Archive

Tag Archives: Books

Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno Garcia

Let’s go play at the Adams’ – Mendal Johnson

The Only Good Indians – Stephen Graham Jones

The Reddening – Adam Nevill

The Wide, Carnivorous Sky – John Langan

The Breakout Novelist – Donald Maas

Best Horror of the Year vol. 11 – Ellen Datlow

Educated – Tara Westover

The Deep – Alma Katsu

Orphan X series – Gregg Hurwitz

Talking To Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell

The Nevernight Chronicles Trilogy – Jay Kristoff

The Madness of Crowds – Douglass Murray

The 3 Body Problem – Cixin Liu

House of Leaves – Mark Danielewski

Economics in One Lesson – Henry Hazlitt

Making Evil – Dr. Julia Shaw

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

The Wise Man’s Fear – Pat Rothfuss

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

Mongrels – Stephen Graham Jones

The Deep – Nick Cutter

The Gulag Archipelago – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Flowers for Algernon

The Hunger – Alma Katsu

The Name of the Wind – Pat Rothfuss

The Institute – Stephen King

Wake in Fright – Kenneth Cooke

Blue Mind – Wallace J. Nichols

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

Enlightenment Now – Steven Pinker

How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes – Peter Schiff

Moby Dick – Hermann Melville

The Butchering Art – Lindsay Fitzharris

The Ritual – Adam Nevill

The Labyrinth of the Spirits – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Original Grimm’s Fairy Tales

The First 5 Pages – Noah Lukeman

October Country – Ray Bradbury

Some Will Not Sleep – Adam Nevill

His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman

Interview with a Vampire – Anne Rice

Win Bigly – Scott Adams

Summer of Night – Dan Simmons

The Troop – Nick Cutter

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Psycho – Robert Bloch

Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins

Planet Word – J.P Davidson

The Damnation Game – Clive Barker

Writing the Breakout Novel – Donald Maas

Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

Flow – Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi

Ordinary Men – Christopher Browning

Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz

Mistborn #1 – Brandon Sanderson

The Fireman – Joe Hill

The Emotional Craft of Fiction – Donald Maas

The Rape of Nanking – Iris Chang

Tribe – Sebastian Junger

Nowhere Man – Gregg Hurwitz

Orphan X – Gregg Hurwitz

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch – Alexander Solzhenitzen

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Where Nightmares Come From – (Various)

Reality is Broken – Jane McGonigal

NOS4R2 – Joe Hill

The Nightrunners – Joe Landsdale

Influence – Robert Cialdini

Dune – Frank Herbert

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – Jordan Peterson

Musashi – Eiji Yoshikawa

Junky – William S. Burroughs

Midnight Sun – Ramsey Campbell

The Martian – Andy Weir

Panzram – Journal of Murder

Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Watcher in the Shadows – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Nocturnal – Scott Sigler

Madam Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

Bird By Bird – Ann Lamott

Permutation City – Greg Egan

The Uses of Enchantment – Bruno Bettleheim

Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

The View from the Cheap Seats – Neil Gaiman

The Passage – Justin Cronin

The Warrior Ethos – Steven Pressfield

The Knowledge – Steven Pressfield

Letters to Lucilius – Seneca

Trigger Warning – Neil Gaiman

Danse Macabre – Stephen King

Watership Down – Richard Adams

If This is a Man – Primo Levi

Night Music – John Connolly

The Writing Life – Annie Dillard

Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari 

Top 10 Nonfiction

  1. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari
  3. The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan
  4. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors – Carl Sagan
  5. Tribe – Sebastian Junger
  6. Freakonomics – Steven Levitt
  7. Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
  8. Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
  9. Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker
  10. The Rape of Nanking – Iris Chang

Every single one of these books changed my writing significantly for the better, each in a different way, and I’ve read some of them several times. That’s saying something by the way, since as a rule I never read a book more than once – there are too many good ones out there.

I should probably caution you to take your time reading these, if you’re planning to go through the list. The best way to do it, I think, would be to work your way down from #1, and as you finish each book spend at least a few months practicing and applying the things you learn. Otherwise you run the risk of taking in too much information and forgetting half of it before you get a chance to internalise it.

