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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years, the period during which I wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Hearts in Atlantis, On Writing, and the as-yet-unpublished From a Buick Eight.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


  1. I'm so bad. Of his 96, I've read the Harry Potter books. I spent a lot of time with Frank Herbert's Dune. I've read all of Robin Hobb's work. I used to read so much, mostly science fiction and fantasy - oh, quite a few Dungeons and Dragons bye Weis and Hickman. Before those I read a lot of historical romance, but then Greg Bear's Forge of God rocked my world and I went more SciFi / Fantasy. Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner series was gripping. And of course, GRRM and Diana Gabaldon's work.

    1. LOL Connie! Talk about bad--I haven't even read the Harry Potter books! BUT, I have read King's book ON WRITING and Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird (my all time favorite book), Oliver Twist and I have The English Patient but have not read it yet. On the other hand, I have several wonderful books on my OWN list! As you do--and they may not be something Stephen King would want to read, but they made an impact on me and I love them. To Kill a Mockingbird is totally #1. There was an odd western story called St. Agnes' Stand by Thomas Eidson that I loved and would rank in my top 5. The Education of Little Tree is up there, along with One Thousand White Women. And of course, Shane. There are tons more, but these are the ones that come to mind first. And I loved Gabaldon's Outlander series. So many books, so little time!

  2. Well "Opra", I haven't read many of the books on your list, maybe 5, but I sure do have a long list of favorites for certain. It's really hard to categorize them into very top favorites because I loved them all. Most of mine were classics. Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins and then Rose in Bloom, Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (I was really into his long twisted and surprising plots), Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay on Friendship (got me through the snares of friend relationships in my youth), William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew, Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Street Car Named Desire (the decadent south kind of stories) and of course, he wrote about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald in Clothes for a Summer Hotel, Linda Lael Miller's vampire trilogy (yes, she really wrote some vampire stories) and her Primrose Creek series, Nora Roberts, Chesapeake Bay Trilogy, Robert Louis Stevenson Kidnapped, which I read 7 times, Sir Author Canon Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and The Lost World (which was ruined when they made it into a movie) and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte'. How many is that? I think I went over my 5. I have Stephen King's Guide on Writing on audio book and listened to it on my way to work over and over again. I am a big fan of Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind book for writers, too. She is very inspiring. I liked Pet Cemetery by Stephen King, but after I read It (which scared me to death), I felt he just dumped me off in the end and I lost my love for his work. I read one Harry Potter book and wasn't into it, so I quit right there. I read all of the Outlander series by Gabaldon and loved them even though she got a bit long winded on the biology rants sometimes. I was a huge sci-fi fan and read Bradbury and Asimov like crazy. In fact, I aspired to be a sci-fi writer in the beginning of my career. Sometimes you have to take that other path though. Anyway, "Opra", clearly I love reading and I totally agree that a writer has to do a lot of reading. Do you ever find yourself analyzing another author's work while you're reading it to study what makes it good, or what turns you off? I kinda do that.
    Great blog, Cheryl. I enjoyed what the commenters had to say, too. I think I've written a novel here in my comment. LOL

    1. Oh, Sarah that's not MY list--that's STEPHEN KING'S list! LOL No, I haven't read but maybe 4 off of that list. It's funny but a lot of people have read several books from this list--all different ones. LOL I am going to make me a list of books that other people's favorites so I'll have even MORE to read! LOL There are so many wonderful books out there, it's really hard to just pick 5 (yeah, you and I both went over, I think!) Thanks so much for coming by today Sarah!

  3. I have to admit... I didn't read Stephen King's On Writing until this year. I'm not a horror fan at all. HOWEVER, he hit the nail on the head about writing. His points are quite valid. Read, learn, write... authors are verbs! Great list of books. I think mine would include the Harry Potter series and the Merlin books by Mary Stewart. They have so much to teach us. By the way, the other day we were talking about short stories... found out today that O Henry... wrote The Cisco Kid. Gotta look up those shorts now.

    1. Oh, Tessa, I LOVED those Mary Stewart books! Just so wonderful. I would love to go back and re-read those again. My daughter read them in senior English in high school and just enjoyed them so much--proves how timeless they are. I loved to read the OLD Stephen King books--THE STAND was one I absolutely loved, and still do. The later ones where he got more gory I never read. But he does hit the nail on the head as you said in his book ON WRITING. Wish I was as successful as he's been!

  4. Let me see. First, Cheryl, I've read those you mentioned. I know The English Patient was supposed to be long and dreary and boring, but at the time, I did like it. Stephen King is not my favorite of anything, except I know his book On Writing is good. But it's something to read, not exactly go by.
    I really don't think I've read any Stephen King book. But, oh, how I remember the movie Cujo...just gives me shivers to remember it. So, you see, why I don't read his books. Nor have I read only a scant handful from his list.
    My list? As an adult, I read science fiction..book, after, book, after book. I became very tired of those. Then I discovered Westerns, plain old Westerns--Zane Grey, etc. ..And still like a good old-fashioned western. Then I read Maeve Binchy, all the Women's fiction authors that were popular in the 80s, mainly. Of course, I then discovered romance novels. And the rest is history. But I'm picky about my romance novels. Some of the good romance novelists sort of went away, and I began to look around for new authors. I can't even begin to remember very many.
    Now that I write and read romance, I do remember how I enjoyed those called Women's Fiction, and it's a shame those aren't on the best seller lists these days. I'd love to write some...but I know they would not sell. Good post, Cheryl..that list boggles my mind. But then, I am NOT Stephen Kind.

  5. Replies
    1. Celia, I only have a handful of favorites or even ones I've read from his list. I think it's interesting to see what he puts on his reading list as favorites though. I remember when my husband loved Sci-fi. That's all he read for many years. Then, he became bored with it like you did. But he went off reading Patterson, Koontz, King (even he didn't read the later ones of King's though)--He loved the "Odd" series by Koontz. I think Women's Fiction has to really be bombshell-cross-genre to sell. I loved THE HELP. But it's what I would call Women's Fiction--still, it crossed over into mainstream fiction and that's what helped it sell like it did. That was SUCH a good book. How I wish I could write like that.

      I'm picky, too. There are certain authors I love and others that a lot of people love, but I DON'T. LOL Truthfully, if the story is good, it doesn't matter who writes it. I'm just wanting entertainment. LOL

      Thanks for coming by, Celia! Congrats on all your successes--new releases everywhere and lots of new readers and fans!


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