I believe that the best learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the work of others.
I read 31 books in 2018. I read Memoirs, short stories, poetry collections, novels and self-help books. Before 2018, I didn’t know that reading other people’s works had any benefits whatsoever. Let me be more specific; I didn’t see the reason why as a writer I needed to read other writers’ works. I had assumed that simply writing often would make me a better writer. Experience has taught me otherwise.
I’m glad I know better now.
In my 2018 book list, I read books that inspired me as a writer, I was exposed to different styles of writing, the plots were brilliant, and most importantly I appreciated the unique ways in which the different writers expressed themselves.
I could write an epistle on each of the books I read, but I won’t. Not today at least, In this article, I will list the top 5 books that inspired me as a writer and encouraged me to embrace my own unique style.
- BORN A CRIME
Born a Crime was written by South African Comedian, Trevor Noah. This amazing memoir is filled with many funny stories in which he chronicles his childhood in South Africa. I enjoyed this book because I felt like I was part of the story. I felt connected to the story not because I had a similar childhood but because he made his story my story. His childhood felt like my childhood, his victory was my victory and his pain was my pain. I became a reader and cheerleader to his life story. He is a good storyteller.
- WE NEED NEW NAME by NoViolet Bulawayo
This novel portrays the interesting lives of some young Zimbabwean children. The narrator is a young girl named Darling. Darling’s friends all had funny names. This made the novel more intriguing for me. Darling and her friends embark on a series of adventures and get up to all sorts of mischief in their small tin shack village in Zimbabwe. This book was easy to read, the story flowed naturally as if everything was happening in my backyard. The conversation and descriptions were simple and clear. I admire her style of writing and it taught me a lot about how to write a novel. I couldn’t drop the book until I had finished reading the last page.
- THE MEMORIES OF LOVE
This was one of the books I read in my book club, it was written by Aminatta Forna and it tells a tale of love set in the post-war era of Sierra Leone. The writer tells a story about three men who are joined together by the same love interest. The characters were so real to me and I cared for them deeply as the story unfolded. I got hooked to the novel because in every chapter she found a way to reveal something about the characters, something I didn’t know before and something that compelled me to continue reading.
- GIRL ON THE TRAIN
A thriller novel written by Paula Hawkins, it follows the life of a commuter and murder she is involved in but cannot remember. There were so many fascinating things about this book. First, it was beautifully written. And it had three narrators, so the story was told from three points of views; I think it’s a brilliant idea to have more than one narrator. As a reader, I enjoyed seeing the story’s plot from different perspectives.
- RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS
A funny and entertaining novel by Kevin Kwan, it is the third and final book in the Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy. The 2018 movie Crazy Rich Asians was based on the first book of the trilogy. This novel tells the story of the life and problems of the rich and powerful families of Singapore. I loved the characters. Each of them had unique personalities and they were so real that it felt like I knew them. It was as if the writer moulded them with clay and breathed life into them. I enjoyed the book because I connected to the characters.
The writer ’s ability to create believable and rounded characters as well as engaging plots appealed to me. I also liked the way he seamlessly sketched each character’s unique style, voice and method of expression. I learned a lot I hope to inculcate in my own work as a writer.
That’s all for now. I hope to read more books in 2019. I am certain that reading more will definitely make me a better writer.
So what are you currently reading? Feel free to share your reading and writing experience in the comments section.
Ene Abu writes prose fiction and creative non-fiction. She lives and works in Nigeria.