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Wednesday, January 28, 2015


“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools)to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King

Before I read westerns, I read a LOT of Stephen King. I started with Carrie, and was enthralled from start to finish by the girl who could call down wrath on the people who mistreated her.

The more I read, the more I admired the way King was able to pull me right into the story he was telling. (This was before I knew anything about POV or any of "the rules" of writing that King is so good at bending and breaking to write his bestsellers.)

In the afterword to his acclaimed guide On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King shares his own reading list of 96 books of fiction and non-fiction titles.


Here's what he has to say about his choices:

These are the best books I’ve read over the last three or four years, the period during which I wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Hearts in Atlantis, On Writing, and the as-yet-unpublished From a Buick Eight. In some way or other, I suspect each book in the list had an influence on the books I wrote.

As you scan this list, please remember that I’m not Oprah and this isn’t my book club. These are the ones that worked for me, that’s all. But you could do worse, and a good many of these might show you some new ways of doing your work. Even if they don’t, they’re apt to entertain you. They certainly entertained me.

This list was put together several years ago, when his book "On Writing" was published. How many of these have you read? If you were asked to create a list of the top five books you've read, what would be on your list?

1.Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
2.Peter Abrahams, Lights Out
3.Peter Abrahams, Pressure Drop
4.Peter Abrahams,Revolution #9
5.James Agee, A Death in the Family
6.Kirsten Bakis, Lives of the Monster Dogs
7.Pat Barker, Regeneration
8.Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
9.Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
10.Richard Bausch, In the Night Season
11.Peter Blauner, The Intruder
12.Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
13.T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
14.Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
15.Christopher Buckley, Thank You for Smoking
16.Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
17.Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth
18.Windsor Chorlton, Latitude Zero
19.Michael Connelly, The Poet
20.Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Project Gutenberg)
21.K.C. Constantine, Family Values
22.Don DeLillo, Underworld
23.Nelson DeMille, Cathedral
24.Nelson DeMille, The Gold Coast
25.Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (Project Gutenberg)
26.Stephen Dobyns, Common Carnage
27.Stephen Dobyns, The Church of Dead Girls
28.Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors
29.Stanely Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show
30.William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
31.Alex Garland, The Beach
32.Elizabeth George, Deception on His Mind
33.Tess Gerritsen, Gravity
34.William Golding, Lord of the Flies
35.Muriel Gray, Furnace
36.Graham Greene, A Gun for Sale (aka This Gun for Hire)
37.Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
38.David Halberstam, The Fifties
39.Pete Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters
40.Thomas Harris, Hannibal
41.Kent Haruf, Plainsong
42.Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
43.Stephen Hunter, Dirty White Boys
44.David Ignatius, A Firing Offense
45.John Irving, A Widow for One Year
46.Graham Joyce, The Tooth Fairy
47.Alan Judd, The Devil’s Own Work
48.Roger Kahn, Good Enough to Dream
49.Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club
50.Jack Ketchum, Right to Life
51.Tabitha King, Survivor
52.Tabitha King, The Sky in the Water
53.Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
54.Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
55.Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
56.Bernard Lefkowitz, Our Guys
57.Bentley Little, The Ignored
58.Maclean, Norman: A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
59.Maugham, W. Somerset: The Moon and Sixpence (Project Gutenberg)
60.Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain
61.Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
62.Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
63.Alice McDermott, Charming Billy
64.Jack McDevitt, Ancient Shores
65.Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
66.Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden
67.Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk
68.Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Zeke and Ned
69.Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
70.Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
71.Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods
72.Stewart O’Nan, The Speed Queen
73.Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
74.Richard North Patterson, No Safe Place
75.Richard Price, Freedomland
76.Annie Proulx, Close Range: Wyoming Stories
77.Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
78.Anna Quindlen, One True Thing
79.Ruth Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes
80.Frank M. Robinson, Waiting
81.J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
82.J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban
83.J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
84.Richard Russo, Mohawk
85.John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation Road
86.Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
87.Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions
88.Richard Slotkin, The Crater
89.Dinitia Smith, The Illusionist
90.Scott Spencer, Men in Black
91.Wallace Stegner, Joe Hill
92.Donna Tartt, The Secret History
93.Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet
94.Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
95.Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
96.Donald Westlake, The Ax