Now that my living situation has finally settled down a bit, I am working on making something a reality that I’ve carried in my head for several years now.
My inspiration bookshelf.
What’s this you ask?
Well, I’m one of those humans that tends to drown themselves in media. The fact that by now I can basically speak Lorelai Gilmore’s dialogue better than she can attests to this. Point is, the way I often end up being inspired to write or create is by taking in the creativity of other people. TV shows have kind of taken over my brain in this regard, but this past year I have been trying to distance myself from media a little bit (she says, after having literally had her YouTube channel for the past year and slowly trying to build a media presence…)
At the very least, I have been gradually changing my attitude towards entertainment media. It’s kind of gone along with my overall maturation process (that makes me sound like cheese, but oh well).
I don’t want to have a brain that’s addicted to the easy way out. Netflix, YouTube, scrolling through social media – they are all endless, they are all consumable enough to keep you busy and satisfied for hours.
It’s a hard thing to break away from. But I want my inspiration to come from other avenues, like books, music, art, or articles. Things that feel smaller in scope. Things where you can say:
I will get up after this song.
I will read this article to inspire me.
I will write as soon as I finish this chapter.
It’s a tough thing to explain, but I find that reading a chapter of a book is not necessarily less engaging, but definitely easier to escape from. It’s a more proactive activity, for me at least, than watching video after video of someone else’s creative effort.
So that’s where my inspiration bookshelf comes in. Some might call it simply my favourite books, but that’s not the case. I have not placed J.K. Rowling on this list, or Cornelia Funke, or Agatha Christie, although I love the work of each of these writers immensely. The books in this list are ones that make me think, make my writing more interesting and otherwise remind me why writing is such a fun thing to do.
So without further ado, I present to you…
My Inspiration Bookshelf
Terry Pratchett – Going Postal
Honestly, where do I even begin? My mum first introduced me to Terry Pratchett, as I watched her over a span of years slowly accumulate the entire collection of Terry Pratchett’s work … in German.
I remember the first Pratchett I read was actually Maurice, The Cat, and it was incredibly enjoyable. I moved away from this genius for a few years, before attempting to read The Colour of Magic. It did not go well. The entire time I kept thinking just how incredibly boring the first 100 or so pages were. This is something I have found in several of his books actually, and needless to say I didn’t finish The Colour of Magic.
Eventually, because of the persistence of my mother, I tried again and started reading Thud. I quickly made it through Thud. And then every book featuring Vimes. And then I read Going Postal. I'm not sure if Going Postal is truly my favourite Pratchett, but it holds a special place in my heart (also I wrote my IB Extended Essay about it and that kind of bond can’t be broken). So if I need to remember how to be funny, or how to juggle quirky characters, or how to save a cat from a burning building, I turn to Going Postal. Also Moist von Lipwig is possibly my favourite name for a character ever.
Felicia Day – You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost)
I read Felicia Day’s memoir at a time when I was pretty depressed. I wasn’t happy with my dissertation project, I wasn’t happy with my university course, I wasn’t happy with my living situation and I wasn’t happy with myself. You reach a point at university where you think you’ve made the wrong choice, that you’re wasting your time, and that you shouldn’t be there. I had that feeling for quite some time, and this book is part of the reason I snapped out of it.
In short, this book is simply an inspiration to embrace your weirdness and pursue the path you feel is right, whether other people like it or not. What I admire most is the raw, potentially even brutal, honesty with which Felicia describes her “dark times” and how she worked her way out of them. I devoured this book, which hasn’t happened much in the last few years, simply because it described everything I was feeling so well, but also showed me a way forward.
Overall, it made me realize that what I’m doing with YouTube is right, that I should follow my gut more, that it is possible to write a TV pilot over the Christmas season, and that coming from an unconventional family is not bad, it simply provides you with more interesting stories to tell as you grow older. So, if you’ve ever had a creative or life crisis, give this book a try and see if it helps!
dodie – Secrets for the Mad
If you are even remotely interested in YouTube Creators, you will have heard of dodie. If you are not, well, dodie mainly posts music covers and original songs on her main channel, and discusses mental health and other issues on her second channel. What differentiates her from the crowd is the poetic honesty with which she tackles the shadows in her brain, and the way she is able to capture oddly specific emotions in her music.
