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What I'm Reading This Year (and Why You Should Too!)

As I'm sitting cuddled up post-holiday in my new fuzzy blankets and gnome pajama bottoms I'm feeling blissfully happy. Another year has come and I feel good about it. I'm enjoying these first peaceful moments of 2020 by admiring my Christmas tree (for the last time before I pack it away) while sipping my coffee. I have nowhere to go and no one who needs my immediate attention. It's the perfect ambiance for reading. Luckily, I received several new books that I can't WAIT to pour myself into.

What am I reading, you ask? That depends largely on a couple factors. Like all writers, I have a never-ending reading list. It varies in genre and is always growing due to new releases being published. I keep collecting and putting them on "the waiting list". I usually pick at random depending on what I'm in the mood for and how much I've been looking forward to reading it. Realistically, I probably won't be able to read all of what's on my list before I die, but I'll be damned if I don't give it my best shot!

Currently my goal is to read a book every two weeks. Sometimes that doesn't happen (for instance like during the holidays when life gets too busy), but I try my best to squeeze in a few pages when I get the chance. I'm also adding a new clause to my goal this year. I'm determined to further expand my knowledge of writing by working in materials on my craft and books in genres that I normally wouldn't choose to read.

I think as a writer it's easy to get caught up in reading in the genre that you write in. For example, I love writing fiction, so I mostly read fiction. And that's great when it comes to seeing what other writers in my niche are producing and for brainstorming my own ideas. What it doesn't do is give me a perspective that's the opposite of my own, and that's exactly what I think I need right now.

For me 2020 will be all about doing things that put me outside of my comfort zone. Admittedly this isn't an easy task, but I've come to recognize that this is the best way to grow. My goals this year are tools to help me grow as a person, in my career, and in my understanding of the world. Writing is a huge part of that, but so is reading. Below are the books on my reading list this year. I highly recommend checking them out for yourself if you're interested in expanding your own palette or simply looking for a good read.

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The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing: Everything You Need To Know To Create & Sell Your Work

In this 3rd edition by Writer's Digest, you'll receive advice from established writers about how to make your novel a reality. Packed with first-hand information about the industry, you'll find an abundance of helpful techniques for generating ideas, connecting with readers, finding inspiration, and marketing your book. The best part? Tons of essays from best-selling authors and publishing professionals explaining everything from mastering elements of fiction to finding an agent.

I'm excited to read this mostly because I love Writer's Digest and I'm looking forward to learning more about novel writing. It's a newer edition, so I know the advice is up-to-date. I think it's going to be a key piece to getting my own book done and published!

45 Master Characters: Mythic Models For Creating Original Characters

Victoria Lynn Schmidt makes understanding characters a breeze with her easy-to-follow guide to character archetypes. Learn how to craft compelling, complex, and original characters for your story from examples of established characters in literature, television, and film. Explore the break-down of each archetype and learn what makes each character tick from what they care about, to their fears, and how other character types view them.

I came across my copy in a second-hand bookstore. What attracted me to this book was the fact that it only focuses on characters. Most writing books seem to cover every topic imaginable to writing. I find it refreshing that this one is more in-depth on only one topic. I'm looking forward to using the examples here to create more dynamic characters.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

If your focus is on creating clean, compelling prose or nonfiction in general, William Zinsser's advice, clarity, and style will help you reach your goals. No matter what topic you want to write about, you'll find informative advice on how to do it here. Even if you're not writing nonfiction, it's still worth the read as it's heralded among writers everywhere for being generally helpful for honing your craft.

Picked largely due to its reputation, I couldn't ignore it even if I tried. I've been told multiple times throughout the years from my writing professors and peers that this is a MUST read, so I'm finally going to take them up on it and see what the all the fuss is about myself.

Stalking Jack The Ripper

Hot off the James Patterson JIMMY publishing press, this thrilling "whodunit" tale following protagonist Audrey Rose will take you down a suspense-filled journey of chilling twists and unsettling turns as she hunts down the infamous Jack the Ripper in Victorian-era London.

I'm BEYOND looking forward to reading this, as it's the first book picked to be published by James Patterson's new publishing company. I have high expectations for this novel and can't wait to see if it lives up to all the hype. As a huge crime genre fan, I'm also captivated by the story of the Ripper and look forward to seeing how his character evolves over the course of this book. I've also heard good things about Audrey's character being "modern" despite the time period she lives in.

Dangerous Women Anthology

A collection of short stories demonstrating some of the best and bravest females known across genre fiction. Edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, it features original works by Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon, Lev Grossman, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Brandon Sanderson, Sharon Kay Penman, Joe Abercrombie, Carrie Vaughn, and many more.

I can't wait to dive into this anthology! Not only am I curious to see what made it into this collection, but I'm also thrilled that a collection like this exists. It's a great way to see similar character types and be able to not only compare them, but to see what traits make the "cut" within the category of "dangerous women". I plan to use it to help me craft my own strong female protagonists, as I'm sure there will be awesome examples here.

Lily of the Nile

One of my favorite historical fiction writers, Stephanie Dray brings ancient Egypt to life in her Cleopatra's Daughter Trilogy. With the fall of her parents, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, Princess Selene must face the wrath of Rome alone. Determined to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers, she must navigate the intrigues of the Roman court where her heritage is reviled and her religion is heretical.

A tantalizing mix of history and vivid imagery, it's the perfect guilty-pleasure read for a lazy afternoon. I highly recommend reading anything Dray writes- I've read multiple works of hers and have never been disappointed. I also enjoy her lyrical style of writing and the structure of her settings, which is what my take-away from reading this will be.

