My 2015 in Books

Goodreads tells me I read 72 books in 2015. Some of these books changed my life. Some of these books I didn't care for and I didn't finish reading them. (The act of not finishing a book is new to me. Although it was a struggle at first, I quite like it now.) Here's a look at the books that changed my life:

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I finally got around to reading The Princess Bride after owning it for years. Despite all the rave recommendations, I avoided reading it because I enjoyed the movie so much. The book really was as good as the movie; it was just a different experience. Both the book and the movie were enriched by reading Cary Elwes's memoir of the making of the movie. The memoir was an homage to the movie, which was an homage to the book. Which was exactly right.

The Story of Owen is worth mentioning here not because it changed my life, but because I think it's going to. The Story of Owen is Canadian fantasy for teens (and adults) -- a genre and category that are not taken seriously in Canada. I'm very supportive of E.K. Johnston for burning down barriers across genres and categories with all the fiery breath of one of her dragons. If this is a glimpse at how good Canadian genre fiction can be, sign me up.

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The Girl on the Train was a fun, thrilling read. Like Gone Girl, I read this one with my writer's eyes wide open. While reading it, I was looking for all the reasons it was so popular, so talked about. I was looking for the strings to this puppet show. I learned a lot about revealing and hiding information from the reader.

While Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys was only ho-hum for me (I enjoyed the world she'd built and found some of the characters interesting, I just found it overall missing urgency), I loved The Dream Thieves. Although the stakes in the story became huge, I believe something about Stiefvater's voice changed for The Dream Thieves. It was that change I connected with. I suddenly had a need to read Blue Lily, Lily Blue and consume everything about the Raven boys series and that world.

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At some point in my writing journey, I realized Campbell's mono-myth wasn't working for me. I proposed the problem was that I was writing from a woman's point of view, as I always do, while Campbell's mono-myth applied to male heroes. I set out to learn if a heroine's journey even existed. I found Buffy and the Heroine's Journey, and it changed my life. Reading this lead me to more of Frankel's work, in which I discovered my hypothesis was correct: I was struggling to write heroine's stories because the hero's journey does not apply. I needed to apply the story models for heroine's.  The information in From Girl to Goddess was so valuable, it earned a place on my writing reference shelf.

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For anyone who has ever struggled with creativity, I have to suggest reading Scott McCloud's The Sculptor. I think I would like to read this again someday. There were a few times I found myself reading along, and then bam! McCloud changed everything with one panel.

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Wild Women: Painters of the Wilderness is an interesting look at three painters who pack up supplies and go paint in the wilds of Ontario. This is fantastic, totally something I want to do some day.

Vicki Pettersson's The Given is the end piece to a trilogy. I put off reading it for the longest time-- as I always do with the stories I love, believing that as long as I don't finish them, then they don't end.  I'm still bummed this series has ended.

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Susan Adrian's Tunnel Vision was inspired by the TV series Chuck. After reading and enjoying Tunnel Vision, I started to watch Chuck. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a TV series more. It was entertaining-- the whole package: action, romance, comedy, drama. Tunnel Vision, although aimed at teens, is an excellent homage to the show.

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Creativity, Inc. is an incredible look behind the scenes of the magic at Pixar. This is how they make their wonderful movies. This is how they keep the magic-- creativity-- alive. It is a little dry and memoir-ish, but it's also one that's going into my arsenal of how-to books because I know I'll keep referring back to it.

I was lead to Creativity, Inc. by two other books. Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, which I picked up because I adore Gilbert's constant championing of creativity and expression. In it, and in her podcasts, she references Brene Brown's work. So I picked up Daring Greatly, which gave me lessons I needed, and Rising Strong, which gave me lessons I needed more, and which referenced Creativity, Inc. All of these books ended up on my writing reference shelf.