I bought her book shortly after it came out and, again, devoured it. I had one of those “OMG SHE NOTICED ME” moments when I tweeted at dodie saying how much I enjoyed the book and SHE REPLIED!
Sorry, it’s been a while, but, I mean, COME ON!
Regardless, I was hooked on this book from the first page, and every chapter seemed to inspire different thoughts in my head, led me along new creative avenues and has been perhaps the most inspiring read on this list. It’s a book that you can devour as one but can also just flip through casually, letting your eyes catch on whichever sentence or lyric feels most inspiring to you today.
Ned Vizzini – It’s Kind of a Funny Story
This is a sad one, because a few years after I first read and fell in love with this book (and the movie) the writer killed himself. That fact hits home especially since this book is literally a story about a guy with depression who spends a week in an Adult Psych Ward because he’s worried he might do something to himself.
I was incredibly saddened when I heard the news of Vezzini’s passing, simply because his kind of funny story is one of hope. Of perseverance. Of characters in shitty circumstances finding ways to move on and build up a tolerable life for themselves.
All of these can motivate me in my writing, and especially if I’m having a depressive phase or feeling disengaged with writing, Ned Vezzini can help get me back on track.
Bill Bryson – A Walk in the Woods
Travel writing does not come easy to me. Whenever a journey is on the horizon, I hop to with good intentions:
I will journal everyday, I will keep track of random oddities, I will take an hour every day to arrange my thoughts and keep track of my adventures.
That usually works for about a day. This just adds to my admiration for Bill Bryson, who has chronicled countless adventures across different continents, always managing to capture the weirdness of a place with in-depth research and a fantastic sense of humour.
A Walk in the Woods really plays to my Wanderlust (literally) and is enough to make a chronic couch potato with no hiking aspirations whatsoever consider hiking the Appalachian Trail.
This one’s less of a direct inspiration and more of an escape. When I’m stuck on a story or have too many words in my head to make sense of, sometimes all I need is A Walk in the Woods (heh) to calm me down.
Susan Sones – What My Mother Doesn’t Know
I have no memory of how this book came into my life, but I’m very glad it did. Written entirely in verse, it tells the story of a high-school girl; her life, friend and love troubles.
The concept is simple, yet Sones adds so much detail, so much emotion and so much art (literally) into this setting that it becomes a joy to get lost in. I am usually not a big fan of poetry, but this is one of the greatest exceptions. It’s a story that you can read in one sitting, which will leave you smiling for days after.
The relatability of the text and the way Sones expresses these everyday teenage woes is a quality I hope to replicate in my writing, so it definitely belongs on my bookshelf.
Dave Eggers – The Circle
I only recently completed this one, but it’s already inspired several of my blog posts and videos and often just motivates me to work harder on my social media presence. It’s influence on me is a bit paradoxical – after all it can be seen as a cautionary tale of what might happen if we created the ultimate social network.
The Circle really captures the core problematic of social media – it’s great, up to a point. There are so many interesting, positive, pioneering things that can be accomplished through social media, but if a certain line is crossed, things can go south quick.
It’s difficult to describe why this book has made the list, but suffice it to say the list feels incomplete without it. For anyone working in or with social media, this book provides wonderful food for thought regarding both the power social media holds in the world as well as the role we play in furthering it’s reach.
Becky Chambers – the long way to a small angry planet
Those of you who think sci-fi is too action-filled or violent – try this book. One issue I have with Star Trek for example is that no one seems capable of getting along in space and that each series features massive war scenarios in their later seasons.
This book is the antidote. We follow the lives of the crew of a small-scale spaceship, who get paid to build a hyperspace tunnel through space. That’s about as exciting as it gets. However, the way the characters grow, the originality of their backgrounds and the subtle ways in which their relationships develop – all of this combines to make this one of the most relaxing yet enjoyable books I have ever read. Essentially, this is the space book I wish I had written.
There’s often a strong distinction between finding your own voice because of a text and emulating the style of another author because you just read their story. The books on this list thankfully mostly belong to the first category, so if you’re in need of some gift inspiration for your writer friends or if you’re a writer yourself who gets into some really horrible creative slumps, I hope this post may help. For full disclosure, all the links in this post are affiliate, so you know, help a girl out and do some online shopping after you’re done here.
Finally, please write me a comment and let’s chat about inspiring books! There’s always more room on this my bookshelf ;)