Writers Should Read

I’ve posted before, Why Reading is Important, but I thought I’d expand and clarify what I wrote before, in light of the recent information I’ve come upon in How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

Before, I didn’t mention what kind of books or stories to read. Here I will offer a few suggestions, and why. First of all, if you are a genre writer, read in your genre, read everything you can get your hands on: short stories, poems, novels, flash fiction, from online and in print. Why: when you pitch you should know and related titles, also, you don’t want to be writing the same story that’s been written over and over again—and if you read you will know, AND you can throw twists in.

Okay. That wasn’t specific, but you should know your genre well enough to know where to look. It’s daunting to read that much (if it’s free, read the first few pages to get a feel for things).

Shakespeare says, "I agree!"

Without further ado:

  • The Illiad: If you haven’t read this (like me—currently reading) you should. This is the epic of Homer that we see re-enacted on the big screen. Everyone has heard about the Trojan War. You can use allusion to enrich your writing. Frank Herbert, in Dune, pays tribute to this work (as do many other writers). It also has Greek religious stories that we’ve heard before.
  • The Bible: I haven’t read this, and it is on my To Read list. As much as you may or may not like it, English literature is steeped in Biblical stories. Character names from the Bible can have extra meaning, and you can, again, make allusions to this work. Back in the day, if you could only take one book with you, it was the Bible. Stories and moral support.
  • The Collected Works of Shakespeare: for the above reason, if you could only take a book, Shakespeare often was chosen as well. Shakespeare references both above works, and he references other grecko-roman culture stories. He’s also got some really great stuff.

Those three should keep you fairly busy. Also consider learning about Norse Mythology and reading Grimm’s fairytales. Those are also part of English literature. This will give you a nice basis for stories. If you’ve read Tolkien, Gandalf is much like Odin of the Norse world-view. That is why he work offers resonance beyond just the fantasy genre.

Good reading and writing! Remember: the more you read, the more you know. Empower your writing by reading too. Inspiration in word is a powerful thing.


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