  1. The Elements of Style – Strunk & White
  2. On Writing – Stephen King
  3. Stein On Writing – Sol Stein
  4. On Writing Well – William Zinsser
  5. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  6. The First 5 Pages – Noah Lukeman
  7. No One Wants To Read Your Shit – Shaun Coyne
  8. The :Emotional Craft of Fiction – Donald Maas
  9. The Hero With a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
  10. Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
  1. It – Stephen King
  2. Drood – Dan Simmons
  3. Summer of Night – Dan Simmons
  4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R Tolkien
  5. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
  6. The Dark Tower series – Stephen King
  7. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
  8. Carrie – Stephen King
  9. The Terror – Dan Simmons
  10. Flashback – Dan Simmons
  11. Tommyknockers – Stephen King
  12. Needful Things – Stephen King
  13. Jack Reacher Series – Lee Child
  14. Live by Night – Dennis Lehane
  15. Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane
  16. The Damnation Game – Clive Barker
  17. The Heroes – Joe Abercrombie
  18. First Law Trilogy – Joe Abercrombie
  19. Game of Thrones series – George R.R. Martin
  20. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stephenson
  21. The Witches – Roald Dahl
  22. Orphan X Series – Gregg Hurwitz
  23. Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl
  24. The Silence of the Lambs – Robert Harris
  25. The Great God Pan – Arthur Machen
  26. The Ruins – Scott Smith
  27. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  28. Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
  29. The Last Kingdom series – Bernard Cornwell
  30. The Things They Carried – Tim O’ Brian
  31. Let the Right One In – Joh Ajvide Lindqvist
  32. Books of Blood – Clive Barker
  33. Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson
  34. Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons
  35. Requiem for a Dream – Hubert Selby Jnr.
  36. Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  37. The Beach – Alex Garland
  38. Post Office – Charles Buckowski
  39. A Time to Kill – John Grisham
  40. Salem’s Lot – Stephen King
  41. Pirate Latitudes – Michael Chrichton
  42. Eaters of the Dead – Michael Chrichton
  43. Fallen Angel – William Hjortsberg
  44. The Stand – Stephen King
  45. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  46. Call of the Wild – Jack London
  47. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  48. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  49. 1984 – George Orwell
  50. The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
  51. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  52. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  53. The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
  54. The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
  55. Perfume – Patrick Suskind
  56. Joyland – Stephen King
  57. Audition – Ryu Murakami
  58. Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno Garcia
  59. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  60. King Solomon’s Mines – H. Rider Haggard
  61. She – H. Rider Haggard
  62. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
  63. The Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  64. Preacher (Graphic Novel) – Garth Ennis
  65. Interview with a Vampire – Anne Rice
  66. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  67. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
  68. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  69. The Firm – John Grisham
  70. Dead Inside – Chandler Morrison
  71. The Help – Katherine Stockett
  72. Hearts in Atlantis – Stephen King
  73. The Shining – Stephen King
  74. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Shwartz and Stephen Gammell
  75. Pet Sematary – Stephen King
  76. The Eyes of the Dragon – Stephen King
  77. Some Will Not Sleep – Adam Nevill
  78. Bird Box – Josh Malerman
  79. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  80. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  81. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
  82. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  83. Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut
  84. Marina – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  85. Best Served Cold – Joe Abercrombie
  86. Red Country – Joe Abercrombie
  87. The Ritual – Adam Nevill
  88. Lets go play at the Adams’ – Mendal W. Johnson
  89. I am Legend – Richard Matheson
  90. The Thief of Always – Clive Barker
  91. The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkien
  92. 20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill
  93. Heart Shaped Box – Joe Hill
  94. Ghost Story – Peter Straub
  95. Rant – Chuck Palahniuk
  96. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
  97. Minority Report – Phillip K. Dick
  98. Dune – Frank Herbert
  99. Mongrels – Stephen Graham Jones
  100. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

There was no longer a sun in the sky, but the day was bright all the same, and Jerry Friedman was smiling as he stepped out into the light. He waved a cheerful good morning to his neighbour Lance, who was also heading to his car for the morning commute, and got a pleasant response.

‘Hey there, buddy. Gonna be a good one, huh?’ He hated Lance. That guy was like this even before good took over. As smug as he was boring. An asshole, perfect in every way. Jerry wanted to drag him into a dark alleyway and tear him to pieces.

‘Oh yes, sir. Looking forward to it.’

The commute was easier, he supposed. You didn’t really drive. You just sat there and watched your car shoot along the roads at an insane speed, somehow navigating crowded intersections with barely a pause, inches to spare yet never so much as a scratch on the paintwork by the end. An hour long journey became ten minutes with such ideal coordination. He was always early. Everyone was.

He was lying out in the back garden when the eye opened in the sky. He had a gun in one hand and a half empty bottle of vodka in the other, celebrating his divorce to Grace. Ten years of hell with that bitch. He cut her loose and it still somehow felt like the worst day of his life. He remembered her sneer the last time he saw her, the familiar way her lip curled up on just one side. ‘At least I don’t have to sneak around with Dean anymore.’ He didn’t know who Dean was and he didn’t ask. ‘He’s my boyfriend. I love him.’

‘I didn’t fucking ask.’ That memory was clear in his mind at the moment the eye blinked open. He sensed it at first, a softening of the light and a cooling, changing from noon to a sunset in a moment. He stared up at the sun – or at least where the sun had been, and there it was, looking right back at him. No iris, just a round white ball with a dilated pupil in the middle.

Watching.

Work was accounting. It didn’t used to be, because he hated maths, but once he started work there – no interview required – he found it so easy that he could let his mind wander while his hands moved the paper. He was doing that a lot lately. His mind usually wandered to happy places, like the place where he had Lance, or maybe Dean, tied up in his basement and he got to work on them with a baseball bat.

