jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-myself excited about because, for the record, John Green, I am totally enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness. I am.

1. Harry Potter. Duh. And it IS Harry Potter 7 release week. So, what have I been doing, you wonder? Listening to MuggleCast, of course. Yes, that’s right, a weekly podcast dedicated to Harry Potter despite the fact that there are no more Harry Potter books forthcoming. Mugglenet? Undeterred. Oh yeah, and in case you missed it, I also already made the trek to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

"I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."

2. Sci-Fi Classics. If real love is watching the 4.5 hour Dune mini-series, I have it. Because as far as I’m concerned, the SciFi channel had it right. You never can get too much Paul Atreides (Muad’Dib, if you’d rather). You just can’t. And I’m pretty sure I deserve some sort of prize for making through all five in the Children of the Mind series. Where did Bean go, Orson? Where?? Other notables: Foundation, Stranger in a Strange Land, Wrinkle in Time.

 

"If wishes were fishes we'd all cast nets." - Gurney Halleck

3. Lord of the Rings. Little known fact: I’ve read The Hobbit 12 times. Twelve times, people. Plus, I went through that wonderful stage where I thought I was going to learn Elvish and I made a concerted effort until I read Silmarillion and it decided to both kill and enlighten my soul. Don’t even get me started on The History of Middle-Earth.

"Stupid, fat hobbit."

4. Famous Crimes. Alright, whatever, I didn’t want to bold “serial killers.” I know a lot about serial killers. However, I also know a lot about gangs, street families, and what it’s like to live in prison. I have seen every episode of Gangland and MSNBC Lockdown/Up and have read a truly startling number of articles and true crime. Also, I once got really passionate and thought I’d write to people on death row. Turns out they aren’t just looking for people to write them letters…

5. Zombies. Not surprising since this first fell within the category of natural disasters, one of the two categories of movies in which no bad films have ever been made (namely, Natural Disaster & Dance movies).  Zombies are great and once, in Dawn of the Dead, they made a Jay Leno zombie and, as you know, this combines two of my all-time favorite loves. You know what’s great about zombies? They just lumber on toward you and then by sheer numbers win. And you’re always thinking, why didn’t someone nip this problem in the bud before there were, like, a million zombies? We’ll never know. Another great thing is that people start relating zombies to consumerism and whatnot when really I think zombies are only around to eat brains.

"Great minds taste alike."

Recommend Responsibly Part 2: A Book for Everyone

 

As promised, we’re discussing what books to recommend and to whom. Reading isn’t one size fits all and, as writers (or readers) who want to support the book industry, we know we need to recommend responsibly. We do that by encouraging so-called  “non-readers” to read and thus, hopefully, converting them into at least occasional book-buyers. But, we can’t do this by impressing non-readers with our love for dense, flowerly prose or by insisting that they’ll love whatever genre we write in. Or by peddling every book we love. We recommend books like we give presents–we think of the recipient.

Rule Number Two: We ditch the snobbery. A lot of writers aren’t fond of celebrity authors. Who can blame them? Here we are working our bums off, fighting through rejection, and in walks Lauren Conrad with a three book deal. But BIG books, like these celebrity books sell. People like them. We *want* publishers to make money so they can take risks on other manuscripts. So, if you think your Aunt Matilda would like to read Maureen McCormick’s new book, then get it for her, or recommend it! No worries.

Ok, so I’ll need y’alls help making this list, but I’m going to try to start thinking of types of people and what types of books they like. When it’s done I’ll add it to the books I recommend page.

 

Middle School girl: Beacon Street Girls, Savvy by Ingrid Law, The Floating Circus by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter

Middle School boy: Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick, The Wishlist by Eoin Colfer, The Giggler Treatment by Roddy Doyle, Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

High School girl: Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones, The City in The Lake by Rachel Neumeier, Shift by Jen Bradbury, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

(If looking for non-edgy-Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

High School boy: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

College girl: The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes, Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin, Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

College boy: Foundation by Isaac Asimov, Lolita by Nabokov, John Adams by David McCullough, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner

30s-40s-50s women: The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn, Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen

30s-40s-50s men: American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis, Marley and Me by John Grogan, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

 

For the Southern fic reader: Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

For the no-nonsense, none of that fantasy junk reader: Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

For the historical fiction lover: The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck

For the hopeless romantic: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

For the woman growing up: Eat Love Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert

For the why-would-I-read-fiction-unless-I’m-learning-something reader: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

For the vampire lovers (adult): Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

For the vampire lovers (young adult): House of Night by P.C. and Kristin Cast

For the celebrity gossip lover: Confessions of An Heiress

For the lawyer: One L by Scott Turow

For the guy searching for the meaning of life: The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

For the I-Miss-Harry-Potter reader: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

 

Ok, wow, that was exhausting! I’m sure I’ll think of more later. But help me out!

Topical Tuesday: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda–The book I Wish I Wrote

As readers of this blog know, at the end of every interview I ask: “If you could have written one book that has already been published by someone else which book would it be?”

So for this week’s Topical Tuesday, Jay suggested we ask this of ourselves.

Immediately, I found myself pleading for what every interviewee asks, “Can I pick two? Please?”

