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5 Top Authors on What Serious Writers Should Be Reading


We’ve all been told that if you want to be a writer, you need to write a lot, and read a lot. But what should you read? And what should you write about? Certainly a few guidelines could help.

I’m typing this as summer has come to Wisconsin. The season is robust; made of mist and mud. There are long, hot days stretching between vacations on the calendar, lacking structure. It’s structure I crave. Books for pleasure, sure, but also substance. I want to read books recommended by authors who have written the types of books I’d place in the “read a lot” category. And so, with a little help from my friends: here is a worthwhile list.


briBrittany Cavallaro‏, New York Times bestselling author of the Charlotte Holmes Trilogy

“Heather Sellers’s The Practice of Creative Writing, which is just the best. I learn something every time.

In terms of fiction, I teach a lot of short stories: Alexandra Kleeman’s You, Disappearing, Lorrie Moore’s Terrific Mother.”

kathleen-glasgow1Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces



lindsay-eagarLindsay Eagar‏, acclaimed author of Hour of the Bees

“One hundred percent require all my students to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved for sentence craft + genre-bending. Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love for weirdness + character arcs, any of Neil Gaiman’s works to show how simplicity can work well, and Anna-Marie McLemore’s books for basically an MFA in 400 pages on how to just write effing pretty books.

Also short stories that I’ve loved: Raymond Carver’s Cathedrals, any by Karen Russell, Kelly Link, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”

kerryKerry Kletter‏, acclaimed author of The First Time She Drowned

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill for economy of language/form. Anything by Tobias Wolff for dialogue.” (This choice was seconded by the lovely Marisa Reichardt, who wrote Underwater, the book that made me, Melissa, cry twice on a plane.)

Olive Kitteridge for character.”