There are many reading lists out there for writers of all genres, shapes, and sizes. But I’m not here to reinvent the wheel. I’m here to simplify.
Instead of giving you a long list of must-reads that will be overwhelmingly long on top of your already long to-read pile, let’s focus on just three books. And not just any three books – three types of books strategically chosen to help you become a better writer. After all:
“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
― Mark Twain
For more inspiration on why to read, check out this article.
Here are the three books you need:
1. Books in your genre.
Some writers fear that if they read books in their genre, they will copy those plots and characters. So, to avoid plagiarism, they don’t read in their genre. Don’t fall into this trap! Reading in your genre helps you learn first-hand the expectations of readers in your genre. You learn what they like, how long they’ll read (word count), and how fast they’ll read (pace). You learn the thrill of reading and about the reader-writer connection. After reading a few books in your genre, you’ll get a taste. After reading many books over the course of many years, you know the basic rules and how to appropriately break them.
2. Books outside of your genre.
So you constantly have a stack on books in your genre. Great! But what now? It’s time to read books outside of your genre. And I mean everything. Read fiction and non-fiction from the children’s section, teen/YA section and adult section. Ask a librarian at your local library if they have any special sections, such as a learning resources, local histories, or a language section. Then borrow one or two books. Leave your comfort zone at the door and feel what it’s like for other readers who have other interests. You don’t even have the finish the book if you hate it! (That’s why I say borrow from the library instead of buying these books.)
Honestly, I’ve learned more about writing from books I hated than books I loved. Why? They taught me what I don’t like and what other readers do. This is especially apparent in book clubs. There’s no guarantee everyone will love the same book, so you’re bound to dislike or not even finish a couple over time. But this gives you an opportunity to learn about others’ reading habits and explore aspects of other genres. Something might just inspire you to try something new within your genre.
3. Books on the craft of writing.
But wait! Before you start breaking all the rules by combining genre tactics, you need to learn the craft of writing. This is best done with general books on the craft of writing as well as books that are specific about your genre or sub-genre. Books on craft will give you the proper tools writers don’t always pick up while reading. They show you (and me) what you’ve been doing wrong and how to correct it. They help you improve your current style to become a better writer.
That’s why we read, right? To become better writers?
Get reading. Other stories are waiting to inspire you.