We’ve all heard the writing advice to read as much and as widely as possible.
The reason for this advice is fairly simple. If you are a fantasy writer and you only read fantasy novels, you run the risk of producing a novel that lacks originality.
You may be very well informed about what stories, premises and concepts have already been done, but how will you be able to offer anything different if your reading preferences are so narrow?
Writers should aim to read as widely as possible. You may love fantasy novels, but it’s important that you also read outside of this genre.
Read crime, romance, science fiction, speculative and horror books. Read literary books, classics, short stories, flash fiction, micro fiction and non-fiction.
Read cookbooks, memoirs, essay collections and poetry. Read books about travel, history, theory, politics, productivity, money and health.
Read books about how to declutter and organise your house.
Read medical books.
Read coffee table books like Bibliophile by Jane Mount (one of my current favs and a fantastic starting point for reading widely!).
Not only will reading widely make you a better person in general (hello, healthy eating habits, responsible saving and organised wardrobes!), it will make you a more interesting person to talk to and it will definitely make you a better writer.
When you know more, it’s possible to write more because you’re no longer drawing from your limited experiences or ideas. Challenge yourself to read works that open your eyes to bigger concepts and problems.
Read books about feminist theory, climate change, philosophy, human/animal relations, economics and conspiracy theories (this one is especially great for dystopian writers!).
Reading widely enable you to take snippets of information from a variety of sources and embed that knowledge within your current WIP.
The work will benefit from your careful inclusion of this information as the story itself will become more interesting. Obviously.
Also, if you read more widely and challenge yourself to read texts you wouldn’t ordinarily read (especially non-fiction and scholarly works including literary analysis, theory, philosophy), you will innately produce work that has more substance. Your work will have something to say.
Remember: the message behind the story needn’t be prescriptive or a slap in the face; there is such a thing as sub-text.
Remember: Your readers aren’t stupid. If you do a good job, they’ll find the message beneath the mayhem.
Even if a reader picks up your work and enjoys it solely for the story, they will still feel that the book is about something bigger.
You don’t have to read widely. You don’t have to write stories that are more than just the story. But the writing process itself and your growth as a human being will be better if you do. Just saying.
If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve included a list of random books you may enjoy perusing.
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Books that Will Make You a Better Writer
Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Walters
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
The Savior’s Champion – Jenna Morecci
Rupetta – Nike Sulway (?)
Call my Evie – J.P. Pomare
Mystic River – Dennis Lehane
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
The Liar’s Club – Mary Karr
Clade – James Bradley
Stations Eleven – Emily St John Mandel
Gold Fame Citrus – Clair Vaye Watkins
A Superior Spectre – Angela Myer
The Book of Dream – Nina George
Lincoln in the Bardo – George Sauders
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Stand – Stephen King
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
We are all Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
From the Wreck – Jane Rawson
The Signature of Everything – Elizabeth Gilbert
Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth
Villette – Charlotte Brontë
Emma – Jane Austen
Orlando – Virginia Woolf
What are People For? – Wendell Berry
A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Rebecca Solnit
I was Told There’d be Cake – Sloane Crosley
Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado
The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz
Non-fiction Environmental Writing
The Reinvention of Eden – Carolyn Merchant
The Soul of an Octopus – Sy Montgomery
The Invention of Nature – Andrea Wulf
The End of Nature – Bill McKibben
Get your life together
You are a Badass at Making Money – Jen Sincero
Do the Work – Steven Pressfield
The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
Deep Work – Cal Newport
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
Life on Mars – Tracy K. Smith
Howl – Allen Ginsburg