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Monday, December 16, 2013

Best Books of the Year

I didn't keep complete count of all the books I read this year, but at some point I estimated around 40 or 50--fiction, nonfiction, and unpublished. Here are the best books I read this year, in no particular order.

Fiction for Readers

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

 Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.

He failed.

For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor know as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Rule himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.

Read my review here. Or check it out on Amazon.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Read my review here. Or check it out on Amazon.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.

And then he meets a girl.

First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.

Read my review here. Or check it out on Amazon.

Some of the Other Books I Read

Fiction Books I Hope to Read Next Year

I'm trying to make an effort to read books from a variety of genres--even those I hardly ever touch. I usually go for the sci-fi and fantasy novels, so if you have recommendations in other categories, please tell me. In fact, if you have any recommendations whatsoever, please leave them in the comments.


High Fantasy

High Fantasy


Graphic Novel/Manga


Historical Fiction



Reads for Fiction Writers

The best books on writing I read this year.

Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

How do you create a main character readers won't forget? How do you write a book in multiple-third-person point of view without confusing your readers (or yourself)? How do you plant essential information about a character's past into a story?

Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by award-winning author Nancy Kress answers all of these questions and more!

This accessible book is filled with interactive exercises and valuable advice that teaches you how to:

Choose and execute the best point of view for your story
Create three-dimensional and believable characters
Develop your characters' emotions
Create realistic love, fight, and death scenes
Use frustration to motivate your characters and drive your story

With dozens of excerpts from some of today's most popular writers, Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint provides you with the techniques you need to create characters and stories sure to linger in the hearts and minds of agents, editors, and readers long after they've finished your book.

Read my review here. Check out the book on Amazon.

Hooked by Les Edgerton

The road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings. Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It's just that simple.

In Hooked, author Les Edgerton draws on his experience as a successful fiction writer and teacher to help you overcome the weak openings that lead to instant rejection by showing you how to successfully use the ten core components inherent to any great beginning. You'll find:

Detailed instruction on how to develop your inciting incident
Keys for creating a cohesive story-worthy problem
Tips on how to avoid common opening gaffes like overusing backstory
A rundown on basics such as opening scene length and transitions
A comprehensive analysis of more than twenty great opening lines from novels and short stories

Plus, you'll discover exclusive insider advice from agents and acquiring editors on what they look for in a strong opening. With Hooked, you'll have all the information you need to craft a compelling beginning that lays the foundation for an irresistible story!

For work, I have the opportunity to sift through slush piles (a.k.a. submission piles). It's hard to believe, but I've read only openings to over 1,000 stories. The advice in Hooked is very relevant.

Check it out on Amazon.

Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories.

In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.

Some of the advice in this book was so different than anything else I've read. It focused on the details of polishing fiction prose. I'm a thorough, detailed person, so I really liked what I got out of it.

Check it out on Amazon.

Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland

Bestselling author David Farland has taught dozens of writers who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

In this book, Dave teaches how to analyze an audience and outline a novel so that it can appeal to a wide readership, giving it the potential to become a bestseller. The secrets found in his unconventional approach will help you understand why so many of his authors go on to prominence.

My favorite part of this book are the "plotting tools," a list of techniques you can employ to raise tension and readers' interest in your story. That list alone is worth the $6.99. But there is more. David has a way of talking about and teaching writing that I haven't seen elsewhere.

Check it out on Amazon.

Some Other Books on Writing I Read

Books on Writing I Hope to Read Next Year

What books did you read this year? Any recommendations for me?

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