Poems To Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology

I've always had a love/hate relationship with poetry, but one thing that I do like about it is its ambiguity. Every reader takes a different perspective away when they read a poem, but the beauty of poetry is that there is no right or wrong interpretation. I think the best way to take in this genre is to read several examples of it all in one place. To be able to see different styles and different themes (just in case one doesn't appeal to my personal tastes) so that I don't give up on reading it altogether.

That's why I've added this anthology to my list. It offers a wide variety of poetry written by famous poets such as John Keats, Pablo Neruda, Anne Sexton, William Bulter Yeats, Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Gluck, William Blake, and so many more!

I, Eliza Hamilton

A striking historical figure, Eliza Hamilton is the star of Susan Holloway Scott's historical fiction novel. A fascinating, strong-willed heroine in her own right, Eliza navigates the turbulent political period of the American Revolution while she supports her ambitious and charismatic husband, Alexander Hamilton. She maintains her grace through times of public scandal, betrayal, and heartbreak.

Her story has been in the back of my mind ever since Hamilton premiered on Broadway. I'm interested in peering behind the scenes at what life was like for her during the Revolutionary War and how her role affected history. I'm also curious to read about her relationships and all the scandal and drama that is sure to ensue. I feel like this will be a juicy story indeed!

Clockwork Boys

T. Kingfisher crafts an exciting tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar) who join together on an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. They must attempt to unravel the secrets of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom before they destroy the Dowager's city.

Sure to be an addicting read, this one was recommended to me by a friend. I'm curious to see how this adventure turns out for such an unusual grouping of characters. I'm quite found of heist-style plots and expect excitement, suspense, danger, and characters who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. I'm hoping to learn pacing and suspense-building.

The Confidence Man: His Masquerade

A conman boards a steamboat in Mississippi and takes on a multitude of disguises to swindle the passengers out of services and money, bringing forth the question of whether the swindler is a criminal or the devil himself. With a story that attempts to philosophically and aesthetically "pull the wool" over the reader's eyes, Herman Melville makes a satirical statement about the American Dream.

I chose this story for my reading list because it fits the theme of "outlaws and outcasts" that I've seen recently in today's literature. Since it was initially written in 1857, I'm reading the Norton Critical Edition because it provides more interpretations and insight. I'm looking to compare a classic take on a criminal with the more modern versions appearing today to see what the differences are and what works.

The Undoing Project

A testimony of two great men overcoming the uncertainty and limits of human reason, Michael Lewis tells the tale of Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their legendary partnership led to a revolution in Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, and led to a new approach to government regulation. Their Nobel Prize-winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality and made Lewis's own work possible.

This book will definitely take me outside my comfort zone. Not only is it a genre I wouldn't normally choose to read, it's also on a topic that I'm unfamiliar with. Both of those make it intriguing and slightly daunting. I'm not sure how I'll feel reading it, but I'm hoping the narrative will be strong enough to captivate my attention and I'm excited to learn more.

The Cruel Prince

A stunning dark trilogy written by Holly Black, a perfect read for those who are fans of magic and intrigue. When Jude's parents are murdered and she and her two sisters are stolen to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie, she grows up longing to be accepted by a magical race that despises humans. To win a place at court, Jude must challenge the faerie prince and suffer the consequences.

This one is honestly purely for my own entertainment, as this is the type of story I like best. I'm hoping to pick up some new narrative tricks. This story has a "darker" fantasy feel to it, similar to the works of Leigh Bardugo (one of my favorite writers). I'll be paying close attention to the stylistic choices, character development, and how the elements weave together. I'm also interested to find out how Faerie magic is presented in this story.

The Night Circus

Erin Morgenstern's mesmerizing tale of dueling love-struck magicians, Celia and Marco, will have the romantic in you sighing. With elegant displays of beauty one moment, and dangerous anticipation the next, prepare to be sucked into a world full of magic, forbidden love, and earth-shattering consequences.

Another book I think I'm really going to enjoy. Picked because of high recommendations and it's unique circus setting. I appreciate a good love-based plotline. I can't wait to get to know Celia and Marco as characters and to study what makes their relationship appealing. I'm ready to dive into the magic and get swept away by the luxurious setting and spellbinding narrative. A highlight for me will be to see a circus-themed story play out, as I've been wanting to write one of my own.

The Partner

A guaranteed page-turner! Patrick Lanigan returns to Mississippi to face the music of his trial after stealing ninety million dollars from his former law firm. After being on the run for four years and dodging various attempts to capture him, his enemies have finally succeeded. Now with his trial underway he must rely on a secret no one else knows...the truth.

This one sounds so good! I've heard that John Grisham is a fabulous writer, but have never read any of his books until now. This is also another genre outside of my norm that I'm challenging myself to try. As you can see, my copy of it is beat up and clearly second-hand, but I never turn away a good story based on the condition of the book itself.

The Dreamer's Pool

A captivating fantasy series that follows the adventures of a healer named Blackthorn and her former prison mate, Grimm. Juliet Marillier creates an enchanting, mythical tale with protagonists who rise above adversity with courage, ingenuity, and magic. In this installment, Blackthorn and Grimm are called to help Oran, prince of Dalriada, escape his disastrous nuptials to a woman who seems drastically different from the one he had been corresponding with.

Not going to lie, I picked this series at random while at Barnes and Noble. I'm intrigued by the fantasy elements and mysterious world-building going on here. I like the idea of a healer/prisoner duo running off and encountering different adventures, which is how I perceive this series to be. This is the first book and I'm not sure what to expect.

No matter what you choose to read in 2020, the point of the exercise is that you challenge yourself to do it. My personal goal is to commit to read a book every two weeks and I intend to see it through. By choosing books outside of my comfort zone I hope to expand my knowledge as a writer and dare you to do the same in the New Year!

What are you looking forward to reading this year? If you've read any of the ones on my list, what did you think?

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