There are tons of things you can do in order to learn to write a novel, but two are paramount:
1. Write. (Duh.)
Last week I had two requests for new reads from friends in different situations—one for a church book club, and the other about to travel for a month for work. Some of my suggestions overlapped. I thought since we’re approaching a gift-giving time of year, I might share my full list of recommended reads.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows—Lovely, a quick read, lots of characters to fall in love with, and would be wonderful for discussion on books, friendship, finding one’s calling, and WWII—from a region you don’t hear much about in history class.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett—A young white woman, who feels at odds with the society she was brought up in, secretly writes about the black women her friends and the rest of her community employ as the “help.” The movie adaptation was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I LOVE THIS BOOK.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson—I do love The Help, but this is my favorite book of all time. An elderly Christian minister knows he is close to death, and so writes all he can about life—his life in particular, turns out—for his son to know as he grows up. It’s not exactly a letter; there are only line breaks, no chapters. It is beautiful. The author is a woman, but the male minister’s voice is so entrenched in his time, writing simply and insightful about such ordinary things as laughter and water. As he writes, he reveals more and more about something he needs to deal with before his life comes to an end, and it’s the best thing on forgiveness I’ve ever read. Again, my FAVORITE book of all time.
Matched (and then Reached, and then Crossed) by Ally Condie—I became obsessed with this YA trilogy a few months ago and flew through them. Smart, good romance, and a well-established world. Yum.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green—I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ve heard good things. I adored Paper Towns, but admittedly had trouble getting into Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Might not have been the right time for that one (mid-move).
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender—What if you could experience other people’s emotions, simply by eating food they’d prepared? Would it be a blessing or a curse? A dear friend and fellow writer recommended this book (the author is one of her favorites), and it was a great read—it moved well and gave me just enough to think about while on vacation a few years back.
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs—Something in this book subliminally convinced me to take up knitting. This book has everything I love about chick lit—excuse me, contemporary women’s fiction—drama, humor, and something to be kind of obsessive about. Unfortunately, I found the sequel less impressive.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini—I only read the first chapter in a bookstore, but I’m looking forward to diving into this at some point when I have a couple days to just get lost in a book. What a masterful writer.
BONUS: What’s on my Christmas list this year? The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth—The first volume of the memoir that inspired the BBC show Call the Midwife. (Anna Karenina might move over for this one, if I get some quiet time over the holidays!)
WRITING EXERCISE BONUS: Consider your favorite books and try to describe them in one line. This can be tough to do about your own project, so why not practice on someone else’s? Drop your recs and one-line descriptions in the Comments!