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.
Brittany 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.
Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces
- Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter.
- An Explanation for Chaos, Julie Schumacher
- Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, Alice Munro
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
- Little Children, Tom Perrotta
Lindsay 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.
Kerry 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.”