“Every now and then you read a book that you wish with all your heart you had written – that one was it for me.” Email from me to Belle Boggs, author of Mattaponi Queen, after reading her book
December means nonstop Christmas music, Charlie Brown and Rudolph cartoons, and year end book lists. Best Books of 2011, Most Underrated Books of 2011, Worst Sex Scenes, etc, etc, etc. If you can think of a list, it’s probably out there.
So, I decided to make my own book list, one that’s a little different from all the “best ofs.” The books on my list are not necessarily the books on any top 10 lists this year. They weren’t all even published in 2011.
The books on my list are there for only one reason: they are books I read this year that I wish I had written.
Do you know that feeling? The tingle down the base of your spine when you’re reading a book that really speaks to you, the one whose language you understand like it’s the language of your own soul? When I read that book, I just know. It’s what I want to write. It’s the kind of story I understand from the gut.
There are so many books that I love, but that doesn’t mean that I get the same feeling for them. Probably one of the best books I read this year, maybe that I have ever read, is A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell. The language is lyrical, the story magical and devastating and beautiful and tragic. But never did I get the longing to have written that book, to have climbed into those characters clothes for the time it takes to write a book. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I want to write the books with characters I want to hang out with longer.
At any rate, here is my 2011 (short) list of books I wish I’d written:
1) The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson – This amazing book lures you in with its quirky characters and oddball situations, until, bam, suddenly it breaks your heart. Dysfunctional families always resonate with me (we’ll save that for later analysis), but from the first scene I wanted to jump on stage with these crazies.
2) Mattaponi Queen, Belle Boggs. When I first read this collection of short stories, I was breathless. I can’t explain it, but that book just did me in. I got hold of Belle Boggs’ email and sent her a fan letter. I swear, it was like being in love – I had to tell her how I felt.
3) The Oxygen Man, Steve Yarbrough – His first novel. While I was reading it I just kept thinking, what took me so long? It’s a southern book with racial tension and class warfare, but none of the clichés and stereotypes of a certain rather popular recent novel. The characters are people I grew up with, and I felt like I was sitting in the back yard watching them mess up their lives.
4) Spooner, Pete Dexter – I loved the book, loved the characters, could have spent another 200 pages with them. But what really makes me wish I had written this book is simple – the ending is flawless.
I’ve read shelves of books this year, and many really good ones. But these are the ones I wish I’d written.