5 Must-Read NaNoWriMo Books

Every November, writers around the world participate in the challenge known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), run by the US non-profit organization of the same name. NaNoWriMo requires participants to complete 50,000 words of an original novel in the 30 days of November. The challenge is meant to promote creative writing among young people, teach writing (such as by providing tips on how to overcome writer’s block), and foster a mutually supportive community for writers. Unsurprisingly, many great books originally began as NaNoWriMo submissions. Any bored readers who want to try something new should consider the following titles to support emerging young writers, bolster NaNoWriMo, and discover the unique creations that writers managed to conceive in 30 days.

Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen

This bestseller started as a NaNoWriMo submission before achieving mainstream popularity and even getting turned into a movie in 2011. Water for Elephants tells the heartbreaking though ultimately a happy-ending story of a veterinary student who joins the circus as an animal caretaker and trainer. Full of animals, romance, and disaster, this book is a great read for anyone who likes a story that is alternately tragic and triumphant. I haven’t read this book, but after learning about it, I really want to try it. So anyone whose interest is at all peaked by Gruen’s rich story should join me and give it a read. Just don’t cheat by watching the movie first!

Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool began as a self-published short story with the same name, released in 2011 before Howey turned it into a novel for NaNoWriMo. Wool is now the first novel in a sci-fi series called Silo. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the outside realm—that is, the areas outside the subterranean city in which humanity resides—is toxic and deadly to anyone who enters it. A review featured on the author’s webpage refers to Wool as “epic storytelling” and “allowing the reader to uncover truths together with the many, care worthy, relatable characters.”1 I don’t know about you, but this book certainly sounds interesting to me!

Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer

Ok, this one is not one book but three, all written in the same NaNoWriMo period. Yes, Marissa Meyer wrote 150,011 words in one November. Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress are part of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. They retell classic fairy tale stories, but with a sci-fi twist. Featuring a cyborg Cinderella and a revolutionary Rapunzel fighting against an evil queen (among other reinvented fairy tale characters), these are not the bedtime stories of your childhood. Don’t you want to know what Marissa Meyer did to your favorite fairy tale character?

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This New York Times bestselling postapocalyptic novel is the first of a trilogy. It takes place in a world overrun by zombies, which are held off from civilization by a fence that surrounds all the towns, shutting people in and monsters out. I read this novel myself when I was still into the young adult genre, and this is a definite good read for anyone who likes sci-fi/fantasy and likes to be scared. The imagery and very concept of this book will give any reader chills. I mean, just imagine a world where unthinkable danger lurks beyond a thin barrier, with a mere fence to protect all of humanity from zombies.

Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart

Take the Reins is the first novel in the Canterwood Crest series. Canterwood Crest is a must read for the horse girls out there. The story centers around a group of teenage equestrians and the elite boarding school they attend. Throughout the series, the girls make friends and enemies as they balance school, friendships, budding romances, and horseback riding lessons amid the chaos of growing up in an elitist environment. This is another one I highly recommend for anyone who likes horse books and can handle a large dose of teen drama.

  1. “Wool.” Hugh Howey. https://hughhowey.com/books/wool/
  2. Other Sources:
    1. Conradt, Stacy. “14 NaNoWriMo Books That Have Been Published.” Mental Floss. 5 Nov. 2015, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/53481/14-published-novels-written-during-nanowrimo
    2. Grunenwald, Jill. “8 Bestselling Books Written During NaNoWriMo.” Overdrive. 1 Nov. 2019. https://company.overdrive.com/2019/11/01/8-bestselling-books-written-during-nanowrimo/

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