25 Books Every Writer Should Read

The hard work, the MFA vs. NYC debate, the negativity, the importance of a good Twitter account, the parties you have to go to, the readings you have to do, people you should meet, the agents you need to impress — amid all the different ways writers have found to obsess over what it takes to be successful, we sometimes forget the most important thing of all: great writers need to be great readers.

You can’t read everything, but once you’ve moved past all of the totally obvious titles, considering adding these 25 titles to your TBR pile. They’re excellent examples of so many different ways that novels, short stories, poems, essays, and creative nonfiction can be done. For writers, this list could serve as something of a syllabus; for those who just want something new to read, it offers a chance to step out of your comfort zone and try a few new ideas and formats on for size.

But this list is far from complete: tell us in the comments which books you would add to it.

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The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm 

This is perhaps her most important book, but any Janet Malcolm will do. You read Malcolm because her nonfiction is a crash course in writing gripping literary journalism — and a meta-commentary on the larger issues surrounding journalism as a profession. Even if this isn’t the kind of writing you want to do, Malcolm’s attention to detail is something we should all emulate.