Writers On Writing: 9 Books On Craft

Having just finished Haruki Murakami’s book Novelist as a Vocation, I thought it would be fun to look through some of the various books about the craft of writing. The fact that so many books exist I think is a great indicator that many people are interested either in becoming writers or learning more about writers as people. I’ve read the books below for both purposes. This healthy interest is reassuring that books will continue to thrive in our society.

The number of books out there is also proof that the craft of writing is inherently personal and there is no “standard” to the practice aside from putting words on paper (or in digital program). I often need this reminder, especially of late as I’ve failed to work on any writing projects. I have two sets of “rules” hanging on my office wall to remind me of the important parts of writing. Time is my nemesis at the moment, but I hope to develop a strong discipline to help me work toward my goals of writing several novels.

Now back to the list of books by writers on the craft of writing.

Novelist as a VocationAs I mentioned, I recently finished Haruki Murakami’s book Novelist as a Vocation which I found insightful for many reasons. It was first released in 2015 but recently released in English for the first time. This book gives insight into Murakami himself, but also a history of publishing in and outside of Japan, how unstable writing as a career can be, and also how much luck he had in starting and maintaining his career as a writer. In the end, my takeaway was that Murakami stayed true to himself, as we all should, and worked hard, diligently, and persevered. Times have definitely changed since he began writing novels, but this book gives a realistic “look behind the curtain” to what it means to work hard at this craft. He removes some of the romantic notions often circling the image of author which may be one of the most valuable takeaways for most writers.

I haven’t read too many books on writing recently, but I have read several throughout the past decade or so, and I keep a copy readily available of those I liked if I ever want to revisit or look up any particular portion. Continue reading

The Vonnegut Novels (Ranked)

I read all 14 of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels in the last several months. I had read 3 several years ago, so re-read them to have all books fresh in my mind and also because I found a new appreciation for Vonnegut’s work. I figured it would be fun to “rank” the novels from “worst to first” based on how much I liked them. Quick caveat: I don’t think any of his novels are bad. Some definitely could have been better, and several were near-perfect, but I enjoyed them all for various reasons.

14. Galapagos (1985)

13. Deadeye Dick (1982)

12. Breakfast of Champions (1973)

11. Slapstick (1976)

10. Hocus Pocus (1990)

9. Timequake (1997)

8. Jailbird (1979)

7. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

6. Mother Night (1961)

5. Player Piano (1952)

4. Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

3. Bluebeard (1987)

2. The Sirens of Titan (1959)

1. Cat’s Cradle (1963)

Cat’s Cradle was the novel that sent me on this journey through Vonnegut-world. I read it for the first time and found it incredible, so jumped into the rest. I also read the biography on Vonnegut which also added to my appreciation of his work as well as some of his short stories and other writings.

I recently finished a re-read of Slaughterhouse Five as I wrapped up my readthrough of all 14 novels listed above. I use GoodReads, which tracks reading dates, progress, etc. and I found a funny little datum about my reading this book. I first read it in 2015, in early January, and read it in five days. My re-read I completed in early January 2023, and I read it in five days. I just thought that was interesting.

I added the dates next to the titles for my own benefit to see how my ranking played out against how they were released. I think I have a favor toward his early work with the exception of Bluebeard which really surprised me. I think it may be the book with the best “human” moment of all listed. I hadn’t even heard of the book prior to my decision to read all of Vonnegut’s work. Perhaps that is why I liked it so much. I had no expectations for it. However, the same could be said of Deadeye Dick and Galapagos and I will likely never read those again.

Perhaps you agree, or disagree, with my list. That is okay. The perspective and/or relationship of a book and a reader is extremely individual and can be dependent upon many variables. Perhaps Cat’s Cradle just came to me at the right time in my life. I know I didn’t have a great perspective when reading Vonnegut back in 2014-2015, and now I do have a better one and new appreciation for his work. Time is a funny thing and it is often at the center of Vonnegut’s novels.

The top eight on this list are books I would recommend. I have recommended the top six via posts on this blog. Again, this list is from this one reader’s preference and experience, but I hope it is beneficial or at lease interesting for you.

As always, Happy Reading.

Start of the Year Reading List

Slaughterhouse FiveA new year means new books to read (as if I had any trouble finding something new to read). I am still wrapping up my full readthrough of Vonnegut’s novels. Having recently finished The Sirens of Titan, I am now wrapping up a re-read of Slaughterhouse Five to conclude all 14 novels by Vonnegut in the past 6 months. I also plan to read two non-fiction books I have by Vonnegut. These being A Man Without A Country and Palm Sunday. I’ll move on from Vonnegut after those and get to the many other books I want to read.

Novelist as a VocationI also am reading Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami. I have yet to read any of his novels, but this one has popped up in social channels probably because it was newly released in English translation this year. It originally published in 2015. Murakami has been on my list of authors to read and I have a few of his novels that I may get around to this year. For now, I will at least read this selection of essays on the craft of writing.

