When you think of a writer, the traditional picture in your mind is to see them surrounded by coffee, loose pages, a typewriter and of course, books all around them in heaps and piles. Most people know that as time changes, so does the equipment, but one thing that never changes for a writer is the books that they surround themselves with. The format may have gone from dusty jacket to Kindle edition but the material is still treasured.
So what do writers read? And why is it important?
There’s no one list that can fit every writer but in short, writers read. Sometimes it’s good writing. They read the books they enjoy and the writers that they admire. This can be fiction, non-fiction, autobiographies or even how-to books, surrounding yourself with such things can help you when you start to wobble with anxiety over writing. It’s always good to remind yourself what you’re aiming for – also most writers enjoy reading and can find it relaxing, so don’t worry and get frazzled that you don’t have the ‘right stuff’ or you haven’t read all the classics, it’s not important to impress anybody else with what you’re reading, the important thing IS that you’re reading and writing, you’re practising to keep yourself on track to improve and learn, ultimately to be read!
So that I don’t leave you thinking she didn’t tell me what writers read though!, I will leave you with this – my books include some classics, some sentimental books, how-to guidebooks, fiction I enjoy and generally stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years thanks to various studying and recommendations from friends – there may even be one or two books I’ve borrowed for a long time – whoops! Finally, we all have skeletons in our libraries, I also have some terribly written books that I just can’t seem to let go of and would be a little bit embarrassed to flaunt on the prime shelves of the bookcase, they are pushed to the very sides and backs of bottom shelves for my perusing only.
There is no ‘one collection’ or ‘must-have’ that fits everybody because we all start in different places in life and our skills vary, all you can do is surround yourself with things you enjoy, things you have found useful and try recommendations of people you trust, people who might just know you and your writing style.
It’s usually a good idea if you want to write professionally to have a few grammar or style guides to hand, it’s easy to go screen blind and question things, so it’s good to have a reference point to check any niggling issues as you proofread, don’t always rely on spell-checker software. As far as fiction and other works you personally enjoy, try to break down what it is the author has done that you think works well – study them, it’s what’s known as ‘reading as a writer’.
You will find lots of articles and advice like ’10 books you MUST own as a writer’ ’50 classics you NEED to read’ and so on, and the truth is they are guides, someone else’s interpretation, find what works for you because the truly important thing to read as a writer is whatever ignites your passion. Read what gets you writing.