Writing Insight: September – Reading Inspiration

As the old saying goes: “Writers write, and writers read.” A few years ago in an online writers discussion group, someone asked what we (as writers) read. Most people listed certain genres – biography, historical fiction, fantasy, etc. I don’t remember my exact answer, but my wording was something along the lines of reading across genres (I think I said something smart like “I read fiction and non-fiction”).

A lot of the reading I do falls into 1 or more of 3 categories: 1) entertainment 2) writing  resource or example 3) something for class.  And most of the time, these tomes are across genres. In any case, my slightly weird answer got an offline question that I just dug up from my messaging archives today:

I found your comment very interesting. That the only genres you read are fiction or non-fiction. You are the first reader I’ve heard of who doesn’t read based on the genres they like. How do you find books to read? How do you find new authors?

Here’s my answer. Maybe through it, you to can find something to read to help bolster your writing.

I find books/authors to read in several ways: If I am finding something strictly for myself (reading entertainment), it’s almost always fiction, and it’s based on the subject. Subject may lead to a certain subgenre frequently, it may not. Most of the time I read based on what I want to see or what I’m doing as a writer. That’s how I found Jennifer Weiner’s books, & Jane Greene’s (sp) novels, etc. (which are all in the same genre I realize.) I needed to see how people wrote about the process of falling in love (not romance novel: real, dysfunctional, etc), and it led me to some fun reading just for my entertainment.

A lot of the time if I read something by an author I really like I end up reading all of their books. I started with Anne Tyler’s “The Accidental Tourist” because I like how she portrays characters, and now I have read through 1/2 of her books. I started with her books, because I was reading only Pulitzer Prize winning or nominated novels [/authors] at the time (because I wanted my book to have a certain level of writing). As you probably know, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is a different subgenre that Anne Tyler’s “Breathing Lessons.”

I am in 3 book clubs, 2 of them read different subgenres. And 2 of them have book swaps. So, lots of different authors.

One year, I wanted to see what was up with the whole vampire trend, so I started reading several authors and happened upon the Sookie Stackhouse novels.

And I’m an English teacher, so I read the classics, of course.

Basically I move from one book to another, based on the writing style of the author or the subject. Usually I find more books from search engine suggestions on my public library’s site (“if you like this author, you’ll like”) or book-buying sites. And there’s also word-of-mouth.


“Writing Insight” feature posts occur monthly and will focus on some part of writing inspiration, technique and process. I welcome any questions you have about the writing process (as I am also a writing professor). Please post your questions in the comments below, and I will answer them in future “Writing Insight” Posts!

In a future “Writing Insight” post, I will talk about some self-published novels that defy the stigma: well done, high caliber, engaging story.  If you have a suggestion (or a review) that you would like mentioned, Fill out the form below to let me know about it!