Thursday, December 11, 2008

WHY SHOULD WRITERS READ?

I love to read. The love of reading is not a prerequisite for a life in publishing, but it's what got me here.

My favorite books are usually fiction--all kinds of fiction. But last night I began reading A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. My reading group chose it as our January selection and it's a long book. I figured I'd better get started because I'm not a fast reader.

This book tells how Abraham Lincoln chose his cabinet. Rumor has it that Barack Obama read this book and has used it as a model for his own work in filling out his cabinet.

After I had read a few pages I took a deep breath and realized that I was in the hands of a master writer. Have you ever had that feeling? It's so soothing, yet exhilarating to know that the author you have chosen is in total command of this book and, as his or her "passenger," you are going to have a wonderful time.

It may seem odd that agents read so much. After all, we read submissions from potential clients every day. Wouldn't it make sense to do something else in our free time like going bowling or decorating the laundry room? It's imperative that we read and that we read the best books we can find. We need to compare our submissions to competing authors out there and to hold our potential clients to a very high standard if we expect to sell their work to publishers. I look forward to finding a submission that will give me that kind of "master writer" feeling I'm having with Doris Kearns Goodwin. I has happened a few times and it's what agents live for.

But, it's just as important for writers to read constantly. It's a good place to get your inspiration and it may help you hone your craft. If you're a sci-fi author, you should be reading every sci-fi book you can get your hands on. But don't stop there! Read the classics. Read romances and histories. The more widely you read the more widely you can write.

What books inspire you? I'd love to hear from you.

9 comments:

Laura R. said...

Hands down--"The Body," a novella by Stephen King. I read this when I was seventeen and the writer's flame was lit. The introduction to the story is what grabbed my by the heart.

Kae and Jon said...

I haven't read that one, but how lovely that it turned you on to the writing life. In addition to his plethora of fiction books, Stephen King's ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT is, in our opinion, the best book on the topic. If you're ever in a slump, check it out. It's worth every minute you give it.

StephDell said...

If the book is well-written, it will inspire me, even if it's not in a genre in which I write, as long as it's thought-provoking. For instance, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, a nonfiction book exploring the origins of four meals, got me ruminating on an idea for a speculative fiction short story. I read three times more fiction than nonfiction but I have never recommended a book more than I have Pollan's. It educates, but in a way that is fascinating and approachable, with the added, unexpected bonus of sparking my imagination.

Jan said...

Truthfully? No book has ever inspired me to write. Well written books inspired me to read more but the need to express my emotions, drives my writing.

Anonymous said...

When I read something that's really different, for example Twilight or the Sookie Stackhouse novels, it's like the creative side of my brain begins clammoring for attention, and I start thinking outside my usual writing box. Invariably, I have to put the book I'm reading aside and start writing one of my own.

Julie Hotze said...

You saved me! My dad reads only nonfiction, I read mostly fiction. Didn't know what to get him for Christmas, but I'm buying A Team of Rivals today. (yes, I'm late but they're on a cruise so I've a few days yet). Recent books I loved--Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson and Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. One I read a while ago that has stuck with me--Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller. A great read!

Kae and Jon said...

Julie:

I think your dad will love A TEAM OF RIVALS, especially if he's a history buff. I've heard a lot about DON'T LET'S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT. I'll add it to my "must read" list!

andrea said...

The Phantom Tollbooth has always been one of my favorite books. I make sure to read it every eight years or so, and am continually delighted by the almost poetic dialog and descriptions. It is just different enough to help my imagination get in gear for my own writing.

Non-fiction: Tuesdays with Morrie. A dear friend of mine passed away a couple years ago from Lou Gehrig's disease, and this book was very therapeutic and inspiring.

Kae and Jon said...

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH is new to us. Add it to the list! One of my favorite all-time books is that old chestnut BABBIT by Sinclair Lewis. Like you, Andrea, I read it every few years just to remind myself how it was to live in the era of "boosterism."