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Old 02-09-2010, 09:03 AM   #1
J. Dean
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Your "must-read" book(s) for writers..

What's the "must-read" fiction book (or books) that you recommend for people to read? The book that you point to and say "That's good writing for people to learn from!"

For me, here is a partial list off the top of my head:

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:04 AM   #2
J. Dean
Author: Clade Josso
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Oh, almost forgot: The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:30 AM   #3
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Here's my two cents. Writers must read a lot. They must read books they enjoy so they can write the kind of books they enjoy to read. They must also read books from other genres to allow for cross pollination. I can't think of any fiction books that I'd regard as must reads. The only single titles that I think are a must read are non-fiction books on the art of writing:

The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White
(You gotta know your grammar)
On Writing, by Stephen King
(It's just excellent)
Eats Shoots & Leaves, by Truss
(A whole book on punctuation)

The below are good but optional:
How to Write a Damn Good Novel, by James N. Frey
(You got to know your stereotypes and genres)
Comedy Writing Secrets, by Mark Shatz
(When you dissect it, it dies, but necessary)
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:49 AM   #4
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I used to own John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers". I found a lot of things in there quite useful.
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Old 02-09-2010, 11:44 AM   #5
J. Dean
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Right, but what I mean are FICTION books that you hold up as standards to follow.
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Old 02-09-2010, 12:07 PM   #6
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Oh, right, I read that, and I kept thinking of Gardner.

Just about anything by Gene Wolfe (especially "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" and the New Sun books), if you like that style (the unreliable narrator). He does a lot of great stuff.

Anything by Truman Capote - he is a master of making the words just disappear and get out of your way.

"Black Wine" by Candas Jane Dorsey shows how a story oriented around people and the way they interact can do away with a lot of the description of objects, with the world as an almost blank slate. Also, the interleaving of the different story lines is a thing of beauty.

Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books pack a lot of story in some very slim volumes - I am still trying to figure out how she does it without feeling like she is rushing things.

Andrew Miller is a great writer ("Ingenious Pain" was a phenomenal novel). Smooth, rich, strong prose.

Madison Scott SMARTT Bell can write the hell out of a scene. Really good description. I enjoyed his "Waiting for the End of the World" very much.

If you want to go way back, pick up Ford Maddox Ford's "The Good Soldier", the first 20-30 pages are so rich they make your head spin. Free on Gutenburg.

EDIT: Not sure how many of those are available as ebooks, but "The Good Soldier" certainly is.

Last edited by llreader; 02-09-2010 at 12:17 PM. Reason: Ebook note - Madison SMART Bell
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Old 02-09-2010, 12:55 PM   #7
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100 years of loneliness, from Gabriel García Marquez. Is a great writer, he build a whole world and made remarkable characters.

And there`s another book I love because it made me think about each part of the structure of a story: Letters to a young writer, from Mario Vargas Llosa.
A good writer speaking about writing.

Last edited by anabelee; 02-12-2010 at 02:07 AM. Reason: added a new book
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Old 02-09-2010, 02:18 PM   #8
TC Beacham
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John Hart's DOWN RIVER and THE LAST CHILD come to mind - beautiful writing combined with page-turning mystery/thriller/suspense plotting.

Also Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP - 1960s civil rights story told with intimacy through wonderful characters. Can't wait for the film!

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Old 02-09-2010, 05:57 PM   #9
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There are lots who are published, many who can string words, sentences and paragraphs into something readable, but very few who are truly inspirations, who truly deserve the name 'author'.

Among the many I have enjoyed, I count Ray Bradbury, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker, John Cheever, Haruki Murakami, John Steinbeck, e.e. cummings, Walt Whitman, Eudora Welty and Emily Dickinson as personal influences. Without their voices, however soft or loud they chose to speak, I would not be who I am nor have a notion of what I might become.

Authors hold up mirrors so that we may see ourselves and so see the world.
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Old 02-13-2010, 07:51 PM   #10
David Marseilles
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Peter David has a nice touch with transitions.

Timothy Zahn really knows how to string together multithreaded tales.

Some of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens' early non-Star Trek stuff is great at that page-turning-never-ease-the-tempo style.

Nathaniel Hawthorne rocks at droning on endlessly memorized by the cadence of his own sentences.

It kind of depends on what you want to learn. I would never really point someone to an author and say "write like them". On the other hand, on a technique by technique basis, there are authors who really nail a little something and are worth really soaking in.

For example, every writer should spend a few hours studying at the George Lucas school of dialogue in case they are ever in a real life ticking time bomb scenario and need info from an enemy combatant fast.
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Old 02-13-2010, 09:02 PM   #11
Steve Anderson
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There are so many but I would say James Lee Burke and Dennis Lehane for so-called crime genre fiction because they take so much care to get things just right. One all should read is Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole because it's hilarious -- something that's really hard to pull off in a book. He breaks a lot of writing rules and gets away with it.


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Old 02-13-2010, 10:20 PM   #12
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Erm... this may not count, as neither technically counts as writing, but...

The webcomic Order of the Stick and it's primary influence, Babylon 5.

Yes, I know how strange it sounds to be talking about a D&D Based webcomic in the same sentence of a 90's sci-fi TV show, but hear me out for just a moment.

Aside from Order of the Stick employing gigantic piles of effective original and parody humor, it strikes an excellent balance with including an intriguing storyline as well, and that by itself is admirable.

However, both provide a very important sense of purpose to their storylines. The notion of placing minimal filler, having a concrete story that you want to tell, and planning to tell that story by sowing seeds of future twists in early parts... It feels as though more than a few authors go for a comfort zone of popularity. What they have works, so it doesn't matter that their series is in the dozens after the earth-shattering, universal threat has long since been vanquished.

Or, worse yet, each book comes up with a brand new threat which the same protagonist must defeat only after learning some other amazing mystical and powerful ability. By that point, the protagonist is half-akin to a demi-god (or Megaman) with all of the abilities they've collected through the dozen or so books. Yet, somehow a new peril rears its ugly head, scary enough to destroy the world.
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Old 02-14-2010, 12:50 PM   #13
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Zadie Smith's White Teeth is a fantastic lesson in how to write dialogue, and especially dialects.
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Old 02-14-2010, 08:51 PM   #14
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Knut Hamsun's "Hunger"

Kafka, Hemingway, Hurston, Zora Neal Hurston, Kazantzakis, Endo Shuzako, Ralph Ellison,
Graham Green.....etc....
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Old 02-14-2010, 08:56 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Anderson View Post
There are so many but I would say James Lee Burke and Dennis Lehane for so-called crime genre fiction because they take so much care to get things just right. One all should read is Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole because it's hilarious -- something that's really hard to pull off in a book. He breaks a lot of writing rules and gets away with it.


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Dunces is good but I'd recommend Tristem(1759 ), Soldier Schvejk(1923) or Catch 22 along with Dunces... same trick and more ideas for the potential writer in this line of writing anyways.....
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