Books you should read to improve your writing (Part 2)
1. The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Aspect this book will teach you: AMAZING WORLD-BUILDING
Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons who were hatched weak and deformed by a river turned toxic. If neglected, the creatures will rampage–or die–so it is decreed that they must move farther upriver toward Kelsingra, the mythical homeland whose location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories. Thymara, an unschooled forest girl, and Alise, wife of an unloving and wealthy Trader, are among the disparate group entrusted with escorting the dragons to their new home. And on an extraordinary odyssey with no promise of return, many lessons will be learned–as dragons and tenders alike experience hardships, betrayals … and joys beyond their wildest imaginings. (Goodreads summary)
Honestly, it blows my mind that anyone could have created the world in this series. The way the world is set out, the cultures and ways of living, the unique trade, the creatures, the history, the motivation of the characters, and the prejudices the characters have to face are all tied in so well together. This series offers a completely different world that still manages to be realistic AF. I would definitely recommend this series.
2. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Aspect this book will teach you: REALISTIC FIRST PERSON POV
Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons. Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow. Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own. (Goodread summary)
The way in which Lauren Beukes tells the story through her protagonist’s perspective is so realistic that you manage to forget that Zinizi is only a fictional character. The ways in which things are described, the main character’s attitude and the way in which the city of Johannesburg is represented through Zinzi’s eyes is stunningly contemporary and accurate.
If you want to learn how to write a modern character’s POV with realistic humour and pessimism, this book is for you.
3. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Aspect this book will teach you: CREATING BELIEVABLE MAGIC SYSTEMS
Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands… (Goodreads summary)
The Inheritance Cycle will forever be one of my favourite book series. This is partly due to the fact that Eragon was the first fantasy book I read where the magic system made complete sense to me and was believable. The way in which the toll magic takes is described, as well the main character’s journey to becoming a powerful magic-wielder are done so well. It is well worth the read.
4. Half Bad by Sally Green
Aspect this book will teach you: BREAKING THE RULES OF WRITING LIKE A BADASS MF
Wanted by no one. Hunted by everyone. Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves? Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive. (Goodreads summary)
I absolutely adore the way this novel (and the whole series) is written. Green has some chapters that are only a word long, pages of only punctuation marks, sections where the POV is unclear etc. She breaks all the rules we were taught to follow and it makes the book all the better. Green uses language and form in ways that I would never have thought of to convey her characters’ emotions and it is an amazing experience to read how she does this.
5. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Aspect this book will teach you: ALLEGORY DONE RIGHT
Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Published in 1945, this powerful satire of the Russian Revolution under Stalin remains as vivid and relevant today as it was on its first publication. (Goodreads summary)
As you can see from the blurb above, this book uses a deceptively simple story line to comment on political problems. The way this novel uses allegory and satire is iconic. If you want to learn about commenting on politics or other world issues in an ironic and unique way, give this book a read. It’s a very easy and short read - so, do yourself the favour.
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Hello from Tokyo, where we're behind barricades, waiting for Armageddon. I mean, Typhoon Hagibis. Good opportunity to write to you. 1) Was the cinema scene with you and David Tennant filmed in The Labia Theatre in Cape Town? 2) Was the Nazi church scene also filmed in Cape Town? May I ask where? PS: Yes, I'm originally from Cape Town, where I read Good Omens for the first time. Thank you for many years of joy.
Good luck. I hope it goes okay for you, and for Japan.
1) It wasn’t (It was the Joseph Stone Auditorium). But the Gavotte was filmed at the Casa Labia cultural centre. (And Amanda went to see films at the Labia with Lauren Beukes when she was with me in Cape Town.)
Nothing is infinitely reducible. You can split an atom but you can’t vaporize it. Stuff sticks around. It clings to you, even when it’s broken. Like Humpty Dumpty. At some point you have to pick up the pieces. Or walk away. Don’t look back.
These are my favorite books up to this moment (Updated: 9/8/17) - I’m positive there will be more to come and there are probably many that I’m forgetting. The links to purchase these titles are included.