I've been thinking a lot recently about the cliche, "To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader." I teach a workshop about writing cliches and have found this one particularly annoying because there is a LONG journey between identifying and enjoying good books and writing one of your own. In trying to break this down, one thing I have realized is that, as a reader and writer, I have maintained a personal bibliography of novels that do certain things well (such as great openings, great development of secondary characters, great happy (or sad) endings) and I turn to these works when I feel my own manuscript comes up short in one of these areas. I also use these books when I teach about various elements of writing craft.
Here's a short list of novels I've recently cited in workshops about honing the opening pages of your novel:
JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen
LEGEND by Marie Lu
ALCATRAZ VERSUS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS by Brandon Sanderson
I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak
And here are a few old favorites:
FEED by M. T. Anderson
THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot
A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman
MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers
DEFIANCE by C. J. Redwine
UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld
What inspires you when you're stuck revising that all-important CHAPTER 1?