The most important thing a writer can do–other than establish a consistent writing habit–is read, and read widely. You can do this by picking random books off a library or bookstore shelf or by strategically creating a list of books you want to learn things from. The random approach is a lot of fun but your writing will advance more quickly if you strategically pick books.
DIY MFA suggests that your reading list be divided into four categories, and this week Gabriela challenged the DIY MFA street team(us lucky folks who got to review the book in advance) to blog about their own reading list. I’ll be honest and tell you that my reading list is almost book length itself, so this is going to be just a snapshot, but I hope you’ll enjoy it all the same:
These are books in a similar genre to your own or focused on a similar theme. I’ve actually got a lot of books from my childhood I want to reread on my personal list but for this post I’ll focus on books I haven’t read yet.
- The Tiffany Aching Sequence(starting with Wee Free Men and ending with I Shall Wear Midnight) by Terry Pratchett. Although I’m really tempted to just make this item “every Terry Pratchett book ever” because the man’s a bloody genius
- The Godsland Series by Brian Rathbone, an intensely successful indie author who also happens to be the funniest guy I follow on Twitter(and he’s agreed to do an interview here this summer! SQUEEE!) The last book in this series will also fall under my contemporary reading list.
Contextual titles help you put your own writing in perspective. This includes any/all media you use for research while you’re working on a book. It can also include books that use a similar storytelling technique or style of writing.
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which focuses on out-of-body experiences and near death in a rather unique way that I think will help me contextualize the experiences of a POV character in my current novel who also happens to be a vampire
- The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau and the other Books of Ember — The first two are rereads but there’s a prequel I haven’t delved into yet. These books are kind of slow but they ask some very interesting questions about humanity.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynne, definitely the most famous book I know of that uses multiple first person POVs. One character’s POV is actually letters, but it’s still two first person POVs.
Even if you’ve only just started outlining your first book you should know what’s being published in your genre at any given time. Books in this section of the list should have been published in the last three years.
- Scrapplings, Children of the Dragons by Amelia Smith, who has actually approached me about an interview & review
- MUD by EJ Wenstrom, who I interviewed last week
- Assimilation by James Stryker, which I’m really excited because it’s a science fiction novel that involves a character accidentally ending up in a differently gendered body
The term classics might instantly conjure up images of Jane Austen and J R R Tolkien, but there are a great many classics in every genre. Gabriela doesn’t really define how old a classic should be, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say anything published 20+ years ago can qualify as a classic, if it is well respected enough. Read many classics in your genre and a selected few outside of it. Most of the classics on my list are rereads, things I read when I was 8-13 that I want a better understanding of.
- Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
- The Silmarillion, also by J R R Tolkien — I’d like to publish the mythology for my own worlds as a series of short audiobooks
- The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, which I read so many years ago I don’t even remember what year it actually was. It left a deep impression on me but I’m sure I’ll understand it more and be able to actively study the writing techniques this time
What’s on your reading list?