5 Books (Not About Writing) That Every Author Should Read

Writers often begin their relationship with storytelling as readers and then graduate into producing their own literary works. While writing, it can often be beneficial to step back into your role as a reader to remind yourself of what initially drew your attention to the craft. Apart from being an entertaining pastime, reading can also teach authors important tools of the trade. We’ve compiled a list of five general interest books that are enjoyable reads and whose writing also offers valuable examples of good writing craft.

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1. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore is a fun genre-bending read that acknowledges and then subverts genre tropes. The novel follows a young girl named Jane who is making good on a promise to her recently deceased aunt by exploring the island of an eccentric, rich family. Within her first day on the island, abundant mysteries emerge, and Jane endeavors to track down answers to her many questions. As the reader selects which question they want answered, the are also selecting between five different genres, ranging from fantasy to thriller to sci-fi. Besides from being a quick read full of quirky, memorable characters, this book is a study in knowing the craft. Cashore demonstrates her masterful skill as she moves her characters between genres and storylines. She gives authors a great example of what it means to use the traditional writing tools in a way that ultimately creates something entirely new.

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2. the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur is a collection of poetry and art that took the world by storm. The autobiographical collection speaks to Kaur’s experiences with immigration, family, self-love, body positivity, and love. The poems are elegant and powerful and are paired with line drawings done by the poet herself. These poems are significant because Kaur writes for a broad audience in a way that still speaks an honest, personal truth. Kaur found an audience in a global market that doesn’t always honor poetry, and she did this because of her skill of making often-marginalized groups’ voices universally relatable.

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3. Rez Life by David Treuer is a complex examination of Native American life on the reservation. Weaving together historical documents, legislation, tradition, and personal anecdotes, this novel constructs a complex narrative that challenges assumptions about a culture. This book is significant in its storytelling. Treuer tells a story that’s been part of our cultural consciousness for centuries but does it in a way that provides a new angle to the story and encourages readers to come at the subject from a new angle. This book is a good reminder that no story has been told too often and that there are always new voices to bring to the table.

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4. What Editors Do by Peter Ginna is a collection of essays written by various people in the publishing industry. The collection works its way through the entire publishing process (from agents, to acquisitions, through copyediting and marketing). The essays are written by a powerhouse collective of industry professionals and give a real, honest glimpse into the profession. This is a great read for authors who are seeking a peak behind the curtain. It will help you understand the details of the entire publishing process, and hopefully add clarity and understanding to your future interactions with others who are part of the publishing process.

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5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien weaves stories of a Vietnam veteran through his experiences during the war and his life decades later while he’s trying to acclimate to civilian life in the U.S. Blurring the line between being a novel and a collection of short stories, between being fiction and nonfiction, this work tasks the reader and the author both with holding the weight of collective trauma. It challenges the idea of truth in storytelling, asking us to balance our regard for emotional truth and factual truth.O’Brien broaches a heavy subject in a way that feels authentic to his topic. He’s an example of breaking convention when the convention doesn’t suit your topic, and using convention when it does.