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STEPHEN KING’S List of Must-Read Books For Writers (And Why I Agree That This Is Important)

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools)
to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King

I have been writing stories even before I knew how to turn letters into words. That may sound a bit odd but my mother has pictures of me at two and three, sitting at a little plastic red and blue plaid table, spending hours doodling lines on pieces of paper while I told various stories out loud in my room. By the time I was able to write words and create actual sentences, I was permanently attached to a pencil and notebook paper (or a typewriter when my dad gave me his old Brother Electric) and could be found firmly coupled to my desk spurting out short stories and poems (horribly complex things in which very little made any sense at all) until one day, when I was sixteen, I wrote something good. Something I knew was good. Something that proved I was destined to be a REAL writer.

Flash forward 24 years and I’m still sitting at a desk (or really my bed, it’s easier on my back these days) churning out pages of stories (or posts for this website that I love), sending them out into the world out and getting rejected or accepted depending on the day.

But none of this would have happened if I didn’t follow my favorite author’s advice (even before I knew he said it) and read a copious amount of books throughout my life.

Not an actual picture of my collection of books, mine is much, much larger and stacked floor-to-ceiling in my bedroom

I’m always surprised when I talk to another writer who tells me, almost proudly, that they don’t read. From some, the omission of books from their life is simply due to the fact that they don’t want to be influenced by another writer’s style, others they say that they don’t have the time to sit and open a book when there’s writing to be done, but for me the act of reading (and I’m not always reading something literary either, some days it’s the Sweet Valley High series just for fun) is paramount to becoming a better writer.  The hours spent reading do not detract from my writing, in fact, it helps it.  When I read Ready Player One (Ernest Cline) or Desperation (Stephen King) or Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger) I am not avoiding writing or being unduly influenced stylistically, I am being inspired.

And that is what King’s Must Read List of Books For Writers is all about, reading good books (including genre, he is not a book snob) so that one can to be inspired by what has come before in order to go out and create something even more profound.

If you are one of those writers who aren’t spending just as much time reading as you are writing, stop and step away from the keyboard for an hour or two and start reading…now, because if you don’t, you aren’t really a writer, you’re merely a visitor in the land of storytelling.

Now, this list is just a starting point. Add to it or subtract from it as you will (if the subject or author isn’t to your liking don’t feel bad, go on to the next one or simply chose someone else altogether) but you must read.

Trust me, it is worth your time.

1. Peter Abrahams, A Perfect Crime
2. Peter Abrahams, Lights Out
3. Peter Abrahams, Pressure Drop
4. Peter Abrahams, Revolution #9
5. James Agee, A Death in the Family
6. Kirsten Bakis, Lives of the Monster Dogs
7. Pat Barker, Regeneration
8. Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
9. Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
10. Richard Bausch, In the Night Season
11. Peter Blauner, The Intruder
12. Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
13. T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
14. Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
15. Christopher Buckley, Thank You for Smoking
16. Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
17. Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth
18. Windsor Chorlton, Latitude Zero
19. Michael Connelly, The Poet
20. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Project Gutenberg)
21. K.C. Constantine, Family Values
22. Don DeLillo, Underworld
23. Nelson DeMille, Cathedral
24. Nelson DeMille, The Gold Coast
25. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (Project Gutenberg)
26. Stephen Dobyns, Common Carnage
27. Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
28. Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors
29. Stanely Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show
30. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
31. Alex Garland, The Beach
32. Elizabeth George, Deception on His Mind
33. Tess Gerritsen, Gravity
34. William Golding, Lord of the Flies
35. Muriel Gray, Furnace
36. Graham Greene, A Gun for Sale (aka This Gun for Hire)
37. Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
38. David Halberstam, The Fifties
39. Pete Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters
40. Thomas Harris, Hannibal
41. Kent Haruf, Plainsong
42. Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
43. Stephen Hunter, Dirty White Boys
44. David Ignatius, A Firing Offense
45. John Irving, A Widow for One Year
46. Graham Joyce, The Tooth Fairy
47. Alan Judd, The Devil’s Own Work
48. Roger Kahn, Good Enough to Dream
49. Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club
50. Jack Ketchum, Right to Life
51. Tabitha King, Survivor
52. Tabitha King, The Sky in the Water
53. Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
54. Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
55. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
56. Bernard Lefkowitz, Our Guys
57. Bentley Little, The Ignored
58. Norman Maclean: A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
59. W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence (Project Gutenberg)
60. Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain
61. Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
62. Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
63. Alice McDermott, Charming Billy
64. Jack McDevitt, Ancient Shores
65. Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
66. Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden
67. Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk
68. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Zeke and Ned
69. Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
70. Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
71. Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods
72. Stewart O’Nan, The Speed Queen
73. Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
74. Richard North Patterson, No Safe Place
75. Richard Price, Freedomland
76. Annie Proulx, Close Range: Wyoming Stories
77. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
78. Anna Quindlen, One True Thing
79. Ruth Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes
80. Frank M. Robinson, Waiting
81. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
82. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban
83. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
84. Richard Russo, Mohawk
85. John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation Road
86. Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
87. Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions
88. Richard Slotkin, The Crater
89. Dinitia Smith, The Illusionist
90. Scott Spencer, Men in Black
91. Wallace Stegner, Joe Hill
92. Donna Tartt, The Secret History
93. Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet
94. Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
95. Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
96. Donald Westlake, The Ax

Source: Aerogramme Writers’ Studio

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