Since I’m not at home where I can just look at my bookshelf and see all I’ve read over the past year, I’m doing quite a bit of this through memory and various websites I’ve posted book reviews on. Don’t be surprised if I have to make changes later, but meantime I think this list will work just fine:
Favorite How-To Book:
I read several this year, including The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell and Story Structure De-Mystified, by Larry Brooks, but I have to say my absolute favorite is The Writer’s Survival Guide to Getting Published, by Terry Burns. Okay, yes–part of the reason I chose this is because it was my first major editing job for Port Yonder Press, but don’t dismiss it because of that. This book is a true gem for those who are ready to send their babies out for publication.
Favorite Read from Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction Bibliography:
In case you don’t remember, I made a resolution for 2010 to read all the books Maass used as examples in his how-to. Of course, I didn’t succeed–but not because I didn’t try. I just didn’t realize how big of a task I was taking on! Anyway, from among the ones I read and loved (including Red Leaves, by Thomas H. Cook; Company Man, by Joseph Finder; While I was Gone, by Sue Miller), the best was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This book is incredible on so many levels, it would take several posts to cover them all. I can’t recommend The Road to anyone who likes happy, upbeat books, but for any serious student of the craft, this one should be on their reading list.
Favorite Book Written by a Friend:
I try to support my friends by buying and reading their books. Among the folks I’m privileged to call “friend” are some seriously talented people. Without a glance at my bookshelf to help me remember, I do know I read Billy Coffey’s Snow Day, Tommy Lyn’s Tugger’s Down, and John Robinson’s Heading Home. But my favorite is the e-book, Jefferson’s Road: The Spirit of Resistance, by Michael Scott. Granted, I’ve had the honor of being one of Michael’s critique partners, so I know the quality of his writing, but this one is exceptional. Jefferson’s Road is a cerebral book–the action is in there, but the tension is mostly derived from the mission set before the main character: The temptation is great, the argument is solid–but will the MC accept the task and assassinate the president? The book addresses the question, “What happens when angry Americans act upon that anger?”
This is new for me because I rarely take the time to read the classics–after all, I majored in English back when the emphasis was on examining the classics rather than writing one, and I pretty much had my fill of classic literary fiction. Thirty years have passed since I got my degree, and I find I’ve missed out by not staying with it. Anyway, I only read one classic this year, Show Boat, by Edna Ferber. Edna’s book was fascinating in a variety of ways–her descriptions were always intense and delightful; the fact that she jumped around like an uncontrolled Time Traveler and still managed to make sense surprised me; the differences in American culture between then (Show Boat was published in 1926) and now are astounding. The book is almost entirely composed of purple prose, so it’s not for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Favorite Book Written by an Established Christian Author:
Again, I’m at a disadvantage because I can’t see my library, but the last three books I remember which were written by established Christian authors were Burn, by Ted Dekker (audio edition), Wonders Never Cease, by Tim Downs, and The Centurion’s Wife by Jeanette Oke and T. Davis Bunn (I also have Piercing the Darkness, by Frank E. Peretti, but I haven’t finished yet). I can definitely see the attraction for Dekker fans–what an intense book!–but I have to say my favorite was The Centurion’s Wife. I love the way the authors wove a story that included historical characters I’m familiar with, and the way they brought the setting to life. Also, since I’m currently coauthoring a book with a friend, a man from “back east,” I enjoyed seeing how two opposite-gender people created a seamless story where all the characters were believable.
Favorite Book Written by an Established Secular Author:
This is a toughie for me not only because I’m not at home, but because I didn’t get to read too many books that weren’t read for a purpose–i.e. study, editing, etc., so I didn’t get to read some of my favorite authors and genres. The bulk of what I read this year, whether fiction or nonfiction, was for study. The books that fit into this category (of those I can remember offhand) were Melancholy Baby, by Robert Parker, The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks, and Cat & Mouse, by James Patterson. My favorite of these was Cat & Mouse. Patterson’s writing style wouldn’t survive some of the critiques I’ve been subjected to, but no one can deny his ability to weave a suspenseful tale. He kept me on the edge of my seat to the extent I often overlooked some of the things that would draw my ire in the writings of lesser authors.
I’ll save my 2010 All-’Round Favorite Book for when I can see all the ones I read. That’s one decision that shouldn’t be made blindly!
For the legal eagles who spy on personal blogs, here’s the disclaimer: I bought all the books listed above except one. Although one was a work project (Writer’s Survival Guide), I bought the final edition and had the author sign it. Two were gifts, and of these I bought one (Snow Days) and gave the other away (Wonders Never Cease).