While I write (and sometimes while revising), I take breaks to recharge my creative juices by reading fiction. Not all writers do this; I know some who avoid reading any books in their genre while they're writing something new. But I love to get inspiration from other novels, whether or not they're in the genre I'm writing. Here are several books I read and totally loved while writing the book I'm currently working on:
Alcestis by Katharine Beutner (adult) — This is a reimagination of the myth of Alcestis, who was known as the dutiful wife who willingly gave up her life for her husband, descending to the Underworld for three days before being rescued and returning to the living world. I had never heard this myth before, and I probably would never have picked up the book on my own ((Someone recommended it to me months ago but I didn't find time to read it until recently.)) because the cover looks so much like a literary historical novel about Ancient Greece. I love literary historicals, but I've never been drawn to Ancient Greece.
This is just another lesson in how much I should not judge a book by its cover, because this book is a luscious, lyrical fantasy, full of gods and goddesses and lusty love. And in Beutner's version of the tale, Alcestis's three days in the Underworld also involves meeting Persephone, who, as a goddess, has quite a bit of seductive power of her own. This is a beautiful book! I highly recommend it to people who like retellings of myths or fairy tales, especially those in which women fall in love with women. Those are certainly rare. (And this book just came out in paperback! Go get it.)
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (adult) — This is an older book, first published in 1996. I've been carrying a copy of the paperback with me from place to place ever since I got it, knowing that I'd want to read it someday, because it has so many themes that I am fascinated by: religion, space, anthropology, first contact with an extraterrestrial species.
The Sparrow is about a Jesuit priest who is among the first group of humans to make contact with an intelligent nonhuman species. It is science fiction the way I love it best: about big ideas and humanity and love and sacrifice, with a backdrop of interstellar travel. :) If you haven't read the book before, it's a gorgeous read. And Russell manages to deliver a lot of specialized, technical information about linguistics in a very fluid, intelligent and even gripping way. It is an amazing book.
Red Glove by Holly Black (young adult) — This is the sequel to the first book in the Curse Workers series, White Cat, and if you haven't read that one yet, you should read it first because Red Glove is a total giant spoiler for White Cat. What I love about these books is that Holly Black is a master manipulator. The plot she weaves is intricate and tricky and you can't trust anybody in her books to tell the truth, but you can trust that she will take you on an amazing ride.
At the same time, there is way more than merely plot to these books. They're also about civil rights, uncomfortable family relationships, the imperfection of romance, and of course, identity. And did I mention page-turner? You will not be able to put them down. Red Glove comes out the same day as Huntress (obviously an auspicious day!).
And now I go back to work ...