Lately I’ve managed to do quite a lot of reading.  Over my time in Maine I read Looking for Jake by China Mieville, Weapon X by Barry Windsor-Smith, Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman, Making Comics by Scott McCloud, and a couple of other excellent reads.  I recently also finished The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and have launched into Lawrence Lessig‘s Free Culture and Reinventing Comics, also by Scott McCloud.  I’m hoping to finish these within a week and move on to the giant stack of books that only seems to grow larger beside my bed (The Choir Boats by Daniel Rabuzzi and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce are two of the most promising).

While reading is a very private act in many ways, one of the great joys of any reader is sharing preferences and recommendations with like-minded souls.  As such, I thought it might be nice to provide a list my own top three recommendations that have taught me about the craft of writing in one form or another.  Eventually I will get around to posting my recommendations of other sorts, such as my favorite airplane reads and the best pulp-style fiction on my bookshelf.  For now, I recommend to you the following:

  • Making Comics by Scott McCloud: The third of McCloud’s books on the theory and practice of comics, Making Comics is, so far, my favorite.  While the book is mainly concerned with comics (hello, the title says “Comics”), for a writer mainly used to working in a purely textual medium it can be quite enlightening to consider story-telling from a different perspective.  I know my own writing has improved.
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: I consider Gaiman to be one of the great modern masters of the short form.  Whether writing prose, poetry, or drabbles, he allows his story to wander in all the right ways.  It is as if he slowly guides it across the paper, exploring new places you never would have thought you would end up from the beginning.  What’s more, Smoke and Mirrors reminds me that sex is a powerful motivation (surprise!) and displays a powerful range of characters.
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix: The trilogy that began with Sabriel was one of the most formative literary works of my childhood.  Nix’s world building taught me almost everything I know about how to create a realm that is both real and unreal, based on fact yet abstracted beyond what we consider possible.  I highly recommend these, even for adults.

Now you’ve seen my picks.  What are your favorites?  What (or whom) has taught you about the craft of writing, the use of words, and this thing we call story telling?

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