Hey guys, what a moment in history we are experiencing here, huh? I hope you are reading more and taking this time to really reflect on what’s really important in life. I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a long time now. People are always so surprised about how a Best-Selling Author hated reading for the first 17 years of her life.
I love writing and telling stories, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t know that reading every day would help me with that. I had an old blog on Blogspot in the 2000s but it didn’t really go anywhere with my hopeless grammatically incorrect comedic posts. Plus, I think I got anonymously flamed in the chatbox once? The worst event of my life ever. My poor little 17-year-old heart couldn’t take it and I shut it down. 😢 I soon found out that it happens to every single teen blog out there because we’d usually blog immature cryptic posts shading our classmates with Z’s replacing all the S’s and 1’s replacing all the i’s. We’re bound to get some of that shade back. OKAY, enough with the time travel, back to the actual content.
1. Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer 🧛
For some reason, every time I mention Twilight by Stephenie Meyer as the book that made me fall in love with reading, people groan and roll their eyes all the way back to 1453 BC. It’s a really good book! It might have been butchered by the movie representation, but it’s still a really good book! I can’t remember how I got it in my hands but I remembered being really curious about this ‘new vampire book’ everyone was reading in class. Let me tell you, I used to BOAST about how much I hated reading. I told everyone that you’d never catch me with a book for the rest of my life. The last memory of me reading in childhood was a Goosebumps book where you make decisions and end up with an alternate ending. Ah, I think it was Escape from the Carnival of Horrors. It gave me nightmares. It was fun, but my reading escapades dramatically ended there. Little did I know that a Glittery Vampire Saga would be the one that did it. I remembered my 16 or 17-year-old self sitting at the bottom bunk in my old room with an Oxford dictionary beside me. (Yes, I didn’t have Google at the time) It was so difficult! My vocabulary was so elementary that I had to frequently search up words that I would normally gloss over now. It took me about 15 minutes to finish a page but I was extremely engaged with the characters and the storyline.
And it’s from this experience that I learned how to target future readers like me who hate reading. I needed to keep the language simple, and the storyline engaging with a sprinkle of unrealistic love expectations. I’ve already become a reader at this point.
2. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane 🏝️
This is the exact cover I have at home. Shutter Island was recommended to me by my older sister who is an avid reader at the time. She would be gorging all of her Enid Blytons while I sat around the house casting myself as the main character in all the childish worlds I dreamt up. The reason why this book stuck with me for so long is because of the twist at the end as well as the mental manipulation the author successfully put me through the entire book. Fresh from Twilight and all the happy, sappy fantasy books that I’ve indulged myself in soon afterward, I took Shutter Island as a challenge. It was the first step into another genre; a thriller. This book took character building to a whole new level. I never knew that you could manipulate the mind of the reader like that! And that’s when I learned that unexpected endings that challenge the readers, causing them inner conflict are the best.
3. Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman
If I were to classify and compress my lifetime reading phases into a day, my Fantasy novel phase would’ve lasted an hour, Dystopian novels would have lasted for about 18 hours, then followed by biographies and self-help books which would be the remaining three hours of the day from 9 pm to 12 am. Like trends, I’ve immersed myself in all types of Dystopian or Utopian turned Dystopian worlds. There’s just something so intriguing about it. There are so many future possibilities this world could face! I’ve read dystopian novels like Brave New World, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Maze Runner, Hunger Games, Divergent Series, and The Selection just to name a few. However, Unwind is by far, still my favorite. Number 1.
For some reason, I’ve always felt that the Dystopian series written in the 2000s is too censored. It kind of takes the fun out of everything. Unwind is so radical yet so plausible. No one ever reads non-fiction immediately. In my opinion, the political and societal narratives that dystopian novels have are great stepping stones in increasing the curiosity of the mind for such matters that deal with our reality.
I’ve learned so much reading all these post-apocalyptic books. Wanting to know more about the dystopian realities that actually happened in the past piqued my interest in non-fiction. I dove into books written during the Holocaust and post-Holocaust and was obsessed with history and their wars. Suddenly, reality is much more of an interest to me.
4. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My older sister recommended the Kite runner by Khaled Hosseini to me. I loved it. I remembered crying so hard at the end, with that one famous phrase, “For you a thousand times over.” Although the characters are fiction, the settings and stories come from a very real place. Disney does this so well too. I’ve learned that you could take a phrase and introduce it in the beginning with a particular context. Then re-introduce it again at the end with a whole different context but with the same text. That, my friends, is powerful as f**k writing. Example, CoCo. Spoiler alert, look away.
The song Remember Me had a context of a father leaving his daughter at the beginning of the movie. BUT, towards the end, the song was sung to keep her father alive in the underworld. Tears were shed.
4. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes 🐁
I’ve always loved sci-fi. Sci-fi and romance? Hook me up! You’re telling me that Flowers for Algernon uses the beauty of language and vocabulary to portray the progression of the story? Even better.
This book was recommended to me by Philip S. a month back. I remembered crying so hard at the end. Flowers for Algernon did the same thing to me like what the Kite Runner did. I felt so devastated for the female lead, I felt like I could feel every ounce of her pain. What have I learned? Grief is a powerful emotion and everyone has it within them. As a writer, you just need to know how to manifest it.
5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari 🕺
I think every single human being on this earth should read this book. If I were to recommend one book that you should read given that you could only read one book in your life, I’d recommend Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. This book was recommended to me by Isabelle Thye after interviewing me for her podcast. This book changed my life. It’s the ultimate non-fiction book that explains complex theories well. It opens your mind and fact checks your personal biases. 5 stars! I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and it’s not too bad either.
Bottom line is, reading changed my life. I set a reading challenge every year (although for some years I just fail at it because… life) but I really do try to keep a discipline of reading at least 20 pages a day. Now that I’m in lockdown, I’m reading more. So that’s great. Reading all these different perspectives makes me think a lot clearer, focus a lot better and patience, a little bit longer. Reading is a humbling hobby. If you want to change your life, start reading books. Don’t just read articles or blog posts like these on the internet, but real books where you can immerse yourself in whole contexts and understand the particular topic with all their different fragments and point of view. This would always be my key advice to anyone who ‘wants to write better’.