Last year I read a book that stunned me. It wasn’t just the topic that captured me though. It was the way the author wrote what blew my mind.
I remember that reading the editor’s prolog of the book made me skeptic at first. The editor was speechless, awed and impressed with the author; With his style and the magic of his words. I thought he was exaggerating. As any editor worth their salt, he had to say something good about the author.
I was wrong. The moment I started reading the book I understood. The depth of his words, the beauty and the artistry of what the author wrote was astounding. I finished the book with tears in my eyes. I hadn’t read something so profound, so well written, something that moved me, in a very long time.
Those pages made me reflect on how much more there is behind simply putting words down. It’s not only about the topic. Yes, there are great disseminators. They digest complex issues and break them down to their basic essence. That, in itself, is an art. It’s worth admiring because it’s hard. When you read them, you nod and catch yourself agreeing or surprised by the sudden insight.
Words can inform, but they also have to move your soul.
But that’s just a quarter of the magic. I would argue, that’s the beginning of being a good writer. Being able to transform those words, those concepts into an emotional pinnacle, that’s the purpose. Words can inform, but they also have to move your soul. They bleed, they feel, and they convey, not only knowledge, but wisdom, experience and, why not, a tangible essence of the writer.
I wanted to be able to do that. I wanted to be a better writer.
That was what I felt while reading that book. It wasn’t about the topic; it was the soul behind it, the gentleness, the empathy, and comprehension. All of it wrapped into this beautiful and colorful plethora of words, which tenderly enveloped the core story.
It shocked me. It shocked me so much it planted a seed in my brain. I wanted to be able to do that. I wanted to be a better writer. But how can you be better? I never studied literature, so, while I read plenty, I never went through the usual list of must-read books.
Creativity is driven by a process, one that starts with a seed. With an internal drive to express something, but that needs of structure and technique to thrive.
So months later I decided I needed to go deeper into my appreciation of words. I needed to learn from the best. I had to understand all styles, their peculiarities, their magic. The goal wasn’t to follow one style but to enrich mine.
I’m a big believer in creativity as a process. Great work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There is no such thing as a Eureka moment. Creativity is driven by a process, one that starts with a seed. With an internal drive to express something, but that needs of structure and technique to thrive.
I always resorted to words to express myself. But writing needs training; it needs work and technique. The more I write, the more comfortable I am, but also, the more I see my shortages and limitations.
In their own way, they capture life so thoroughly that it’s breath taking.
And so I embarked on this personal project to read the greatest books ever written. I wanted to analyze and understand what made those books so appreciated. Some are fashion, but others are remarkable. In their own way, they capture life so thoroughly that it’s breath taking. I want that. I want to push my words. I want to move people; I want to touch and caress people with my pages.
I’ll be sharing each book I read and my feelings and thoughts about it. I have a massive list of around 50 books from all styles and backgrounds. I’m covering from Tolstoy to Tanizaki, stepping through Hemingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald or Virginia Wolf.
I would love to hear more recommendations from everyone and add those I don’t cover yet. This is, of course, a long-term project, so bear with me if I haven’t read one of your favorite. I am ashamed to confess I haven’t read some of the most famous works of literature, but I will.
Let’s do this!
PS: The book that inspired this new challenge is called When Breath Become Air by Paul Kalanithi. It’s a remarkable book, very hard to read due to the nature of the topic, but one of the best books I’ve read in recent years.