Do you ever wish there was a “required reading” list for becoming a successful author? Well, look no further: We’ve found not one list, but a variety of syllabi compiled by some highly respected writers. Whether meant as a personal note or as an official compendium of recommended works, these examples provide great insight into what pieces of literature greatly influenced the list-makers.

Charles Darwin

Darwin’s reading list was a personal one, and highly aspirational. We wonder whether the entries at the bottom have been crossed off because he finished them, or because he decided they weren’t worth the effort?

Image Source: Found on Pinterest

David Foster Wallace

Who better to learn about contemporary prose fiction from than David Foster Wallace? Students of his Fall 1994 English course were told that the books below were non-negotiable in order to complete the class.

Image Source:David Foster Wallace’s 1994 Syllabus: How to Teach Serious Literature with Lightweight Books” on

Ernest Hemingway

When asked by a young fan to “chew the fat,” Hemingway went above and beyond, bringing the man on board for a year as his personal assistant (but with the extra homework of tackling this reading list).

Image Source:Ernest Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934” on (we recommend you check out this interesting true story!)

W.H. Auden

Auden definitely set a high standard for the students of his 1941 English course at the University of Michigan, with twenty-seven titles on the required list (not to mention the “recommended” options!).

Image Source: The Atlantic on Tumblr

Which books can you already check off your reading list and how have they influenced you?


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  1. Oooh this is so interesting! Wonderful blog post! I’m going to start reading some of these, I was looking for things to read this holiday 🙂 And I can say they were recommended by the best 😉 I think I’ll begin with Auden’s list…

    • That’s a great (and ambitious!) choice 🙂 You will definitely get to read a little something of everything as you tackle Auden’s list this summer.


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