I love to cradle books in my arms, and to feel the flurry of pages brush against my fingertips.
I love the soft bend of a well-worn spine, like laugh lines or gray hairs at the temple. It’s a love that’s endured time.
I love lining the books up on my shelves in whatever way I’ve decided to organize them this time.
I love coming across a line I’d missed the hundred previous times.
I love to flip through pages and pages to find the hidden gems I vaguely remember from last time.
I love the smell of the pages and the worn covers.
I love finding a favorite book with a new design, and judging which cover I like best.
I love coming to a section that’s too suspenseful for me, and flipping ahead to read a line or two, to make sure I can take it.
I love twists and surprises. I love well-planned revenge. I love good guys winning. I love unrequited crushes. I love last laughs.
I love poetic metaphors and rarely used words. I love nouns as verbs, and adjectives that add depth. I love plots I can see and taste and feel. I love people I’ll miss when I close the pages.
I love reading and writing.
I love books.
One of my favorite questions that I am constantly asking and answering is: What should I read next?
I love getting book recommendations from friends, and I love giving recommendations. A friend of mind recently found this web site: http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/
Simply enter the name of your latest favorite book or author, and then choose the closest option from the drop down list. Then, the site gives you recommendations based on… science, maybe? Magic? I’m not really sure how it works, but it really works. That’s how I found John Green (based on my love of all things written by Markus Zusak). So it really works.
According to the web site, the next authors I should check out are: Paul Hautman and Maureen Johnson. I’ve never heard of Hautman, but I checked out his web site and some blurbs of his books and they look like they’re exactly the type of of thing I love. And I have this nagging feeling that I read something by Maureen Johnson (probably a short story… in a book with a John Green short story…), so that’s also a good sign.
Any other recommendations?
I love to read, and when I find authors I like, I devour their books. And sometimes, when I’m done devouring, I’m not so crazy about the authors anymore.
But there are two who have always brought their A-games. Always. And I strive to write the way they do:
I picked up I Am The Messenger by Zusak one day at the library, having heard nothing about the Aussie author. I got an audio version of the book, which only made the entire thing more enjoyable, since the actor who read the story (which took place in Oz) had an Aussie accent. I was hooked. Zusak’s description are phenomenal. I was filled with jealousy just listening to the story. So I listened a few more times, then made others listen, and then I went out and bought The Book Thief (so convinced was I that I would love it with all of my heart), which was even more amazing.
So then I read all of Zusak’s earlier young adult novels (Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Getting the Girl), which were great. I loved seeing how his writing matured. But don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that his early stuff is anything less than stellar. I’d kill to write like that. It was just fascinating to me to see how as time progressed, his plot lines became more intricate, his characters became more complicated and his writing stayed consistently magical.
So then I read Looking for Alaska by John Green. And I won’t lie: I do not like books that don’t end with a happy sigh and a big smile. Looking for Alaska is a difficult book with layers and layers of emotion woven into its pages. So I was explaining to a friend why I didn’t like it when I realized that no, I didn’t like it; I LOVED it. I was basically having an argument with myself during that whole twisted conversation with my friend. So then I read An Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson/Will Grayson, a short story in a collection of short stories, and finally Paper Towns. Wow. John Green is my hero. He writes exactly the stories I want to write. He creates exactly the characters I want to create. And he writes it better than I ever could.
At some point, a character in one of John Green’s stories mentioned The Book Thief by Zusak and I about fell off my couch. Could my two favorite writers be friends in real life? Yes, they could be. Green thanked Zusak in his acknowledgments which just makes me even more jealous. One day, when I am a famous writer (wishin’ and hopin’ and prayin’ and so on) I would love to acknowledge both of them in my acknowledgments section. It sounds weird, but it’s exactly the truth.