As National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) wraps up, you might ease up on the writing for a while. Maybe you want to start editing your story, or maybe you want to take a break from writing altogether and read. Either way, I have a list of my top 10 books or series for writers, storytellers, and other people who love language. Let me know in the comments below if you enjoy any other writing novels or writing guides that didn’t make my list!
(You can also click here to learn more about NaNoWriMo, if you want to take part next year.)
10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book, as narrated by Death, is about a German girl around the time of World War II. She occasionally steals books, as the title implies (though she steals food more often). Her foster father teaches her how to read, and she learns to love the way books can transport her. She doesn’t do much writing, but that is the chosen outlet for Max, a Jewish man that her family is hiding in their basement. He writes to express himself while he’s physically confined, and so writing and reading join together in this book. There’s a lot of vivid imagery throughout the novel, even if it occasionally feels like too much or a stretch. Death also has a unique voice, which is warm at times and distant at others but always distinct.
9. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
One of fiction’s most famous writers is Dr. John Watson as he chronicles his adventures with his friend, Sherlock Holmes. The books focus more on the mysteries and the great detective himself rather than the writing aspect, but it’s certainly present, and Watson’s writing affects the way others see him and Holmes.
8. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
These fantasy epics are presented in-universe as chronicles recorded by their protagonists. The main characters of the two stories, Bilbo Baggins and his nephew Frodo, respectively, tell their people of their adventures in the wider world. Both also show an affinity for words in general, solving riddles to help them advance on their respective quests. Bilbo, Frodo, and others also compose poems and songs within the pages of the stories, as poetry and storytelling are held in high regard in this world.
Tolkien, the (real) author of these books, drew on a lot of old tales when crafting his novel. He also invested a lot of energy into his conlangs (constructed languages), as linguistics was also a passion of his. These fantasy novels are beloved for many reasons, and one is the way that they celebrate stories, storytelling, and language.
7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This is a classic story in which one of the main characters is an aspiring author. Little Women follows Jo March and her siblings over a wide span of their lives during and after the Civil War, and Jo’s writing is only one of the storylines. When Alcott focuses on that, though, she talks about Jo’s struggles in deciding what to write about and trying to get published, which are familiar problems for a lot of us.
6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This book centers around a very relatable girl who’s often lost in her own fantasy world and who gets some strong literary ambitions. It covers a wide swath of her life and other adventures and trouble she gets into, but Anne’s imagination is always present.
Fun Fact: Today (November 30) is the birthday of author Lucy Maude Montgomery.
5. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
This book is told in a series of journal entries, which is a very common form of creative writing, even among people who don’t consider themselves writers. What really makes me recommend it, though, is the fact that it’s a solid example of writing. It’s short and concise, and it packs in a gripping plot, interesting character development, and vivid descriptions.
4. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
This is a novel told in letters (to people) about letters (of the alphabet). The people of a small country are gradually forbidden to use more and more letters of the alphabet, with harsh penalties should they fail to follow the rules. The book is a creative celebration of language, as the main character (the titular Ella Minnow Pea) fights to restore free speech on the island. The letters that the townspeople exchange become more difficult to read but still understandable, and the whole thing is very cleverly done, including the resolution of the story.
3. Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
While Salman Rushdie is best-known for some of his novels, the books I really enjoy are his two children’s books: Haroun and the Sea of Stories and its sequel Luka and the Fire of Life. They intermix storytelling and reality in a way that’s very reminiscent of Inkheart, though the worlds and stories themselves are very different. While Inkheart and its sequels lean very much into fantasy adventures, these two deal in more abstract concepts. Both can be fun, depending on which you’re in the mood for.
2. Inkworld series by Cornelia Funke
Since I mentioned Inkheart in the last point, you might guess that it and its sequels were coming up. In this fantasy series, certain storytellers have the power to bring characters and objects from stories into the real world by speaking about them. They also send people from the real world into the stories. This power comes with plenty of dangers as the characters meet different characters who have their own agendas.
1. Writers Helping Writers Series by Becca Puglisi & Angela Ackerman
This is my one nonfiction entry on the list, and that’s because it’s broad enough to help a variety of authors with a variety of situations. Each book in this series deals with a different theme, like ways people feel and express emotions or what different locations in a city are like. Basically, they’re handy references for writers with concise information from a few different angles. They’re useful for fleshing out your writing and making it more realistic, especially when you’re dealing with unfamiliar places or subjects.