My Reading List … On Writing

“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”-Lisa See. As I voraciously read through a fantasy series, I understand why she said that. Furthermore, throughout the years, I have been known to read a nonfiction book or two. Here’s a list of those related to writing, recalling those which I feel have made an impact on my writing or my perception of writing.

Each reader will take what they want out of these books. How I’ve managed to hold onto the tidbits, the ones which read powerfully to me, was by holding my phone’s camera lens to the page. I would save the insights/images in a writing folder for easy access to inspiration, motivation, or clarity when I might need it most.

On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. By: Brian Boyd.

In his lengthy work analyzing how art is a human adaptation, he analyzes classics of different cultures and eras, verily different worlds, because he dives into Dr. Seuss and Homer. One quote I held onto: “He took what he needed from his local context to amplify his own individuality while appealing to our universal predilection for play,” feels like a motto for many writers as he applies to Dr. Seuss and Boyd emphasizes local context was what greatly influenced the color schemes of his work, war influencing the story line. No matter if we write historical or futuristic fiction, we write from our time frame and it will be reflected in our style.

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. By: Lisa Cron

She applies neuroscience–and I have a weakness for science–to what snags our attention. “A story isn’t even something dramatic that happens to someone. … So what is a story? A story is how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goat, and how he or she changes as a result.”


The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV. By: David Corbett

Let’s go beyond physical description…. “The irrationality of contempt, embodied in the person who through some black magic knows just how to push your buttons, provides some of the more unsettling mysteries of existence.”

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, 2nd Edition. By: Editors of Writer’s Digest, The

“As Ernest Hemingway famously said, ‘The first draft of anything is shit.’ For years, I didn’t understand. When I started writing fiction seriously, I kept trying to get it right the first time. … Learn to Love Anarchy.”

Pep Talks, Warnings, and Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers. By: George Singleton

“It might be a good idea to get a job, such as roofing, laying sod, or digging ditches. You only need to work such a job for a couple weeks before you go back to sitting in a chair, in front of a computer screen, thinking, Writing isn’t all that hard. Man, I’m glad I’m writing, instead of cutting my fingers off at the saw mill. … You cannot grow while having two feet planted firmly in nutrient-lacking soil.”

On Writing Fiction: Rethinking conventional wisdom about the craft.
By: David Jauss

“This is why Graham Greene suggested that a good memory was incompatible with good fiction writing.”

“For my money, Grace Paley got it exactly right when she said, ‘You write from what you know but you write into what you don’t know.'”

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed. By: Karen Elizabeth Gordon

I enjoyed the flow of her wording as she taught me, again, what I had learned before, making it a fun, lyrical experience as I brushed-up on what I had forgotten.

On Writing. By: Eudora Welty

“I think the sense of place is as essential to good and honest writing as a logical mind; surely they are somewhere related. It is by knowing where you stand that you grow able to judge where you are. Place absorbs our earliest notice and attention … our critical powers spring up from the study of it and the growth of experience inside it.”

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. By: Anne Lamott

“One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can’t.”

Going through my saved quotes, I had forgotten how many writing books I have read, but I did say, throughout the years. As it’s been said many times before, however, you can only glean so much from reading; the rest comes from writing, writing, and more writing, which could be followed up with sharing your work either in critique groups, pitch sessions, or the like. Making sense to you does not always mean it will make sense to your potential readers, unless you are writing for yourself, which some do and I admire, or at times (admittedly) envy, that.



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