By now the world should know that I love words! I love ’em to bits! I was once challenged that if I wanted to really develop my writing in the genre of my choice I should read 100 books by other authors in that genre. Now here is the problem, I don’t yet know exactly which genre I want to write in. Yikes! And secondly how will I find the said 100 books?
So I’ve decided to list my most beloved and best books ever and reflect on how the particular book has informed my writing or inspired me in some way!
Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less- Jeffery Archer
This has got to be my favorite Archer book! Such riveting writing and funny and cool and cunning! The plot is essentially four men get conned by the same man and they hatch a sweetly diabolical plan to get their money back…not a penny more, not a penny less! Oh and it appeals to my freakish attachment to number and order.
From this book I learn the importance of making my characters extraordinary while at the same time building a believable context around them so that the reader takes a leap of faith with them and cares just as deeply about them.
Twelve Red Herrings- Jeffery Archer
Another classic by the main man himself! It is an anthology of 12 stories that will flip your mind upside your head with the twists and turns. I love reading this book many years later because as much as I know the sneaky red herrings he drops in there I cant help but follow.
The ability to engage a reader immediately, make them understand the plot, tease them a little and sign out just as quickly is the lesson here.
11 Minutes- Paulo Coelho
Hahaha I love how the titles are numbers counting back! Ok so aside from that, this is a deeply honest look at a taboo subject (sex) and profession (prostitution) in such an open and respectful manner I just cant help but wish I had a fraction of Paulo’s wisdom. He is a teacher before he is a writer and that is amazing.
His understanding of the world and his fearless nature are things that I can only hope to gain with time. But I learn that I should welcome different perspectives in order to awaken a true understanding of the dark parts of the human experience.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- J.K Rowling (It was the first HP I ever read!)
Its not exactly how one ought to jump into a story in a series. I had absolutely no idea of who Voldermort was but by page two I was rooting against him!And when ‘Hairy Potatoes’ came into the picture wah I was so envious of him! Well aside from the really evil and powerful wizard after him , I was truly envious of the Boy-who-lived!
Kudos to J.K. Rowling for creating such a believable world and tapping into that part of all of us that believes in the magic of Magic! Just like Tolkein before her I learn that as much as you can make up a world of green creatures speaking the made up language of ‘Yetrhtrhbfb’ there is a need for a lot of creativity but A LOT MORE of research needs to occur.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-J.K Rowling
Oh the tragedy of it all, the brutal and sometimes poetic deaths of my favourite characters (she went killing them softly in the previous two books) 🙁 but… such a fantastic level of writing and thinking that went into tying up all loose ends for all the loyal readers both young and old across the globe!
If ever I get to the level that J.K. Rowling has gotten to, well hot damn I will write that last book with such feeling!
White Oleander- Janet Fitch
I have a habit of buying books that are ‘poured’ on the streets by hawkers but it is always a hard cover book and must cost me nothing more than 50 bob. Its like some sort of Russian roulette where more often than I get a literary ‘yawn’ bullet..a really boring book! This is one of those books that was a blessing to find. It is what is termed as a ‘coming of age’ book where a character grows right in front of the reader’s eyes.
I love stories that are driven by characters, stories where the settings fall away and let the character shine. I love that. I strive for that.
Purple Hibiscus- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Going hand in hand with the ‘coming of age’ theme in White Oleander is this amazing work by a Naija sista oh! Another wonderful side to both these books is the colorful language they employ. Oh such magic and texture and poetry you could just die for how they describe the littlest of things, the deepest of thoughts, the most painful of feeling…
Again, I bow at their awesomeness and pray to reach that level of story telling.
The Runaway Jury-John Grisham
Grisham and Archer are what people term as formula writers. Their stories stick to a set scheme and in some ways are predictable. Archer writes the ‘Kaka sungura’ (cunning hare) tales where the character will do something ‘naughty’ get caught and will learn a lesson. That is my opinion though it doesn’t always describe his work. Grisham on the other hand writes the courtroom dramas which we all know from years of Ally McBeal,The Practice et al is all legal even with all the spice!
That doesn’t mean that it is not exciting to be a formula writer, no sire!It means that you always have a compass leading you back to the path home. It also allows your reader to have some sort of orientation with your first work and not need a second telling! Very cool if you ask me!
Things fall apart- Chinua Achebe
What can one say about a book published in the 30’s that is still as powerful and inspiring this many many decades later? That is the mark of good writing..ever green.Achebe celebrates is proud of his culture and quite evident in his writing. I love the Igbo sayings and dream about eating fufu and okra soup because he pulls you into his world and captures your attention fully. I love it! Many nights I sat up in my dorm room reading and re-reading this classic.
Write with courage, get into the subject matter boldly and be smart about your writing-allude to big things with the smallest of gestures. That’s the greatest lesson I go learned-oh!