Spring SnowThe next series I plan to read is The Sea of Fertility tetralogy by Yukio Mishima. The first book is titled Spring Snow. I wanted to read this series after I read The Sound of Waves as my first experience of Mishima’s work. This series is supposedly his masterpiece and definitely jumped up on my TBR. I’m hoping to read the entire series this spring. Since I read The Sound of Waves in a day, I hope I’ll be pulled into this story and read all four books in a short time.

My Hero Academia

The last of this list is the manga series I plan to read this year. I’ve read one series a year for the past two years and have another series I want to explore despite it not being complete at this time. This series is My Hero Academia. I’ve been enjoying the show greatly and figured I could read this series quickly. I typically wait until a series is complete before starting so I have no breaks in reading the story. I doubt it will be completed by the time read through what is available, but we will see.

I hope you have some fun reading plans for the new year.

Happy Reading.

The Sirens of Titan

Sirens of TitanThe Sirens of Titan is actually a re-read for me as I venture through all of Vonnegut’s novels. If I recall correctly, I first read this book in 2015 and it was the first Vonnegut book I ever read. My recent re-read is due to my new appreciation of Vonnegut’s works, and I wanted to read this book with my new perspective. I did like it the first time around, but I enjoyed it a bit more this second time. This definitely falls in the genre of science fiction as many of his earlier works do, but it is less a science fiction story than a story that hints at that question: What is the meaning of life?

This novel has many interesting ideas and themes much like his other novels. I think I enjoyed this one more than most of his others partly due to the science fiction elements but also because it hints at a beauty through the harshness of humanity and even hints at the beauty of action in a universe seemingly pre-ordained. It speaks to the resiliency of humanity in a universe where we have no real control and there is no clear reason for our existence. It playfully dabbles with religion but does not comment directly like a few of his other novels. This story also dabbles with the meaning of luck and its inequity. Life can be difficult and unfair, just as it can be easy for some. Just as Malachi Constant.

It’s difficult to give a summary of this book without giving away key elements. To put it as simply as possible, this novel is about Malachi Constant, the wealthiest man on Earth for a time, who travels from Earth to Mars to Mercury, back to Earth, and finally to Titan, a moon of Saturn. This may not be the most enticing descriptions of a novel, but given the other tidbits discussed above, I think you’ll know whether or not you want to give it a go.

Happy Reading.

Ryan’s Favorite Reads of 2022

Wow. I have failed this month of December in creating anything new for you to read. My apologies. It’s been a strange time. I’ve had little time to read, and what I’ve read I have not loved enough to recommend to you. Part of the reason I’ve read so little this month is due to work (my busiest time of year is at year’s end), and the other part is that after 2.5 years of avoiding it, I fell victim to Covid. Though it was terrible, I was lucky it required little-to-no medical intervention and I recovered after about a week’s time.

But now it is near the end of the year, so it felt right to make a post with a list of my favorite reads of the year. Without further ado…

The Sound of WavesThe Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

The first book I’ve read by Yukio Mishima and I read it in a day. I really enjoyed it and the simplistic story told in an expert way was refreshing. It is, as bare bones, the tale of a young fisherman on a small island who finds love in a community too small to keep secrets.

I plan to read Mishima’s masterpiece (according to the author himself) which is the four-book saga The Sea of Fertility. I have the first book and hope to begin it in the new year after I finish the next few books I have lined up.

How Not To Die book coverHow Not to Die & How Not to Diet by Michael Greger

These two books I really enjoyed as I was reading and learning about nutrition earlier this year while focusing on becoming a healthier self, father, and husband. I lost 40 lbs and have kept it off through simple dietary changes. My exercise and healthy eating habits have wavered of late (Christmas cookies are partially to blame), but I’m still mostly healthy due to great habits I incorporated and I plan to get back to exercising and eating better after the holidays.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood coverFullmetal Alchemist

This manga series, adapted faithfully into the 2009 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime, is absolutely an incredible story overall and one of my favorites of all time. I first discovered it via the show which was my gateway into the immense world of anime, and it remains a favorite of that medium. The original manga are just as good (though the music in the show really sets some scenes) and I read it for the first time this year.

Kokoro book coverKokoro by Natume Soseki

Read at the start of 2022, this book was interesting mostly because it was written over 100 years ago. The story may be considered slow or lacking, but I think that is what makes it a good book. It takes it slow and has a human element not often found in many stories.

The story is about a young student who finds a mentor and slowly unravels what made his teacher the recluse he had become. This mystery is unraveled quickly as the book is not very long.

Pity The Reader CoverAnd So It GoesI spent the second half of the year mostly reading Vonnegut’s novels and other works. It all started when I read Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style by Suzanne Collins and Kurt Vonnegut. It is a book about the craft of writing, but also gives insight into Vonnegut’s life as the two were closely intertwined. In between reading all of his novels, I also read a great biography about Vonnegut written by Chris Shields and titled And So It Goes – Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. It really put his novels in a new perspective and helped me enjoy them more than I otherwise might have.

I will wrap up the last few of his novels in the new year. The few I really enjoyed this year were Bluebeard, Jailbird, Mother Night, Player Piano, and Cat’s Cradle. 

BluebeardJailbirdMother NightPlayer PianoCat's Cradle