2 Books Every Novelist Should Read Annually

You know that feeling when you read a book and it lights up something inside you? Finally everything makes sense. You feel on-fire with insight. Your world will never, ever be the same again.

This feeling doesn’t happen with every book you read. No, it only happens with a few very special books. Books that are meant to change your life in some way.

You know those books I’m talking about. You’re running a list of them in your head right now as you read this.

For me those books include things like, Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

And then there are those books that you get this same feeling from–except at a much higher level. The book hits your core, your soul. It sings sweet music to your heart as you read it. (Go ahead. Run a list in your head of those books, too.)

When you finally discover the books that do this for you, they will usually get added to a very short list of “Books to Read Annually.” Or at least they do for me.

So far the books on my list to read every year include, The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, and two other books.

The two other books I read every year are books that are especially important for emerging novelists. If you want to stay on top of your writing game and keep working toward your dream of being a published novelist, here are two books you should make the time to read every single year: 

1. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

I know I talk a lot about this book on my blog, but it’s because this book is fucking genius. It totally changed my life–and especially my writing life–in so many ways. This book is the core to knowing how to write a novel that’s publishable.

I truly believe this book should be on the shelf of every single writer in the world. While Brooks’ tell-it-like-it-is style isn’t for every writer, the information he shares is.

If I had to name only one book for a brand-new novelist to read if she wanted to learn how to write a novel, it would be this book. In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to create a story coaching program (that’s similar to a college course) based entirely around teaching emerging novelists how to execute the principles from the book.

Without this book, I wouldn’t be a novelist, I wouldn’t be a writing coach. It was that life-transforming for me. I could never say enough good things about this book.

Get yourself a copy of this book and read it once a year. You won’t regret it.

2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield 

After years of hearing people talk about this book and having people recommend it to me directly, I finally decided to buy a copy and read it. To say it shifted things for me would be an understatement.

Back a few years ago I discovered the idea of the Resistance via a guest post written by Seth Godin (I even wrote about it).But this time, the Resistance hit me right in the face.

Pressfield dives deep into the Resistance–what it is, what it looks like and how to overcome it.  He gives clear examples to illustrate how the Resistance shows up in your life and in yourself. As I was reading this book, it was like a light kept popping on inside me over and over again.

You know all those reasons you give for not writing your novel? You know the excuses you have for not finishing it? That’s the Resistance in action. 

The Resistance is fear–and it will break you if you let it.

As a creative person–and especially an emerging novelist–you have to be able to overcome the Resistance. You have no choice but to  feel the fear and do it anyhow.

‘Cuz if you don’t, you’ll never publish your novel. You’ll never become the writer you know you’re absolutely capable of being.

And because the Resistance is something we writers and creative people will be dealing with always–the Resistance will never go away–it’s imperative that we find ways to push through to the other side.

The first step to doing that is being able to recognize your version of the Resistance in action. When you can do that, it will be much easier for you to side-step it and get your novel finished.

The War of Art is is a book that every novelist (and creative person in general) should read annually.

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What books have changed your life? Do you have any books that you read every year? 

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5 Replies to “2 Books Every Novelist Should Read Annually”

  1. Jennifer,

    I’m currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s 12 week program in “The Artist’s Way”. She is in a league of her own when it comes to bringing out the creative self in each of us.

    Another book that speaks to me is “Writing Down The Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I started reading it about a year ago and got sidetracked about halfway through (this frequently happens with me). Several weeks ago, someone else gave it high praises so I ordered another copy forgetting that I already owned it. That’s what happens when you get old and your writing library becomes overwhelming. You forget what you have.

    I started reading “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks a couple of years ago but some of the stuff was way over my beginner’s head at the time. I’m ready to give it another try as well as “Story Physics”. His take no prisoners style is similar to my own so I know that his books will rank among my perennial favorites.

    Keep up the good work, Jennifer.

    1. Hi Bill, I also love the Artist’s Way! Write Down the Bones I haven’t read yet but I’m adding it to my (long!) list of books to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Reading this totally made me want to resurrect a few books I already have (The Secret and Story Engineering) and inspired me to order two that I’ve been wanting to read (Bird by Bird and War of Art). : ) Thanks so much for yet another well-timed post, Jen! : )

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