Books We Writers Should Read
The Guardian had an article entitled “Top 10 books writers should read” on August 10, 2016. I love reading lists of books I should be reading, and as a writer, I couldn’t resist.
I have heard over the years many books I “should” read as a writer, and some of them I have read, and some; I thought were not for me. However, this list had my head spinning.
I went to Amazon to see what these books were all about, many of them I hadn’t heard of.
When I read the description, I couldn’t imagine how it would help my writing specifically. All reading helps us become better writers, but some of the choices were a head scratcher.
One of the first books that caused me to raise an eyebrow was Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu. It is a sociological text that discuses the French. It talks about the decisions a French individual has to make throughout the day. Where I can see how this might be interesting, say as an essay, I cannot see myself reading an entire book that discusses this.
Another book listed is Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay. Again, the book itself sounds fascinating. It was written in the mid 19th century. It is free for Kindle on Amazon, so I did download it, and from a sociological and historical perspective, it looks like I would learn a lot. It seems like it is good for general knowledge building, I don’t understand how this would directly help my writing. The Guardian article said it is good for a writer to know about bizarre humans can be en masse. On second thought, I can see how this might be of benefit if one is to write about crowd behavior in their novel or short story.
Passive Learning Fan
I’m all for passive learning that will creep up into my writing. I read all kinds of things. I also recently signed up for The Great Courses Plus. I had been listening to MP3s of these courses, but there is an entire website dedicated to this and with video. I’m a little ADD with it though, I want to watch and absorb everything.
If you are familiar with The Great Courses, you know that they have a wide range of topics. My watch list is quite eclectic.
Hey – Just Read
It is good to read widely. We shouldn’t just read in our genre. One never knows when something may work in a story. I just don’t fancy reading a textbook about the French bourgeoisie for enjoyment or even self edification. However, If I were to set out and write a novel that included this group of people, then the book would be of great benefit.
Yes – I’d rather read Stephen King or Isabel Allende, but I know I won’t learn much about writing in general if I don’t branch out.
I’m sure there are those who look at the books I read and wonder – WHY?
I also think it is astute of the author of The Guardian article to be able to suggest these books to writers. He is a writer, so there must be something within those pages that he feels would be of benefit.
Here is my list of books I think every writer should read. This is by no means anything as head scratching as The Guardian article:
- On Writing – Stephen King
- Any published notebook by an author. Some of these include: Trumn Capote, W. Somerset Maugham and Susan Sontag.
- Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
- Secret Windows: Essays & Fiction on the Craft of Writing – Stephen King
- Just Kids – Patti Smith
My list is short, and pretty literal. I picked Patti Smith’s book because although I had always known her as a musician, she is actually a writer. This book in particular is poetically written and has a haunting quality. It is the pinnacle of creative non-fiction.