As a creative writer, you are advised to read as many books as possible of all genres and themes. This is a list of ideal books to help you grasp the different storytelling techniques and how to explore different areas of literature. Each have great examples of techniques you can apply to your own writing.
Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays
People always refer to Oedipus from Freud’s (proven false) theories. However, before that, there was an in depth and entertaining series of plays. Like most Greek tragedies, they explore the fatal mistakes of a flawed human. It is only then you realise the term ‘Tragic Hero’ once had a very different meaning from Shakespeare’s.
Most people fall into a bad habit of thinking a narrator is all seeing, all knowing and most importantly, honest. ‘Lolita’ is the most controversial book I’ve ever read, however it is the perfect example of the unreliable narrator. You are meant to take all he says with a pinch of salt, and question every dark decision Humbert Humbert makes. Leave your readers thinking.
A Book of Edgar Allen Poe
Most American writers preach the importance to Edgar Allen Poe. He is one of the most iconic inventors of the modern horror, taking inspiration from the Victorian Gothic and ghost story and sending it to darker depths to eventually inspire some of the most famous horror writers of today.
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett’s ‘Mort’ takes an overused theme of the Grim Reaper, and turns it on its head to create a wholly unique story. It takes what was dark to create a comedy. This book teaches young writers about both slapstick humour and subtle wordplay.
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
A cult classic, it has inspired a whole collection of films and television series. To this day it is considered one of the most twisted and dark psychological horror and crime fictions. This book teaches writers that they can create a truly compelling villain, fearing their threat even from behind bars.
Paper Towns by John Green
This is a great teen book that would help a literature student understand uses of symbolism before they venture into harder texts. It also shows creative writers that they don’t have to have an obscure setting to create a meaningful book and a lasting journey.
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
This was once a controversial book, becoming more accepted with the growing open-mindedness of society. It touches on themes most Victorian books daren’t not. Don’t leave it until you are on your deathbed to say what you mean, as George Eliot did.
Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
A cleverly written book, it pretends to be shallow as it follows the even shallower protagonist. However, the twist ending will make you realise everything had a reason. It explores the theme of homophobia in the British Empire and a time just before AIDs was discovered. It is great at teaching writers how to twist their plots and to set it in a little known time period.
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Tolkien’s writing style may not have the highest of accolades, but he is proof that you don’t have to have a degree in English to create one of the greatest books of all time. He made hundreds of books and documents about this fantasy world to create something that seems so real to its readers.
PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
The writing style is far more modern than that of some of the previous books, showing that simple language is better for simple enjoyable reading. It also explores the theme of grief using some comedic elements. It is the perfect example of being able to make a reader love a character, even if they’re already gone.
Here are some honourable Mentions: Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo; The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebould; Dracula by Bram Stoker; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith; I Am Legend by Richard Matheson; Medea by Euripides; Frogs by Aristophanes; David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; Fantomina by Eliza Haywood; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
There are lots of books you can read that will further your writing experience. The ideal place to find books is in a second hand shop. Pick up a book from each genre and go to town on them for ten pounds. Many are so cheap you can even annotate them. But this list holds books that are the perfect for starting out.