Books to read

Books to Read if You’re Going to Write

By on March 20, 2014 . Category Column

It’s no secret that to be a better writer, you also have to be a better reader.  Reading is the key to writing, because only by studying books, knowing them inside and out, can you truly start to write like a master.

But some books are more beneficial than others.  And with so many options out there, where should you start with your “read more books quest”?

Let’s narrow it down so it’s not so overwhelming, shall we?


Books About Writing

Naturally, these are going to be a good choice.  There are a few gems, though, so if you really want to not only learn about the craft, but feel inspired, I recommend:

On Writing by Stephen King:  This book is fantastic.  Many a writer has declared, upon finishing this, that it should be mandatory reading for everyone who wants to write.  And it should.  Add it to your “To Read” list now and put it right at the top.  You won’t want to miss this one.


The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:  Apparently, people named “Stephen/Steven” know a lot about writing, because this one is also gold.  This isn’t a book every writer should read—this is a book every PERSON should read.  Read the whole thing, then keep it on your desk so you can read a page every day. Read them at random—it doesn’t matter.  This book is amazing.


Books In Your Genre

We all have an age group, genre, style, or niche that we want to write for.  Strengthen your ability to write in that area, and write it well, by studying it.  This is also a good way to see if your idea is played out, and discover what fresh new angles your preferred genre could benefit from.

If you’re writing for a specific age group, you can learn about what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate, and how far you can take things (or if you want to take things that far!) in your story.  An example is that I tend to get pretty brutal in my books, so while I love middle grade, I shy away from it, sticking to young adult—much more wiggle room for torturing characters.

You’ll learn a lot about the characters, situations, obstacles, villains, and settings of the books you love.  So spread out—read from different authors, read every genre-specific book you can get your hands on, and see what you love, hate, admire, or would completely revise.  This is a golden learning opportunity.


Books Outside Your Genre

This is just as important.  Don’t be closed off to books outside your genre.  You can be a little more picky with these—pick them strategically, to save your sanity.  But do read as many as you can stand.  Seeing the characters, situations, and plots of stories outside your genre will give you ideas and keep your writing fresh.  You might even decide to mix and match, playing with genres to create a story that’s all your own!


Bonus Point:  HOW to Read

I’m not assuming you’re illiterate—clearly, you are (or you’ve taken advantage of a service that reads for you, so you’re good).  My focus on this tip is to ensure you’re reading right.  See, you aren’t just a reader anymore—you’re a writer.  You have to read like a writer.

That means paying attention to all the little details a casual, leisurely reader won’t worry about.

Study the dialogue, the pacing, the sentence structure.  Analyze the plot, the characters, the twists and turns.  Really pay attention to them.  Really learn from them.  Take notes if you’re feeling particularly motivated—you’ll appreciate them later.

Don’t just kick back with a book to relax.  Read like your life depends on it.  An aspect of your life—the “being a writer” part—absolutely does.

If you follow these four little points, reading (and reading actively), then you’ll improve your writing by leaps and bounds, and you’ll do it fast.


What are your suggested books to help improve reading?  What book or article has helped you most?


  • Rosario

    Two of my favorite books on writing for writers are: 1) Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg and, 2) Chicken Soup For The Writer’s Soul. I found them highly inspiring and motivating, especially if you have writer’s block.

    • Eve Jacob

      I haven’t read those, but I’ll definitely check them out. Thanks, Rosario!!

  • Yusuf

    what a great post! is there any suggestion on book about how to read?

    • Eve Jacob

      Not that I know of, but my personal advice is: Read consciously. Pay attention to what the author is doing, saying, implying, leaving out…it’s all very useful to notice!

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