Books that shape and form a writer
A writer’s life is made up of books, both the kinds he writes and those he reads. Within that wide spectrum, books written for writers take an ever-enlarging place.
There are many types of books written to help writers. Some, perhaps the easiest to read, are the general how to write books that inform most budding writers about the mechanics of a particular genre like the short story or the mystery. Others lay open the interior of characters.
Five books that made me think about writing
- The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone – This biography of Michaelangelo probably did way more to shape my understanding and thoughts on creativity than anything else I’ve read.
- Blueprint for Writing: A Writer’s Guide To Creativity Craft & Career by Rachel Ballon — A handy book that made me think more deeply about my characters, and the accompanying exercises Ballon provides are quite capable of causing major breakthroughs.
- Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson — Talk about getting a turnkey into character development. This was eye-opening not only on a personal level but on ways to build characters on the page and in the minds of readers.
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) by Joseph Campbell — My first introduction to Campbell’s work on the hero’s journey came when I sat, totally captivated, and listened to him during an interview with Bill Moyers so long ago. Within days I had his book and was tearing the contents apart to reapply them to writing. You can imagine how delighted I was a year or so later to sit and listen to Christopher Vogler give a talk based on his ten page handout that eventually became his classic book for writers on the hero’s journey (The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers). Saved me lots of time, he did.
- A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman– There is nothing like reading a book by Diane Ackerman. This is a writer who knows her senses and when it comes to writing knows knows how to wield them. Every writer should have a copy of A Natural History of the Senses near their desk for easy reference.
Five books that made me think more about life
- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Penguin Modern Classics) by Peter Susskind — Sometimes you read a book that stuns you, leaves you speechless.This is that kind of book. I am as fascinated and as captured by what this writer achieved as I was the day I first closed the book. The architecture of this book is the sense of smell. Susskind moves the reader out of his comfort zone in so many ways. What is it like to have smell as your primary sense? How does that impact you as a human being? So many questions to think about, let alone consider the sheer feat of constructing a novel built on smell.
- The Man Who Tasted Shapes by Richard E. Cytowic — I’ve been intrigued by the modern science narratives that throw open the doors and reveal interior lives that are considered so different from the norm. Cytowic never fails to deliver with the stories he tells. More than my imagination is stretched.
- Famine by Graham Masterton — This is a book that has had a rather lengthy echo effect. I stayed in this fictive landscape long after I read the last line. It’s one of those disaster type books that comes way too close to home and leaves you with a very uncomfortable feeling. It makes you think–a lot.
- The Man Without a Country by Edward Everett Hale — I grew up with the Heritage Press books being delivered every month and this was one of those classics that showed up on our doorstep. Maybe it’s because I spent my early childhood in another country and never really had a place to call “home,” but the story gave this young mind something to chew on.
- The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France — It’s hard to read France and not to have anything to think about. I am as fascinated with this book and its ideas as I was a teen. The concept was intriguing and I loved languishing in those pages, stopping now and then to think about what I just read. I’m sure, like some other books, it’s shaped me in ways I don’t even know and, perhaps, am only coming to understand.
BONUS BOOK – I must add this book because it teaches writers a lot about world building and about the use of an antihero as a protagonist. A Matter For Men (The War Against the Chtorr, Book 1) by David Gerrold, of Nebula and Star Trek fame (think Tribbles), takes us step by step through a world ecological change that is so well-thought out and detailed that it is simply amazing. Add in his antihero protagonist and you have a book that is loaded with things to tantalize and tease any writer.
There you have it: My Top Ten Tuesday book picks. It was fun to cast my mind back over the years and think about the books that came into view and how they played out in my life. Take a look and see what you think. I hope you’ll share some of your favorites with me in the comments below.
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