This December we’ll take a look at must-read YA fiction. First up, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.
Haunting, surreal, and beautifully written, Imaginary Girls is one of my favorite novels. Not one of my favorite YA novels, but one of my favorite novels ever.
Two years after sixteen-year-old Chloe discovered classmate London’s dead body floating in a Hudson Valley reservoir, she returns home to be with her devoted older sister Ruby, a town favorite, and finds that London is alive and well, and that Ruby may somehow have brought her back to life and persuaded everyone that nothing is amiss.
Read this, please. And every other novel by the incomporable Nova Ren Suma. You will not be disappointed.
To close out our series of November posts on writing and creativity, I’d like to share my personal favorite, On Writing by Stephen King:
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer. Indispensable.
To continue our November blog series on writing on creativity, the most thumbed-through book on many writers’ desks, Bird by Bird:
An excerpt from the book:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
This November, I’d like to share books about writing and creativity. Up first, Big Magic by the incomparable Elizabeth Gilbert:
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy. (From the publisher.)
A Happy Marriage is the story of Enrique Sabas and his wife Margaret, alternating between the first three weeks of their acquaintance and the bittersweet final weeks of Margaret’s life as she says goodbye to her family, friends, and children. Laced throughout with intimate recollections of moments of crises and joy from the middle years of their relationship, the novel charts the ebb and flow of marriage, illuminating the mysteries and magic of marital love. Neither sentimental nor cynical, and written with an intense devotion to character and emotional suspense, A Happy Marriage reveals a partnership that brings maturity and great pleasure to the lives of two people. Bold, elegiac, and stunningly vivid, A Happy Marriage will break every reader’s heart–and perhaps infuse some marriages with greater love.*
*Lovely synopsis taken from the publisher. I could not have written it better.
For more novels exploring marriage, check these out:
Life Drawing by Robin Black
The Violet Hour by Katherine Hill
The Odds by Stewart O’Nan
This smart and funny debut has been described as “equal parts Fight Club and Bridget Jones’ Diary.” The story of a reclusive young woman named Plum Kettle who is saving up for weight loss surgery when she gets drawn into a feminist guerilla group called “Jennifer.”
For more clever and current satires, check these out:
Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark
Rant by Chuck Pahalniuk
The Blondes by Emily Schultz
Five amateur bakers are competing in a pastry competition, each with a lot to gain with a win and even more on the line to lose. A sweet, character driven novel that tells universal human stories against the backdrop of competitive baking. Delightful!
For more deliciously decadent books that take place in the kitchen, check these out:
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
A City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
I have been drawn to the unbelievable story of Ernest Shackleton and his 27 member crew since middle school. If I was able to choose the person or topic I wanted to write about I inevitably picked the near-miraculous journey by Shackleton and a skeleton crew through over 850 miles of the South Atlantic’s heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization. I still return to Alfred Lansing’s account of the heroic expedition every 5 or so years. Not to be missed.
For more true life adventure stories, check these out:
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read
A story that “vividly captures how the bonds of womanhood are pitted against the divisions of class and culture.” Sera Dubash is an upper-middle-class housewife who devotes herself to caring for her pregnant daughter and son-in-law. Bhima has worked as a domestic servant for the Dubash family for over twenty years, pinning her hopes to escape the slums on her granddaughter Maya, a university student. But when Maya becomes pregnant and will not reveal who the father is, all of Bhima’s planning and hope for her family’s future may be lost forever.
For more books set in/about Bombay/Mumbai, check these out:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (nonfiction)
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
The Mosquito Coast is the story of a man, Allie Fox, who uproots his family from their Massachusetts farm in order to start a new life in the jungles of Central America. We are told Allie and his family’s story through the eyes and voice of his 14yo son Charlie–a boy who watches as his father becomes more obsessive and less tied to reality.
For more books frequently found on high school reading lists that won’t bore you to tears, check these out:
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Beach by Alex Garland
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut