It is no secret that we are big believers in Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. But what other works are important reads for anyone looking to make a career out of writing? There are thousands of great examples of prose and poetry that may influence a writer, but for this list we are focussing on works that will not only inspire but educate you as an author at the same time.
1) On Writing
Author: Stephen King
Why Read It: Half writing textbook, half personal memoir, On Writing is a highly quotable and in-depth look inside the mind of one of America’s most successful writers.
2) To The Lighthouse
Author: Virginia Woolf
Why Read It: Simply put, it is a masterclass in character development.
3) In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Why Read It: Capote wrote many iconic books, but we selected In Cold Blood for this list because it is not only a fascinating story, but a deep look at journalistic and writerly ethics.
4) The White Album
Author: Joan Didion
Why Read It: A book of essays that will remind you why you write (“We tell ourselves stories in order to live”) and is a surefire cure for writer’s block.
5) Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad
Why Read It: A staple of English literature courses for a reason, Heart of Darkness gave the world the iconic character of Kurtz, inspiring writers such as T.S. Eliot and filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, while raising important questions on taboo issues such as racism and imperialism.
6) Exercises in Style
Author: Raymond Queneau
Why Read It: Hardly a light exercise, this collection is an absolute workout in style. Queneau tells the same short story in ninety-nine different writing styles, from comedy to haiku to “olfactory.”
7) Politics and the English Language
Author: George Orwell
Why Read It: Like Capote, Orwell has a vast oeuvre of excellent written works from which we could select something to recommend. But in his essay Politics and the English Language he expertly combines literary and social criticism, making a strong case for the connection between vague prose and political ills.
8) On Writing Well
Author: William Zinsser
Why Read It: The perfect companion to Elements of Style, this series of essays breaks down the fundamental principles of writing, especially when it comes to excelling in a particular genre (e.g., travel, science, autobiography).
So there you have it – our top eight “must reads” for aspiring writers. Oh, those and the Endpaper Blog’s Writing Wednesday posts, of course!
What written work has most inspired you as a writer?
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