Language can be spellbinding. It can evoke sights, sounds, and smells. It can take you to different worlds and transform you into new characters. Lana Popović’s debut, Wicked Like a Wildfire, is already gaining serious attention for its vivid descriptions and lush writing. To celebrate the book’s release, Popović shared books that captivated her with their stunning writing.
I have an abiding fascination with exploring the many aspects of beauty on the page—especially when this closer look is rendered in compellingly stunning language. Here are some of my favorite books that find beauty in the strange, the mundane, and the tragic, all gorgeously wrought down to each sentence.
This contemporary fantasy about blue-haired Karou—a girl at the center of an epic struggle that spills over from another realm into our own—is both visually stunning and lyrically written, and Laini Taylor’s take on angels and demons is dazzlingly original. Though anything that she writes verges on impossibly lovely, this is the book that broke my heart with its beauty and cemented my love for young adult fiction.
Never have I read a book that made me want to ply its main character with lush trifles and cocktails in return for more stories as much as this one did. In Terre d’Ange, a land of unsurpassed beauty and grace, Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève is an anguissette chosen by Kushiel, the god of justice and vengeance. She’s a stunningly beautiful courtesan and spy who finds pleasure in pain. Brimming with political intrigue, gods, and shatteringly gorgeous love stories, this book is luscious and seductive, an ode to the danger of beauty.
This brilliant adult genre-bender—fantasy meets sci-fi meets dystopian—evokes a world built on the backs of orogenes, a minority blessed and cursed with the power of magical seismology, and wields it to deliver blisteringly perceptive social commentary on our own world. N.K. Jemisin’s visuals of a restive land trapped in a state of constant seismic upheaval are stark and stunning, and her exploration of human nature and the vastness of our emotional landscapes is piercingly beautiful, too.
Set in a Slavic-inspired fantasy world, this story follows the narrator into a gorgeous, verdant realm of old magic, sacrifice, and a sinister forest that isn’t what it seems. Agnieszka’s bright, unruly, and willful voice leaps off the page, and I found the twist on Slavic folklore particularly bewitching.
We don’t usually think of psychological/crime thrillers as beautiful, but Tana French’s plunge into the secluded little world of a toxically entwined, co-dependent group of friends—who may or may not be ruthless murderers and manipulators—is beautifully written, breathtakingly perceptive, and true to her unique brand of unsettlingly dark and twisty.
This contemporary YA with a speculative twist follows Megan, a withdrawn and talented found-object artist, in her quest to prove that her charismatic, gregarious brother didn’t commit suicide like the police believe. Over the course of her own investigation, Megan relies on her newfound ability to see an object’s history by touching it—but only when that history is written in tragedy and pain. Danielle Mages Amato’s writing is clear and luminous, and her incisive exploration of grief, political corruption, and the haunting world of “murderabilia” lingers long after the last page.
Lana Popović was born in Serbia and spent her childhood summers in Montenegro. She lived in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania before moving to the United States, where she now calls Boston home. She works as a literary agent with Chalberg & Sussman, specializing in young adult literature.