Hi Fellow Humans, Writers, and Other!
I realized a few weeks ago that I have not recommended a book to someone--actually said "I just read this and think you would like it"--in many, many years. Even though people ask all the time what I'm been reading, I never turn around and recommend the book itself. Instead, I turn the conversation into a self-defeating disclaimer about how I only read "children's" or "fantasy" books, as if that is a reason they will automatically hate it. I ignore the fact that 55% of young adult readers are adults and that fantasy is called "popular fiction" for some reason... Ultimately, I haven't given people the choice of becoming interested in the book or broadening their literary horizons. And that is not fair for a writer to do.
Talking a coworker about books yesterday, I further realized that I was making him into the snobby, literary fiction strawman that I have demonized in my head for so many years. I imagined these people as turning up their noses and looking down at me with my brightly-colored YA adventure stories. I imagined myself as the misunderstood--but brilliant--fantasist who would break the mold and prove to EVERYONE that YA Fantasy is doing Amazing Things that literary fiction people could simply not understand. Ignoring the astounding success of Tolkien in print and on screen, Marvel in comic and the cinematic universe, and Rowling in the hearts of millions of people across the globe, I imagined myself as the yet-to-arrive savior of the YA fantasy genre, who would forever change perception of the art form.
Looking at it now, sans my lens of self-aggrandizement, it seems exceedingly egotistical and silly. I am both more mainstream and less important than I ever thought. And oddly, it is comforting.
We don't need to be the heroes out to save the world to make a difference in it. There's no dragon to fight in a battle you make up for yourself. You can still make a difference, in a small or big way, just by sharing your words. Writers, most of all, have this power because they have studied those words with the diligence of a devotee.
All I've ever wanted to do is read and write, all day, every day. I know a lot about books and a lot about what makes a good story. According to my Goodreads account, I have read 648 books, in what I am sure is an incomplete record. In all those pages, between all those covers, I have discovered new ideas and explored new worlds--some of them to my taste and some of them not. But each one has something to share, some reason it made it to my hands or stayed in my heart. If I stop seeing myself as a hero collecting knowledge and tools to defeat a dragon, and start looking at these books as things to share with others, I think I could make a bigger difference than any dragon-slaying would affect.
So this is my advice to you, fellow readers and writers: When something speaks to you, don't be afraid to talk about it. Tell others! Enjoy showing the spark of excitement in your eyes, no matter what it is that lit you up. You are a unique human being with unique interests, so if someone judges you for what you love, that's their problem, not yours. By sharing what you love with others, however, you give them the opportunity to fall in love as well, to be inspired, to be lit up from the inside. And what greater gift could you give to humanity than words that speak to the soul?
In this spirit, I recommend the following book to you, fellow human:
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
This voluminous standalone novel explores a world full of religion, history, and divisive beliefs which must be set aside to defeat an ancient evil (ironically, a really big, bad dragon). I loved this book so much, not just for its expansive world, but for its incredible characters. Ead, in particular, was the heart and center of this story. Her determination to do the "right" thing, even as her understanding of what was "right" shifted and transformed, was exhilarating to read. I loved Sabran as well, with her conflicted desires and delicious obstinacy. I want to tell you more about these characters, but with 848 exciting pages, there are a lot of twists to give away. I will leave my recommendation at this: If you love dragons of the good and/or bad persuasion and young women who refuse to do what's expected of them, you will adore every moment of this book.
To conclude my first blog post in many months, I urge all of you writers to consider where you have kept your book-love hidden. When have you held a beloved tome close to the chest instead of sharing it? Try telling one person about it, and see if they would be interested in enjoying that story as well. This will be great practice for when you put your own book out into the world. Trust that others will love what you love, and you will be much braver when it comes to giving away your heart wrapped between two covers.