New writer needs reading suggestions

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New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by theothername » February 10th, 2010, 6:09 pm

Hi Everyone,

I've been writing recreationally for about 10 years and I'm looking to make some professional moves. However, I've severely handicapped myself in that the amoutn of reading I've done is VERY limited. HELP! Where do I start? I'm talking like "books that every writer or literary person should definitely read in their lifetime." I tend to liek more modern works, but I'm just tring to get on even footing with everyone else.

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marilyn peake
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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by marilyn peake » February 10th, 2010, 6:45 pm

On the Internet, it’s pretty easy to find lists of great books. Periodically, I check the lists of winning books for the major literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Nobel Prize in Literature, Man Booker Prize, and Nebula Awards. I also go to Amazon and search through best-sellers by category, then read descriptions of the books and check out whether or not they’ve won awards. You can also visit websites specifically devoted to genre authors and their books, e.g. the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) site.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by JustineDell » February 10th, 2010, 6:58 pm

Ha, I've totally been there. What are you wanting to write? I would suggest starting your reading list there. If it's YA, then go get a butt load of YA books (recent ones) same goes for sci-fi, romance...etc...etc...etc. You have to be familiar with your genre before you write it, so best to read what you want to write!


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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by Serzen » February 10th, 2010, 9:39 pm

Check out Time's list of the 100 "greatest" novels of all times: ... _list.html

I just stumbled across this last year some time and realized that I read a lot of them, a whole lot. I don't agree that they all belong there. Some of the ones that I read and enjoyed don't belong there. Just because you have an influence on popular culture doesn't make your book great.

That said, just because I didn't agree with some of the titles chosen for some of the authors doesn't mean that I don't like the author in question. Stephenson has done better work than SNOW CRASH, for example. And Gene Wolfe didn't make the list, which is quite probably criminal--it would be if I was in charge.

I recommend that you read as broadly as you can. Read as many titles by as many different authors as you can. And read some nonfiction about topics that interest you. Every book that you read will, hopefully, be written differently and by absorbing all those differences you can sort through them and weigh them and see what works for you. If you like the way that William Gibson delivers short snippets of prose to convey a lot of information but you also find yourself thoroughly enraptured by William Burroughs' cut-up technique you might find a way to combine them to convey your own voice.

Have fun both with the reading and the writing, that's the most important.

Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by PoppysInARow » February 13th, 2010, 1:18 am

I think when people start writing they believe there are "special books" they MUST read.

Don't sweat it so much. Who cares if you've never read the Iliad or delved into the works of Jane Austen? What do you want to write? What genre are you going to be focusing on? Start with those books. Writing fantasy? Read fantasy. Writing literary fiction? That's what you need to read. Don't know what you want to write? Pick up several different kinds of books, books that appeal to you. Just start reading things you enjoy, and before you know it, you'll recognize titles other authors mention.

The important thing is that you read, every day, as much as you can. And enjoy yourself. :)
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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by theothername » February 13th, 2010, 11:36 am

I really appreciate all of the feedback from everyone. Delving into writing isn't too scary, but delving into the gigantic and ever-expanding world of reading is a much different undertaking. I'm into literary fiction if anyone has some good picks. Especially if they have an urban edge.

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » February 13th, 2010, 12:08 pm

My recommendation: The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem.
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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by hannah_dreamergirl_3 » February 17th, 2010, 7:09 am

It's good to read, but remember a writers greatest tool is there imagination!
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'Good writing is to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon'


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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by LGS » February 18th, 2010, 12:53 pm

I'm reading The Ghosts of Belfast right now by Stuart Neville. Its a debut, but oh-so-good. It takes place in Dublin and Belfast. And grit? Oh yeah, it's gritty and urban and really well written. And it has ghosts like the title implies, but it's not trendy paranormal. Just really, really entertaining.

I would also recommend anything by Dennis Lehane.

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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 2nd, 2010, 11:53 pm

I don't think there is a "must read" list for any writer. I think you need to read plenty of books in the area you want to write and plenty of books that challenge you outside your familiarity. You should start by defining the type of book that inspires you and then read books very much like it and slowly move outward until you're reading inspiring stuff way outside your comfort zone.

I have a small stack of tried and true books I return to whenever I need a little something extra to remind myself of who I am as a writer, who inspires me, and who I have learned from. It's a personal stack and I imagine everyone has their own. But these are just some of mine.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (he bore me through college with this book. It always seemed to be my answer to everything.)
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor (She scared me and delighted me and enlightened me and taught me to look at scenes and moments from every possible point of view and to never let my car break down in the middle of nowhere)
Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood (she reinvented me during the year after college when I needed to shake off the academic writing voice and find my creative one)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (Many reasons.)
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (my favorite novel of all time. I feel like I grew up in this book.)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (My favorite book as a little girl until The Great Gatsby made off with my sensibilities and Jellicoe Road came along and stole my heart)
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Nathan Bransford
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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by Nathan Bransford » April 3rd, 2010, 1:46 pm

Yeah, I'd second the nomination of THE GREAT GATSBY. It's not my favorite novel of all time, but it may be the most perfectly written. The last page is something I'd give up a limb to have written.

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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by Nick » April 3rd, 2010, 4:31 pm

Count me on third for Gatsby. I didn't enjoy it particularly much, but the last two or three paragraphs were really fantastic.

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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by theothername » April 6th, 2010, 1:10 pm

The support for The Great Gatsby is amazing!

But I agree that it is a great example of a very well-written piece. I didn't enjoy it much either, but the ending is perfect.
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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by » April 9th, 2010, 11:13 am

Have you read "Reading like a Writer" by Francine Prose? I listened to it while writing --don' know if that's the best way to read it...

How about The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon --set in Barcelona, books in the story -photos and maps of actual places.

My good friend and intellectual hero(write, professor, reader of greek) and SWORE that reading Mody Dick once a year was all anyone needed to remain literate... hmmm. He died a few years back and I inherited his John Updike, Joseph Campbell, James Joyce --He had a hard time with my love of Oscar Wilde ("A Picture of Dorian Gray" in particular) but he was the man I asked what to read and now that he's gone, I trust librarians and forums like this.

I think finding a few reading mentors is a key to finding good books... where everyday is a good day to read a book.

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Re: New writer needs reading suggestions

Post by wilderness » April 14th, 2010, 5:05 pm

The Catcher in the Rye
Slaughterhouse Five
Pride and Prejudice
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harry Potter series (if you haven't read it, it's worth knowing what created the biggest publishing craze in our lifetimes)
Brave New World and/or 1984
Edgar Allen Poe - short stories
Nathaniel Hawthorne - short stories
Ray Bradbury - short stories

I recommend you also read extensively in the genre you are writing.

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