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Top ten favorite books for writers now and to come

Writing the breakout novel, the personal essay, mummies and….

The Broke and the Bookish

Choosing ten books to highlight for this week’s book post is a challenge even when framed by the years my blog has been in operation since 2003 to the present. The problem is not that I’ve read so few books but so many. Do I limit myself to nonfiction and only books about the writing craft? What about reading? What about those books that remain uppermost in my memory no matter that they detailed strange and curious subjects or took thirty years to write or promise mystery of a writerly persuasion?

I chose ten books in all, but not all have been read. The first five are the books that continue to animate me in pursuit of my own writing. The last ten are books that cry out the loudest from my to be read shelves.

Pharaoh Seti I

  1. The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead by Heather Pringle — This remains at the top of my list due to the high curiosity factor. Discovered the book while working at Borders one day. Talk about being intrigued. I’ve always been a mummy fan and have sat through my share of movies with tattered mummies and creeping hands. It didn’t hurt that the book grew out of a National Geographic magazine assignment and revolved around the Mummy Congress which meets every three years. I was hooked and remain so.
  2. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass — This book remains a game-changer for me. It’s one of the main books I recommend to anyone interested in writing fiction today.
  3. 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley — I continue to enjoy this book and turn to it often simply for pure reading pleasure. Plenty of insight about the novel writing craft and experience offered.
  4. The Elements of Authorship: Unabashed Advice, Undiluted Experience, Unadulterated Inspiration for Writers and Writers-to-be by Art Plotkin — I love all things written by Art Plotkin but this remains a fond favorite in part because it was my introduction to the Plotkin style. I laughed all the way through the book and that’s not easy to do when it’s a text about the craft.
  5. The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present by Philip Lopate — The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. If you’ve ever thought of writing an essay or wanted to learn more about the form, this is the book to read.

Five books on writing, reading, Viet Nam and Charles Dickens

For the next five books, I wanted to shift focus to the promise of books waiting to be read.

Malantes receives Navy Cross, 1969

  1. Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Malantes — I tend to shun books about the Viet Nam era, however this became a must read given its history and its promise. Malantes spent thirty years writing this book. Published in 2010, the book received massive attention and is already considered a classic.
  2. Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction by Donald Maass — I am intrigued by the title and subject and know that Maass will deliver information that is relevant and helpful for today’s fiction writer.
  3. The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into Words, Revised and Expanded by Art Plotnik — This recent book is a must-read because I Art Plotnik never fails to deliver. He amuses, cajoles, and surprises the reader with his craft and bold over-the-top style.
  4. Drood by Dan Simmons — Given that I admire the writing skill of Dan Simmons, I have high hopes for this novel. The book centers around Charles Dickens and offers a mystery surrounding the last Dickens book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. A Great way to celebrate the Dickens bicentennial.
  5. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma — I am looking forward to this read in the same way I approached Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. This is a first book by a young, 22 year-old reader turned writer that tells a fascinating true story that involves books, reading, and the loving relationship between a father and a daughter.

So, those are my choices this week. Now it’s your turn. Tell me yours in the comments below.


Thanks to the folks at The Broke and The Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday weekly meme and their Top Ten Tuesday image featured above. Ready to read the classics? Join The Classics Club. My 5 year 50+ booklist is here: The Classics Club project. Short story lovers, check out The Short Stories Challenge.

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