Books that make me want to be a better writer

Every Monday, Kerry Crisley shares passages from books that inspire her.

I was reader long (LONG!) before I was a writer. Now that I’ve published my first novel and started working on my second, I read with the added filter of “author.” Sometimes I read something so clever and engaging that I’m irrationally jealous that I didn’t write it myself (I’m looking at you, Alice Feeney of Rock Paper Scissors). Sometimes I’m (again, irrationally) left with a picked-last-for-the-kickball-team feeling because some below-average tome is hitting bestseller lists and mine is languishing in the 857,345 spot on Amazon. I’m not proud of those moments, FYI.

And sometimes I can just lean in and let gorgeous prose carry me away. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is one of those books. Like this passage from page 81:

There are sixteen stairs until you get to the bookstore. Maya slides her bottom down each one because her legs are too short to manage the flight with confidence. She toddles across the store, past the books that don’t have pictures in them, past the greeting cards. She runs her hand across the magazine, gives the rotating stand with the bookmarks a spin. Good morning, magazines! Good morning bookmarks! Good morning, books! Good morning, store!

Beautiful, right? The toddler voice, to me, is pitch perfect. Knowing the exact number of stairs to the bookstore. “The books that don’t have pictures in them.” The tactile delight of glossy magazine stock. The ritual of spinning the bookmark stand…just because she can.

I’m proud to call my author, but I’m under no illusion that my writing is exceptional. Writers like Zevin are the motivation I need to challenge myself to evolve my voice, my go-to phrases, and my own storied life as a writer.

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