Thursday, April 15, 2010

Most Important Books for Writers

e I've been following with interest a thread on the Twitter/blog of Nathan Bransford, an agent with a lot of interesting thoughts, about what ONE book does a writer need?

The replies veer off into writing books, of which Stephen King's has been recommended the most often. Personally, I like William Zinser's On Writing Well, and several others of his books, far better.

But Nathan himself said it was The Great Gatsby. I suppose nothing is more inspiring than a great novel you can return to year after year, seeing new layers of meaning each time. People who teach great literature have this experience, and writers can too if they reread great books every so often. Others suggested The Bible (diversity of plots and characters), The Complete Works of Shakespeare (same but also the writing), The Sun Also Rises, Of Mice and Men. I would consider Little Women, Mrs. Dalloway, Pride and Prejudice but probably would choose a book of Chekhov's short stories.

Anyone out there have a favorite to suggest?


Anonymous said...

Am not sure what he means by "most important book" -- I take it that it is a book to be read over and over again for some strengthening or inspiration -- or joy?

I have read a (longish) short story by Malcolm Lowry almost once a year for ages now. It is called "The Forest Path to the Spring".

I have never reread The Great Gatsby since reading it in highschool, but I have reread Moby Dick.
What is it about Chekov that makes his stories crucial to you. What about the translation aspect?
cheers - beverly

Lorelei said...

Hi Beverly,

It's the characters in Chekhov that bring me back over and over. He brings complex people to life and every time I read a story again, I find another complexity. The simple farm guy understands kindness, the complex city magnate discovers a path to joy, etc. It's hard to explain. Francine Prose made me aware of these stories in one of her books, and she found it hard to put into words too.


Anonymous said...

If this is a desert island reading choice type of question, I'd pick Little Women. I want something with lots of character development and plot angles or rereading it would be a trial rather than a pleasure.

Anonymous said...

I would pick an unabridged dictionary, but not the OED. An American one.

Lorelei said...

Hi Kathryn,
I can imagine you reading the dictionary! I do something like that at times, but it wouldn't be my one and only choice if it came to that.
My dad read the entire Encyclopedia Britanica, and I guess I might pick that but it would cheating since it's far more than one book. And none of it gives me joy to read it. So, I probably would pick a piece of literature.