But, I’m putting my foot down. I will not pick two. Here are the additional stipulations so that you can play along:

1. The choice may not be influenced by how much money you would have made had you written that book.

2. The choice can be a book within a series, but cannot be the entire series lumped into one.

At first I thought Harry Potter. And not because of the money, but because of the fun those books brought to people’s lives and the joy kids as well as adults found in reading them. Also, I really loved the world-building.

Then, I thought The Hobbit, because, well, it’s my favorite book. But…no dice.

If I could have written any book, I would choose…(drum roll, please)…

 

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

 

I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably like, “Say what? You write YA, your first thought was that you wanted to write Harry Potter and then maybe The Hobbit, and then you go and choose Styron!”

It’s ok. You can be disappointed in me because I went all pompous-Pulitzer-Prize-winning-literary on you…And that is sooooo not me. But wait! I have reasons why. I swear! I’m not just a snob!

Here’s why I wish I wrote Confessions of Nat Turner:

1. I’m super patriotic and this book is profoundly American. It covers a pivotal part of our history as a country even if it is the equivalent of casting a spotlight on our dirty drawers.

2. The writing took my breath away. Yes, I’m using a cliche, but I’m not using hyperbole.

3. Gray characters. Styron took a lot of flack for portraying many of the slaves in the story as not good people and many of the slave owners as halfway heroes. However, there were also slaves who were good people and slave owners who weren’t. That’s life. And much of his point is that the institution of slavery brought out the best in no one.

4. The entire book, I was upset by how Styron portrayed God. Big, fearsome and out for revenge. Then, FINALLY, on the very, very last page, the reader got to see something different. And Styron, through Nat, revealed a different angle. It was refreshing and, what is more interesting–this view was personified throughout the story by a white girl.  

5. Nat is a compelling narrator, though not always a sympathetic one.

 

I could go on, but really, you should just read it. I can only hope that one day Mr. Styron’s ghost will sprinkle some of his magic, writing fairy dust and then I can create a story equally beautiful.

 

Now, for the fun part! Which book would you have written? Reminder: Every comment you make will enter you in the drawing to win one of three hardback copies of Heather Terrell’s The Map Thief!

Can’t get enough Topical Tuesday? Check out Ideas and Execution in Book Packaging and Brand Yourself.

 

Status: Last night, I read half of The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart. I’m loving it so far. It’s really cute and, for a first person narrative, is framed wonderfully. I talked a lot last night with SCOUT’s artist and I love the vision he has for Scout. She is modeled after an actress who I wouldn’t call A-list but who is perfect for the part. And I wouldn’t have thought of her in a million years!

The artist has been out-of-town but soon he will be sending me some more of his work. I’ve already seen sneak peeks! So, as you might guess…I’m writing SCOUT today! And the audition for the video game company.

Middle Earth and Me

I know you have all been waiting on pins and needles for me to reveal my favorite book, so, because I’m a nice person, I’ll make you wait no longer. My favorite book is…

THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkein.

I thought it’d be incredibly difficult to narrow it down to one favorite book and, don’t get me wrong, I love love love about a zillion books. But The Hobbit started it all. My dad first gave me The Hobbit to listen to as a book-on-tape during a drive from Dallas to Colorado. Though I’d only been on the planet six short years, I could definitely say that that novel was the coolest thing…ever…to have existed. And it was.

After that, I listened to the book every night before bed. Following my discovery of The Hobbit, I suppose my parents got off easy on the whole bedtime story thing.

I promptly acquired the book–an old paperback edition with a map I loved drawn in the front. I tried to move onto the trilogy, but the later books were a bit hard for me at the time. So, I read The Hobbit 12 times. Count ‘em. Twelve. Until I was able to read the rest of the books in the trilogy and just about every other book that had anything to do with Lord of the Rings–including the very dry and slow-moving Silmarillion.

Anyway, The Hobbit showed me what reading should be. Becoming engrossed in another world is what we readers live for and I’ve never gotten over my love affair with the experience. We can only hope, as writers, to someday give others the feeling of total immersion and complete entrancement by words typed on a page.

These days, I’m still a huge SciFi/Fantasy geek. I’ll never give that up. I’ve read the classics of both genres such as LOTR and Dune and moved past those into the Harry Potters and Enders Games of the world.

What is your favorite genre and why??

 

For more  posts on the writing process, check out these posts: 10 Things to Look for in a Small Press and 7 Ways to Beat the Block

 

Status: I’m back from Ohio and am spending one more day in DC to get a few things done before I head back to Philly and pack up for good. Last night I finished Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast. I’ve already moved onto the second book of the House of Night series, Betrayed. I’ll review Marked this Saturday because I think for those that aren’t loving the Twilight saga, the House of Night series might do just the trick. (There’s a less angsty teenage lead who is a kickass heroine in her own right and a heck of a lot more action.)

I just got another agent request for WEIRD TATTOOS. It feels strange for those requests to come in when I’m so engrossed in my next project, but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be. No complaints here!

Today is another day to buckle down on SCOUT. I have an outline as to how many pages should be devoted to which scene, etc. So we will see how that goes. I have a detailed synopsis as well, so that will help. I’ll also be doing some work on the blog today. I’m going to add some descriptions to the books listed on the “Books I Recommend” page and do a few administrative tasks.