Every writer, or aspiring writer, has heard the phrase “read like a writer.” To me, that means to read with a curiosity of how the author accomplished the story they created. If the characters resonated with you, why? If the story struck a certain chord, how? If you thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the story, what aligned to make that happen?
As an aspiring author myself, I’m a hoarder of books about craft. One time-honored piece of advice within them is to read broadly and pay attention to what speaks to you in novels. More specifically, keep a list or a stack of books that are what you aim for in some aspect of your writing.
For me, these books don’t necessarily have to be five-star, “oh my goodness I loved it so much” books, but most of them are that. They each have some kind of element I want to be able to accomplish in my writing. Whether it’s characters I root for from the very beginning (Bardugo), emotional moments that burned (Dessen and Henry), or even a world I felt myself desperate to get back to (Novik, Owen, and Vincent). Some are as simple as the writing style (Brackston, Dillard, and Gaiman/Pratchett). I loved the story in all of them, which got them there in the first place. Most books I keep on my shelves now are ones that I loved the story (plotlines).
There are a few other books on my shelves that I would put in here as well but I don’t want to separate them from their series. There are some authors that I simply collect their entire list of works out of nostalgia and am still trying to figure out how it speaks to me.
I’ve started curating my entire collection. Now it’s not just books that I’ve read (the good, the bad, and the unfinished), it’s books that I would read again and would recommend to friends. My collection is now like being among friends. I can pick a book off the shelf and know for certain I enjoyed it.
My hope for this bookcase is for all of them to be writing examples. I want it to be filled with works from which I am gladly influenced. After all, you never truly read without learning something.
Have you read any of my “example” books? Any you suggest for great prose or emotional content? Do you keep a list or a stack of books to help your own writing?