Reading Books That (Figuratively) Kill Me

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I’ve been in a bit of a re-reading slump lately. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In 2013, when I was starting to take my writing seriously I read three authors who changed the world for me.

Rainbow Rowell. Jenny Han. Stephanie Perkins.

Since then I’ve read Fangirl, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and all three Perkins novels about twenty times each (the kissing scenes even more than that). I practically have them memorized. They showed me that YA romance could be intelligent and meaningful and funny all at the same time. More than that something I can’t pinpoint just resonated … it’s like I didn’t have a choice but to reread them. I wanted to spend as much time in those books as possible. Sometimes I still do (i.e. I read the scene where SPOILER Anna gets drunk and dances with Etienne at a bar on her birthday SPOILER last week on the subway … it was just a maddening and magic as ever).

This week, I’ve diving back into I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, and The Ruby Oliver series, by E. Lockhart. Both are totally killing me. I’ll Give You the Sun has sentences that I’d give a year of my life to write. It’s lyrical writing can make me feel feelings we have no name for. The book really taught me the power of language. I tend to write more to funny than poetic, but, man, I’ve learned a lot from this book. The Ruby Oliver books are so funny and clever. I read them just before moving to New York and thought yes! these are exactly the books I want to write! They address mental illness and feminism in these totally subtle, non-issue book kind of ways. And Ruby Oliver is a character I relate to so hard. When I’m reading she feels like a friend. Or sometimes she feels like me. I don’t know how to do that yet.

Both books make me excited to write, because they remind me what books can do.

But also, both books make it hard for me to write, because it’s like I know I’ll never write anything half as good.

Do you have any books that you like to reread? Any books that make you want to be a writer or make you want to hide under your covers and never write again or both at the same time? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


4 thoughts on “Reading Books That (Figuratively) Kill Me

  1. This year will FINALLY be the year I read “Fangirl” so I’m excited! I would say that the book I love to re-read the most is “Demian” by Hermann Hesse, because it’s the perfect coming of age story that really taught me to think critically and question authority, esp. of the religious variety. “Demian” is proof that literature can be short and syntactically simple (at least in its English translation), and yet pack so much meaning, that I learn something new with each reading experience.

      1. I will! And yes, definitely check out Demian! Thankfully I had an awesome high school English teacher who introduced me to it–so underrated!

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