[Feature image: Justin Brown]

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

The skinny: A man returns to his childhood home, although his house is no longer there. But he’s drawn to the farm nearby, where he had once made friends with a curious girl named Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. But as he’s sitting by a pond that Lettie once called an ocean, he begins tracing his childhood memories to that very same spot. A miner committing suicide in a stolen car. A monster disguised as a babysitter. And a whole lot of dark magic that should never happen to a little boy in the middle of Sussex, England.

Why you should read it: This book is really just a segue into me talking about how awesome Neil Gaiman is. If you haven’t read anything by him, you oughta. He has the ability to create entirely different worlds in just under 200 pages – he simply imagines them to life. He creates something like a fairytale universe, and he does it for adults.

But his writing never comes across as tedious, or over-laden with descriptive writing. I’ve tried the fantasy and sci-fi genre many times, and I’m quite picky about what I read there. But Gaiman has the ability to appeal to a large audience, because he never, ever complicates things. The roots of this story are so fantastical, yet somehow so appealing; even the average Joe can appreciate it. Plus he’s really, really entertaining.

What I learned from it: When you’re working on your travel writing, you can also create worlds without making things complicated. In fact, this should be a lesson for writers in general. If Gaiman can make you believe in alternate universes, why can’t you do the same with your readers? All it takes is putting things out there exactly as how you’ve found them. Straightforward, simple, and beautiful.