What writers should read…(this one has novels, only)

January 23, 2008 § 1 Comment

Published authors are often asked for a list of their favorite books, the stuff that impacted their own writing in some way. You can tell by their lists that they strive for eclectic stuff, hearty stuff, extreme and MOR (middle-of-the-road) stuff so it all doesn’t look too personal or slanted.

 Invariably many start with the Greeks, like Aeschuylus, and a certain few refer to Beowulf, followed by Dickens, Faulkner, Wharton, Browning, Shakespeare, Poe, Twain, etc.

I have no problem with any of those; they are great books but their titles have been mentioned so often, the new writer’s eyes glaze over and say “nah, not those again. Show me something new and excellent.”  

So, for Snarl, who may be embarking on some communication/journalism thing, what would I, as a published writer, suggest? (First of all, read everything from poetry to how to’s to novels to plays and magazines.)

My list which is NEVER comlete keeps its feet planted in the contemporary so that Snarl will listen, not that he has anything against the “old” stuff but there’s plenty going on in the past 50 – 100 years to exemplify good reading that teaches great writing.

A WINTER’S TALE by Mark Halperin…I don’t know completely what it is about (can you believe that?) but it is so uniquely written that I kept going and read it cover to cover and when I was done, I had more of an excellent feeling than I did a literary opinion.   Lyrical. This one gets 5 Pens.

WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys. This one is short so even if you hate it, you can keep going.  It’s wet, mysterious and compelling. It’s the prequel (unauthorized) to JANE EYRE, the story of the woman in Mr. Rochester’s  attic in JANE EYRE and she deserves to be heard.  The power of setting.  4 Pens

A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving.  He takes his time telling the story; the reader forgets that something is supposed to happen and is surprised when it finally does. Owen’s conversation  is alwayswritten in capital letters to show his odd AND LOUD voice. Excellent use of a “trick” that could easily have gone wrong.  It’s also a very American story without being a yawn-er. The power of patient writing.     4 Pens

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLS by Ray Bradbury. I don’t care if you think you hate sci fi; Bradbury, who wrote a story EVERY WEEK, nails that fine line between everyday and extraordinary. It’s not easy to achieve. Come on, you’re always saying you want to escape.  The wonder of this book? It makes good writing look easy.  5 Pens.

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§ One Response to What writers should read…(this one has novels, only)

  • Nora says:

    Loved the Martian Chronicles! LOVED It. Haven’t read the others but suppose I must check them out. What about Hemingway… Farewell to Arms? The Sun Also Rises? I would have on those my list.

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