The best books to turn you into a novelist...they turned me into one

Who am I?

Loads of people want to be writers and the dream can come true! It did for me. So, I want to tell people about the books that have helped to turn me into a novelist. Initially, I wrote journalistic pieces about bizarre leisure activities for various British newspapers and magazines: I lay on a bed of nails, walked on red hot coals, met people who collect bricks as a hobby...and even lost my underpants while performing on the flying trapeze! (No kidding!) But my ultimate goal was always to become a novelist. Then, one day, I discovered the subject I just had to turn into a novel. And the result was...Death and Mr. Pickwick


I wrote...

Death and Mr. Pickwick

By Stephen Jarvis,

Book cover of Death and Mr. Pickwick

What is my book about?

My novel Death and Mr. Pickwick tells the story behind the creation of Charles Dickens’s first novel The Pickwick Papers—the twist, though, is that the main character is not Dickens, but rather his illustrator, Robert Seymour, the ‘Shakespeare of Caricature’. Death and Mr. Pickwick is about the dawning of the phenomenon of global celebrity—with Pickwick catapulting Dickens to worldwide fame—set against the personal tragedy of Seymour. No previous knowledge of Dickens is required to read Death and Mr. Pickwick. There is a very active Facebook page for the novel- so far,  there have been literally thousands of posts with some fans describing the novel as ‘life-changing’ or ‘like a time machine’. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Pickwick Papers

Stephen Jarvis Why did I love this book?

The extraordinary story behind the creation of The Pickwick Papers forms the backbone of my novel, so I must include this among my recommendations. The Pickwick Papers is full of life—loads of characters, many writing styles. There is humour—but there is also the tragic tale of an alcoholic dying clown. And, above all, this book is a journey: you feel that you have been on a long, long voyage when you reach the last page—and you will want to go on that voyage again and again. The Pickwick Papers is more like a library of experience than a single novel. I have never read anything like it. 

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Pickwick Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Pickwick Papers we are introduced not just to one of the greatest writers in the English language, but to some of fiction's most endearing and memorable characters, starting with the 'illustrious, immortal and colossal-minded' Samuel Pickwick himself. It is a rollicking tour de force through an England on the brink of the Victorian era. Reform of government, justice and commercial life are imminent, as are rail travel, social convulsion and the death of deference, but Pickwick sails through on a tide of delirious adventure, fortifying us for the future - whatever it might throw at us.

This Macmillan…


Book cover of Labyrinths

Stephen Jarvis Why did I love this book?

Borges writes only short fiction—and his collection of stories Labyrinths made a huge impression on me. The stories have a clean, almost mathematical style, and are often based on a single, bizarre concept. For instance: just suppose there existed a library in which the books represent all the possible combinations of the letters of the alphabet—so some books consist of nonsense, others consist of the complete works of Shakespeare, or even Shakespeare’s works differing by one letter from the original. In my book, I include an inset story about a man called Mr. N, who spends fifteen years of his life cataloguing every word in The Pickwick Papers and this story was strongly influenced by Borges.

By Jorge Luis Borges,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Labyrinths as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The groundbreaking trans-genre work of Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) has been insinuating itself into the structure, stance, and very breath of world literature for well over half a century. Multi-layered, self-referential, elusive, and allusive writing is now frequently labeled Borgesian. Umberto Eco's international bestseller, The Name of the Rose, is, on one level, an elaborate improvisation on Borges' fiction "The Library," which American readers first encountered in the original 1962 New Directions publication of Labyrinths.

This new edition of Labyrinths, the classic representative selection of Borges' writing edited by Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby (in translations…


Book cover of The Tree of Man

Stephen Jarvis Why did I love this book?

This book made me realise that a great novel could be largely plotless. The Tree of Man simply describes the lives of a husband and wife in Australiaa sort of echo of the Garden of Eden set in the Outback. I can’t claim that I remember many details about it nowI read it years and years ago, but I do know that it made me feel that I too could write a plotless book, based on simple, everyday human experiences. 

By Patrick White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tree of Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stan Parker, with only a horse and a dog for company journeys to a remote patch of land he has inherited in the Australian hills. Once the land is cleared and a rudimentary house built, he brings his wife Amy to the wilderness. Together they face lives of joy and sorrow as they struggle against the environment.


Book cover of Of Human Bondage

Stephen Jarvis Why did I love this book?

This book’s magic comes from its plot. I would say it is the most unputdownable book I have ever read. But once again, it deals with a simple human experiencein this case, of a young man obsessed by a woman. There are times when you feel like shouting at the main male character: “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” And of course he does do it, and you want to find out what happens. I remember that I recommended this novel to a friend, who didn’t believe it could be so unputdownablebut he found himself staying up until the early hours of the morning, unable to stop reading this novel. In a way, I think Of Human Bondage will influence me more as a writer in the future than it has so farbecause one day I would like to write a heavily plot-driven novel. 

By W. Somerset Maugham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Of Human Bondage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

"It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham," wrote Gore Vidal. "He was always so entirely there."

Originally published in 1915, Of Human Bondage is a potent expression of the power of sexual obsession and of modern man's yearning for freedom. This classic bildungsroman tells the story of Philip Carey, a sensitive boy born with a clubfoot who is orphaned and raised by a religious aunt and uncle. Philip yearns…


Book cover of London: The Novel

Stephen Jarvis Why did I love this book?

This novel was a massive influence on me. Rutherfurd takes the city of London as his subject, and follows the life of the city through the centuries, taking in Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans etc…right through to modern times. I don't have quite such a huge canvas in my book, but I do follow a series of historical events in a manner which is somewhat reminiscent of Rutherfurd. Rutherfurd takes you on a wonderful journey. 

By Edward Rutherfurd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A TOUR DE FORCE . . . London tracks the history of the English capital from the days of the Celts until the present time. . . . Breathtaking.”—The Orlando Sentinel

A master of epic historical fiction, Edward Rutherford gives us a sweeping novel of London, a glorious pageant spanning two thousand years. He brings this vibrant city's long and noble history alive through his saga of ever-shifting fortunes, fates, and intrigues of a half-dozen families, from the age of Julius Caesar to the twentieth century. Generation after generation, these families embody the passion, struggle, wealth, and verve of the…


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Off Season

By Randy Kraft,

Book cover of Off Season

Randy Kraft Author Of Off Season

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Who am I?

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What is my book about?

When Sharon's ex-husband, Red, invites her to join him for a winter retreat, she agrees. After all, they've moved past what ails them, and they get on well. She will be on sabbatical fine-tuning a PhD dissertation, and he needs a respite from an illness. Why not enjoy the charms of a southern California beach town off-season?

Soothed by sea breezes, they become fascinated with their mysterious landlord and her late artist partner, Red is befriended by a flirty neighbor and her surfer husband, and Sharon shares her literary passions with a sexy retiree. When the winds of the pandemic blow, they have to confront their past within a daunting future.

Is off-season an opportunity for renewal or a glimpse of what might have been?

Off Season

By Randy Kraft,

What is this book about?

When Sharon's ex-husband, Red, invites her to join him for a winter retreat, she agrees. After all, they've moved past what ails them, she will be on sabbatical fine tuning a PhD dissertation, and he needs a respite from an illness. Why not enjoy the charms of a southern California beach town off season? On the other hand, what else might he have in mind and what will she face if she lets her guard down? Soothed by sea breezes and ocean views, they become fascinated with their mysterious landlord and her late partner, a Fauvist painter. Then, Red is…


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