Writers Reading

It’s a question writers often ask their friends: what are you reading? Often the answer will be a novel from the bestseller list; less often, classic literature or a short story collection; even less often (sadly), a book of poetry. When writers ask other writers the same question, common responses might be reversed, and answers likely include books on the craft of writing.

Writers aren’t snobs to bestselling genre fiction—some of us love nothing more than a lighthearted beach read or eerie horror story now and again. After all, it’s a writer who wrote that bestseller. Still, the books and novels you’ll find on an author’s bookshelf may differ from those on Great Aunt Martha’s shelf, or your cousin’s shelf, or even your best friend’s shelf.

Why is that?

Mostly it’s because, as writers, we understand the importance of reading the best stories, and by best, we don’t necessarily mean bestseller. We mean stories with characters we can’t forget, with plots that we’ll be thinking about a year from now, and with a narrative voice that rings in our ears forever. Writers also understand how crucial it is to study in perpetuity the craft of writing. We are students until the end of our days. While we’re always looking for the next, greatest writing book, we still return to ones we’ve read before, knowing we’ll learn something new—something we missed the first (or second) time around, when our writing skill was at a different level.

craft boooks

A large shelf in my office is filled with books on writing craft, and there are still more stacks of texts about writing in other areas of my home. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t read a chapter—or several—from one of these sources of inspiration, style, and skill.

Below are titles of a few texts I’ve found extremely helpful as a fiction writer and to which I often return. I hope you’ll share in the comments some of the books on craft that have helped you grow as a writer. Because, as you well relate, I’m always looking for the next great book on writing.

The Lie that Tells a Truth by John Dufresne

The Art and Craft of the Short Story by Rick DeMarinis

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter

From Where You Dream by Robert Olin Butler

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Eudora Welty

Writing Fiction by Gotham Writer’s Workshop Faculty

Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway

Now share your favorites below!



8 thoughts on “Writers Reading

Add yours

  1. I have to agree with Pam on this one. My favorite is Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ For just the mechanics, I love the simplicity and straight forward style of C.S. Lakin’s, ‘Say What? The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage.’ I’ll have to check out a few on your list. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been a bookie since grade school and was careful not to tell other kids how much I read. I never claimed reading as a hobby. Reading was my private hobby. I’d rather read than write.

    For me, learning how to “truly read” is the first step to good writing. By truly reading I mean observing and understanding what the author intended, not just sailing through a good- to- read book. One way to improve your “truly reading” efforts is to learn what to pay attention to as you read. The GREAT COURSE on reading DVD helped me tremendeously, as did college courses in lit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent intriguing list, Rhonda! Thanks for sharing! On Writing , Stephen King is one of my favorite books on craft and the life of a writer. As far as a ‘go to’ book…Elements of Style , Strunk and White is crafty indeed!Techniques of the Selling Writer by Swain is one that has often been recommended to me and I have owned for years but must confess have yet to crack open. Other writers I know really like The Hero’s Journey by Vogler…I’m partial to William Goldman’s writing on screenwriting because I think novelists can get a lot of ‘takeaway’ from that process.

    Liked by 1 person

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