Ten Books All Writers Should Read

The first bit of advice you will probably receive as an aspiring author is to write lots. Next, you’ll be advised to read lots. Only by reading lots of what you want to write, whether to see what you like or to learns what you would do differently, can you really come to understand how a novel is crafted. I thought it would be interesting to do something different to my usual book reviews. Instead I’m listing ten books I think all aspiring writers should read, telling by you very quickly what they’re about and then listing why they are useful, characterisation or plot for example. This lost is focused on novels because although I am trying to learn more about script and I have dabbled in the short story, my heart remains with the novel. For simplicity I have ordered them by publication year, rather than listing them in order of preference because my favourite changes by the day!

I hope you find the list helpful and would love you to share your must reads for writing below.

1) Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, (1813).

A classic for a reason, this novel follows five sisters living under the reassure of society to marry and marry well. With its famous opening line stating that ‘It is a fact universally acknowledged that all men in possession of a great fortune must be in want of a wife’ Pride and Prejudice is full of whiticisms and unforgettable characters.

Read it for inspiration in:


-character development


2) Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, (1847).

The romance in Jane Eyre often divides opinion, as does its lengthy opening section and the removal of the heroine from the hero for a large part of the plot. I maintain this a feminist story of its time and I revel in Rochesters character development, rather than scorning him his abrupt manner in the beginning.

Read it for inspiration in:

-maintaining pace over an extended plot

-complex plotting

-character development

-beautiful language (“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”)


3) The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald, (1925).

Often viewed as a simple romance with a tragic end I advise rereading Gatsby with the effect of war in mind. It changed my understanding of both the characters and the images and illusions used. A relatively short but beautifully written novel, I find myself returning to Gatsby again am deathly again.

Read for inspiration in:

-complex characters

-evoking an emotional response in your reader

-a more subtle approach to the trauma of war

-multiple meanings


4) Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier, (1938).

A haunting novel with a shockingly twist and characters who almost never what they seem. This was the first ‘grown up’ novel I ever read and I often return to it when I need help creating mood.

Read for inspiration in:


-character development

-plot twists

-using the supernatural without becoming cliched


5) Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, (1966).

A fantastic book to read after Jane Eyre, this offer some a post colonial rewriting of Rochesters life before he met Jane. The novel gives voice to the woman in the attic who is silenced in Brontes original text. With rich description and a surprising take on a well loved novel, this was one of my favourite discoveries from my degree.

Read for inspiration in:


-post colonialism

-character development




-extended metaphor


6) The Trick Is To Keep Breathing, Janice Galloway, (1989).

Another one of my favourite novels from my degree, Galloway writes mental illness and uses diversity of form to heighten the effect of her language. I was inspired by this novel which reads like the inside of someone’s mind.

Read for inspiration in:

-original form

-mental health

-internal monologue


-metaphor and symbolism


7) The Secret History, Donna Tartt, (1992).

A thriller and a mystery, Tartt uses the intense relationships of university students enrolled onto a highly selective course to investigate the extent that we are willing to go to for self protection. Tartt manages to maintain the secret despite briefly starting st the end. She plays with structure and writes character incredibly well. She is also a really interesting individual when it comes to her writing career.

Read for inspiration in:



-tricking the reader


8) Labyrinth, Late Moses, (2005).

A historical, adventure novel intertwined with mythology, this is a lesson in the importance of research and plot. With strong female characters and a challenging plot, this is an unforgettable novel well worth the read. Moses is a role model of mine because she dedicates herself to her research befor writing and that is something I really admire as a writer who is always impatient to begin!

Read for inspiration in:



-historical and mythological research

-creating a strong sense of place

-writing strong, realistic female characters

9) The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova, (2006).

Another novel that very cleverly intertwined historical fact with mythology and has you believing in the supernatural. Told using various forms such as letters and diary entries, this is a novel I have often returned to for its dialogue, pace and use of location and history to compel the reader into believing.

Read for inspiration in:

-historical setting

-multiple locations

-realistic relationships


-multiple forms

10) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer, (2006).

Another novel from my degree, this was turned into a novel and became very commercially successful. In my experience it divides opinion, but for me that’s a good thing! I loved the use of images and colour, I enjoyed the precocious voice of the chilled and I found the use of 9/11 to ground the novel in modernity, compelling.

Read for inspiration in:

-character development





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