[Wyrd Words Workshop] My top five reads this year and a holiday reading list...

Hello Reader,

As the major bookish publications release their end-of-year best-of books lists, I always like to spend a little time thinking about what my favorite reads were over the last year. And of course, I love to share them in case you're looking for some holiday gift ideas or just stocking your TBR pile for Winter Break.

My full list of 2023 Holiday Book Recommendations is available on Bookshop.org, but here are my favorites, presented in a list of light-hearted "awards." Perhaps in the future, I should call these the Wyrdos:

Best Mash-Up of My Interests

Of course I'm going for unconventional categories, friends, what did you expect? This is the perfect mashup of highly feminist, lyrical, and...Shakespeare. Joy McCullough brings her amazing verse and her roots in theater to this retelling of several of Shakespeare's most famous heroines in this masterpiece of social commentary. I read this one in one sitting because it was so compelling. This one should be at the top of every best-of list this year. The fact that it's not makes me want to shout about it from the rooftops even more.

Best "How did he do that?" Award for Craft

If my best friend hadn't told me this was a must-read, I might have put it down when I realized there were so many different timelines and that, in typical Doerr style, they wouldn't come together until the very, very end. But I'm so glad I hung on with this one because the way he wove these stories together was ultimately so satisfying. There's really no way to say what this book is about in any sort of short form, so I'll just say this: It's a craft masterpiece and you should definitely read it if for no other reason than to try to figure out how the heck he came up with the idea to weave so many seemingly disparate ideas together into one stunning whole.

Best Retelling of an Original I Loathe

TJ Klune is fast becoming one of my favorite insta-read authors. So I picked up his latest without even paying attention to what it was. And I'm glad I did because if I'd known it was a Pinocchio retelling, I might have given it a miss given how traumatized I still am by that nightmarish fairy tale from my childhood. He brings his typical humor, heart, and M/M romance to this classic story that reimagines Pinocchio as a post-apocalyptic adventure with some very strong parallels to The Matrix in addition to fun re-imaginings of aspects of the original. As always, the voice is what drew me in from the opening chapter. I mean, Rambo, an anxiety-prone Roomba vacuum, needs to be on the list of best-ever sidekicks, in my opinion. Just one of the many delights in this book.

Best Holiday Romance

This year has been rough, folks. So rough that I started reading holiday romance in July. Which is how I not only discovered this series beginning with A Merry Little Meet Cute, but was primed for Book 2, which was truly delightful. Although many of the typical "Christmas Romance" tropes are firmly in place, there's a fun twist--the main character, who plays Santa in the Christmas Romance they're filming over the course of the book--is Jewish. And a former boy band star. And a pizza-baking entrepreneur. I loved this one with all my heart. The team-up of Julie Murphy's lovely fat positive characters with Sierra Simone's excellent spicy love scenes was a real winner for me.

Favorite Over-All

Oh look, another Shakespeare reference. Well, at least I'm on brand. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow has little to do with Shakespeare though. It's a story of gamers Sam and Sadie and their unlikely friendship that spans decades, multiple tragedies, and dare I say multiple dimensions? Another multiple-timeline, multiple POV craft masterpiece, this one breaks so many rules so well that it's another must-read for the craft wonks out there. But it will also probably make you cry. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Here are a few book lists from around the internet as well. Because let's face it, I can only read so many books! I've knocked out 68 and counting this year, but there are still so many more I'd like to read, including quite a few of these:

I know I've said it before, but reading is one of the best ways to learn the craft of storytelling. So I hope you have some time in the coming weeks to refill that creative cup and read, read, read.

If you have a favorite read from this year that's not on my radar, hit reply and let me know!



PS - Start the new year out right with January's Craft Magic Webinar - Create a Blueprint for Your Book on January 8, 2024, 4 - 5:15 PM PT. This hands on workshop covers the first step in my Six-Step Story Planning Process and will help you see how your own personal "Why" for writing is the key to knowing where your book fits on the shelf and how to get it there.

Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Julie Artz works with both award-winning and newer authors across the publishing spectrum from Big Five to small and university presses to indie and hybrid. She is an Author Accelerator-certified Founding Book Coach, a sought-after speaker and writing instructor, and a regular contributor to Jane Friedman and Writers Helping Writers, and a regular instructor for AuthorsPublish, IWWG, ProWritingAid and more. Her work as a Pitch Wars and Teen Pit mentor, a former SCBWI Regional Advisor (WWA), and her memberships in The EFA, the WFWA, AWP, and the Authors Guild keep her industry knowledge sharp. A consummate social and environmental justice minded story geek, Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Redmond, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers (when they’re not off at university!), and two naughty furry familiars. She’s built a thriving book coaching business based on her values, her editing chops, and her knowledge of story. Check out her weekly newsletter, Wyrd Words Weekly, and subscribe today.

Read more from Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Hello Reader, Recently, I listened to a podcast with “Deep Work” advocate Cal Newport that talked about the impact of social media, email, and, more broadly, distraction has on our creative work. But he also mentioned a philosophical war of sorts between Deep Work denizens and those who adhere to Mihaly Csikszentmihali’s theory of "Flow" or what he calls "optimal experience." In a world obsessed with these sort of ideological cage matches, I often start thinking in the dialectic—what if it’s...

Hello Reader, It's been a busy spring around here! I offered my first-ever free three-hour workshop to the public. I migrated my course materials to a brand-new platform with robust features to support writers. And I even spruced up my look with a months-long rebranding process. Then last week, we onboarded the next cohort of writers to the Wyrd Writers Collective. I'm absolutely energized by all of this, but I've also been woefully neglecting my novel. It can be so hard to prioritize our...

Hello Reader, One of questions that emerged from Story Scaffolding Live! last week was around a question that appears in my course materials and those of other writing coaches as well, as well as on several editor and agent submission forms: Why are you the right person to tell this story? I love asking this question because it gets to the heart of your bigger "Why" for writing the story--what it means to you on a personal and emotional level, moving beyond the events that happen in the story...