He greeted his co-workers, chatted about his new life and how great it was. No need to worry about that paycheck, isn’t that fine? Gene from customer service asked him how his ex wife was doing. He’d been dating her while the divorce was going through. Today, he kept his tone light and his eyes on her face. ‘Not an ex for much longer! We’re getting back together!’ Everything anyone said these days ended in a cheerful exclamation mark, their expression one of perpetual joy.

‘That’s great!’ she said. He felt something break inside him. It wasn’t a new feeling. Every day he woke up and saw that eye he moved one step closer to insanity. It would reach him any day now. He felt like he was in a car with the brakes cut, rolling down a steep incline toward a bottomless canyon. No way to stop. All you could do was hold on tight and watch it come. You didn’t even get to scream.

On that first day, Jerry found himself doing things. He didn’t decide to do them, or ponder them, or motivate himself to do them – he just found himself already doing them. He’d stared at the eye for a minute or so, wondering if he was hallucinating, and then he’d got up from his deck chair, dropped his gun in the dustbin and emptied his vodka into the kitchen sink. Him, who’d rather pour liquid gold down a sink than vodka. Since then, he ate mostly vegetables and lean meat, drank only water, and never over ate.

Television was on for exactly half an hour each day, blinking on automatically when he got home from work, and it showed world news. There was no world news. No accidents, no disasters, no new inventions. Statistics, happy news stories. A dog that could talk, a new nature reserve, the tallest building ever built, a world government formulated, another prison closed.

He came home to a pristine house, and Grace had cooked him dinner. They sat down to eat it, talking about their incredibly boring days, and he watched her eyes for signs of life. He thought he saw some hatred in there, and that gave him a little hope. He envisioned sticking his fork in those eyes and popping them into his mouth like meatballs.

‘You know, it’s best for everyone. I mean, I don’t know if it’s God or what. I suppose He must be, to be so powerful.’

‘Could be the devil.’ The words made it all the way out of his mouth and there was a short silence while they pondered what that could mean. She made a funny choking sound and he realised she was trying to swear. Didn’t work. Shit.

‘Anyway,’ she went on as though nothing had happened. ‘It’s a force for good. Everyone guaranteed a hundred years. No pain at all. Nothing bad.’

‘Nothing bad.’ He said. ‘Nothing…’ It was possible, sometimes, to communicate like that. Get across a point without saying it. There were times he was grateful he still had his thoughts, but most of the time he wished he didn’t. That abyss came closer by the day, opening out before him so he could see the emptiness for which he was destined.

‘You have to be thankful that in the end, good won.’ She said, shining him a brilliant white toothed smile. Her smile had never been white, nor cheerful. It had been yellow and mean, like a stray dog with bared teeth.

‘Yes. Good won.’

And the days passed this way, uniform and perfect. They had two kids, and on a daily basis, even as he took care of them and played with them, Jerry envisioned smothering them in their sleep or drowning them in the bath. They weren’t his children, really – they belonged like everything else to the eye in the sky. The only difference was they’d never had it any other way. They had no idea their bodies should be theirs to control, not the insane being that scrutinized their every move.

But there were no suicides, no murders, and the world hummed along without mishap for decades.

Good won, he told himself many times as he saw the face in the mirror, always smiling, grow older, but not weaker, nor senile. He only looked older, but felt like a younger man than the year before. Good won.

The abyss grew larger and darker. Sometimes, when he looked deeply into the eyes of his friends and colleagues he could see that they’d already lost their sanity, and that nothing was left behind the shell that walked the earth. Who knew what thoughts scuttled through the broken things that had once been human minds? What were they now? Toys?

No prisons, no hospitals, no police. Early to bed, early to rise. Board games with the kids. Good won.

He could see inside the abyss, now, and there lay a question there that he didn’t like at all.

Thoughts of destruction. Torture and death and executions. He imagined skinning his family alive and setting fire to his work. He imagined sinking an axe into Dean’s head and shooting Lance in the face. His mind was on fire with thoughts while his body bought groceries and laughed at knock knock jokes.

The question was, if there was a God, wasn’t there also a heaven?

The air was never too cold or too hot. Pain of any kind no longer existed for him or anyone else, nor even discomfort. He ate but was never hungry. He slept but was never tired. Night time never came, only that pleasant orange sunset light.

Good won? Perhaps there hadn’t been a battle, at all. Maybe good had had it from the start.

The abyss was looming now and the screams within him, the thoughts of bloodshed and murder threatening to consume him utterly.

The question was: what had he really done with the gun the day the eye opened in the sky?

Walking towards his car, Tom looked up at him and waved. ‘Hey there, buddy!’

‘Hi, friend! Gonna be a good one, today, huh?’

‘Oh yes sir.’

He smiled at Tom, but though his lips moved, there was nothing behind his eyes. Only the dark, stretching onwards into eternity.

%d bloggers like this: