Books I loved when I was a young adult, which may or may not be young adult novels.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Have some tissues handy, because you'll be laughing so hard your eyes will melt.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Have some tissues ready, for the regular reason.
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
This book kept me drugless, and it was written back before drugs got scary.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
About carnal lust, insane obsession, grave digging, and ghosts. A contender for greatest novel in the English language, as far as I'm concerned.
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevski
Simply put, this is a novel about murder. Less simply put, this is an argument for the necessity of morality. It's not an easy read, but you can handle it. It's worth it, I promise.
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
Classic tale of misfits in a careless America.
The Secret Garden, and The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Both great 19th century books, written before there was such a thing as a young adult novel.
The Dark is Rising Series, by Susan Cooper
The original Harry Potter. Scary, fun, comfy, cozy, and beautifully written.
The Tripods Series, by John Christopher
These books scared the heck out of me. If you're into science fiction that will creep you out, look for these.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
This book needs no explanation. It's genius.
The Time Trilogy, by Madeleine L'Engle
These books offer highly imaginative stories and a very comfy depiction of family life. They're thrilling and calming at the same time, somehow. Madeleine, you're the best!
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
Just a lot of great, fun storytelling.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
This book changed the way I think about books. I read much more deeply now, and you will too.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein
These books are about how a tiny, insignificant seeming person can change the course of history. Based on one million true stories.
Octavian Nothing, by M.T. Anderson
At first I thought I was reading science fiction. When I figured out what I was really reading, I almost fainted. It's that good.
Weetsie Bat, by Francesa Lia Block
Poetry on every page.
The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall
Funny, lighthearted, but also very real, this is a modern classic.
A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly
Written in a completely authentic voice, this book will make you very happy you get to go to school. I'm serious.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Sad, funny, beautifully written, this is a great book about friendship and heartbreak.
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Boy Toy, and Hero Type, by Barry Lyga
What can I say about Barry Lyga? He's a great writer. Every book is wonderful.
Falling Through Darkness, Stealing Henry, and Drawing the Ocean, by Carolyn MacCullough
These books show how love and loss are best rendered in beautiful language.
Fix, by Leslie Margolis
About accepting who you are, no matter what, this is a great book about finding your way through modern life.
How I live Now, by Meg Rosoff
This book has everything. Telepathy, apocalypse, eating disorders, and family fun. All around wonderful. This book influenced my voice for VIBES.
Star Girl, by Jerry Spinelli
A fairy tale about first love. Everyone should read this so they can learn how to be a person.
Refugees, by Catherine Stine
This poetic book shows that love can be found by anyone, anywhere. And it's worth traveling around the world to get it.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Read this book if you want to learn how to swear in German. More importantly, read this book if you want to learn how to write like a master.
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray
This book is hilariously funny, and is a study of why it's good to be good. Or is it?
Middlemarch, George Eliot
A masterful panorama of a 19th century English Village. It's such a big, important, brilliant book, I can only say it is a book about life.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
This is about first impressions, and how misleading they can be. Funny, sad, and incredibly clever.
Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
This is a tragedy, about a talented young woman of means who tries to make her mark in the world the only way open to her: by marrying.
House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
This is a book about a talented young woman of no means who fails to marry in time, and what happens to her. This book will make any girl glad to be living in modern times.
Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
At first you'll think you're reading about aliens.
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin
A weirdly disorienting book about sexuality.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, Susanna Clark
Set in a parallel universe, in 19th century England, tells the story of two rival magicians, who do real, actual magic. The writing is extremely witty, and the story is lots of fun.
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Atwood took real life indignities that women in different cultures have to put up with every day, mixed them all up, and set them in a futuristic dystopia in America. Brilliant feminist novel.
Parable of the Talents, Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler
A future history about the dissolution of America, and the religious leader who rises out of the rubble. Fascinating.
If you tell people you want to be a writer, they usually say things like, "Get ready for a lot of rejection," and, "You'll never make any money doing that." I used to resent this, but now I'm kind of glad I met with all that discouragement because it only made me more determined. Writing is one of the most competitive, difficult professions a person can take on, and only the strong survive. You need talent, sure, but even more than talent, you need a dauntless will and a capacity for hard, hard work. Most of the time, people succeed at getting published, not necessarily because they're the most talented writers out there, but because they don't give up.
There are three things that serious writers do to separate themselves from the nameless rabble of wannabes:
Serious writers write every day. I take weekends off, but otherwise, I write five pages a day, rain or shine. Every day.
Serious writers revise their work endlessly. We don't just type out our ideas, run a spell check and send manuscripts out to our publishers. We revise and re-revise our work, combing through every word, making sure we've said everything in the best possible way.
Serious writers read a lot in the genre they want to write. Want to be a mystery writer? Read mysteries. Want to be a young adult writer? Read YA. It's good to read outside your genre, too, such as poetry and essays, because this is where you get a fresh idea that every other writer in your genre hasn't already had. But know the market you want to publish in. Know it well.
So let's assume that, even if you don't live by the three tenets above, you're prepared to do so because you want to become a serious writer. But it's not enough to be a serious writer. To get published, you have to be a professional writer, and that means that you have to develop a career. The younger you start, the better. Below is a list of all the things I wish I had done as a young person in order to develop a writing career sooner than I did: