Is there a book you've read you wished you'd written? This is a harder question for me than I initially imagined that it might be. If I'd written some of the books I ardently admire, I'd have been robbed of the opportunity to enjoy reading them. At the same time, some stories are so enchanting, some writing so smart and wicked, that I can't help but wish I'd had the idea and the skills, too. And of course, there are some tales - I find this particularly true of retellings - where I am so deeply disappointed in how a legendary concept is so poorly imagined.
In the end, I'm not sure there's any book I've loved that I'd really rather have written than read, though there are a few stories so skillfully told that they're more than worth mentioning.
M.K. Hobson's The Native Star is an underrated gem and one of the few steampunk/weird west tales that doesn't get so involved with itself that the story and the characters are lost. Perhaps it is that I am most drawn to the characters is what makes this one stand out to me - the elements of the world embellish their lives, rather than the other way around. I'm all for a well-built world, but Hobson manages to make her alternate history feel as vibrant as the real one without overshadowing some truly spectacular characters - and a unique magic system - in Emily and Stanton.
Naomi Novik's Uprooted is definitely in my top five favorite retellings-ish, ever. Novik does exactly what I aspire to do when approaching writing any kind of folk or fairy tale, making it feel familiar and strange in the same instant, surprising in the ways that it conforms to what we know as much as it breaks away into new and delicious territory. I plan to fangirl Novik so hard at Dragon Con this year, you have no idea.
Leigh Bardugo manages to do something with Six of Crows that I honestly think I may never be able to do as a writer: invest readers deeply into the lives of multiple, distinct, and distinctly unheroic protagonists. I don't even generally enjoy reading books where the perspective changes, but with this one and the equally unputdownable sequel, Crooked Kingdom, I wouldn't have had the reading any other way. While I felt connected to certain characters more than others, I still felt affinity for each, and readily shifted between their voices and aims.
I know that I am still writing the sorts of books that I liked to read, for the ideal readers who enjoy the same weird and wonderful things that I do, but truly: I think I'd rather focus on getting better and read more from authors I enjoy than co-opt their voices and ideas.