Shred The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, read Smilla’s Sense of Snow (Peter Høeg)
Forget computer hacking, Smilla Jasperson is part Eskimo and can read snow. Unlike Lisbeth, she doesn’t need some journo hack to solve crimes for her: she’s got this one in hand, even if she has to break a few bones and expose a few truly messed up politico-/scientific conspiracies. Høeg’s prose is exquisite and the story—well, it gets weird. Something about those long and sunless winters in Scandinavia breeds some very dark and twisted detective fiction. (Above: Julia Ormond in the 1997 film adaptation.)
Shred Twilight, read Sunshine (Robin McKinley)
The only explanation for Twilight being more popular than the talented McKinley’s easily digested, smart, pacy writing is some kind of cosmic brain fart. The alternative, that people actually prefer writing that tastes like cardboard soaked in cheap strawberry syrup, is not acceptable. Rae “Sunshine” Seddon has a lot in common with Bella Swan: pale vamp love interests, rebels, loners—but with the key difference that you would love to go drinking with Rae, and you would like to put Bella Swan in the drink.
Shred Harry Potter, read the Abhorsen trilogy (Garth Nix)
Like the Harry Potter series, Abhorsen Trilogy is also YA fiction, but it’s dark stuff. Nix’s fictional world is plagued by the dead, from zombie crows and parasites that feed off your life to the chilling Greater Dead. They can be controlled by a necromancer called the Abhorsen. Does the necromancer use a wand? A pointy phallic stick to poke at things to make the magic happen? Nope. The Abhorsen wields seven bells. So cool. I promise you will want a bandolier of bells by the end of the books more than you ever wanted a letter from Hogwarts. Like Harry, Lirael has a birthright that she doesn’t fully understand, Unlike Harry, she doesn’t take seven books to go out and grab it with both hands. Try Chapter Two.
Shred Game of Thrones, read The Assassin’s Apprentice (Robin Hobb)
If you are thinking of reading the books because you liked the Game of Thrones TV series, let me stop you right there. I hear George R.R. Martin can write, but he does not demonstrate this ability in the Game of Thrones books. Back away slowly now. Pick up the Assassin’s Apprentice series. Now read the series in one go because that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do epic fantasy with impeccable plot and character development. Hobb is irritatingly talented and very original, except to the delicate head nods to the genre. Here be dragons.
Shred 50 Shades of Grey, read (better) Internet fanfic
There’s a great swath of fanfic out there that is better written than anything that’s come within shooting difference of the New York Times bestseller list, because it’s written by lawyers who sold out their creative writing dreams to earn a buck and are now repressed six ways from Sunday.