Five Books You Should Read If You Want To Write a Book. (Plus 5 more)

Guest post by Eric Thomas

Reading is the most important aspect of a writer’s life. Simply put, if you’re not a voracious reader, you’re not going to be much of a writer. Pro writers will tell you, “It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, just read.”

That’s true, but you’re gonna need a large base of good stuff before you charge ahead. If you’re going to sit down and tackle that novel burning inside you, you need to know the basics. Full disclosure: These are my basics. I’m sure if you’re a YA or erotica writer–your list will be quite different. Here’s mine:
  1. On Writing - Stephen King

    More of a blueprint than anything Jay-Z has ever done. It’s a roadmap drawn by the master, every page offers mouthfuls to chew on. It begins with the tidbits about his early life, moves to his musings on the craft—along with terse and sage advice. It’s even genuinely affecting to hear about his road back from addiction and the van strike that almost ended his life. He gives you all the advice you need here, and if you can’t live up to it, there’s no reason to continue. As far as being a writer, it’s required reading.

  2. The Stand - Stephen King

    So the first two on this list are King. If you’re going to write fiction, it’s a good idea to read the most iconic piece of fiction written in the last century. My all time favorite from King is Under the Dome, but if you haven’t read The Stand you need to start right now.

  3. Red Dragon - Thomas Harris

    Harris hits a level in this book that’s rarely seen in fiction. It’s amazingly well executed, the characters pop out of the page. It’s considered commercial fiction, but Harris has a near lyrical flourish here. You’ll learn how to do dialog and how to avoid lulls, along with the ability to inject commentary into a moving narrative.

  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling

    Granted, you’ll have to read six other books to really get it, but the journey was worth it. Rowling had the entire world waiting with rapt attention and in book seven she hangs from the rim. She manages to bring a small city of characters together, stage a Wizarding war, and wrap up the series in a satisfying package. The final showdown with Voldemort could have been a little more epic, but this is where books can fall short sometimes. Still, an absolute classic from an author at the top of her game.

  5. Slaughterhouse Five - Vonnegut

    So it goes...Kurt Vonnegut is a hero. He’s off the chain here, but if Cat’s Cradle is more available to you, that’s really good too. All Vonnegut is good, so just drink it up.

Extra Credit
  1. Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy

    A masterpiece of violence and human depravity. Fans of The Road don’t understand what McCarthy is capable of. This book will change you from the inside. More than any other piece of fiction, this made me want to start writing books.

  2. The Brothers Karamazov - Fydor Dostoyevsky

    Fear not! It’s a fun read. The length is daunting, but the characters are amazing. Dostoyevsky is absolutely mind blowing, a true artist and philosopher.

  3. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace

    Speaking of length, Foster Wallace’s doorstopper isn’t finished by many people, which is a shame. It’s heavy, it’s difficult, but there are heart stopping pages that will change how you feel about life. It’s funny as hell, too.

  4. Farewell To Arms - Ernest Hemingway

    Read at least one Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises works, but For Whom the Bell can be a bit of a slog.

  5. Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser

    Best nonfiction book I’ve ever read. The comparisons to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle are ubiquitous, but this book does a great job mapping how America has decended into a landscape shaped by the copy + paste function (something I’ve explored a lot in my own work).