9 Novels Guaranteed to Make You a Better Writer
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
Finding our unique voices as writers can be one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges in our journey towards mastering the craft. The bookstore shelves are often lined with writing manuals that help you hone your tone, and writing workshops are a fantastic way to discover the authenticity of your style.
But sometimes, it can also help to pick up a good book and study what another author has done. While we are not suggesting that you copy the style of another writer, there is enormous value in learning from the greats.
Here is a list of nine novels we’ve relied on over the years to become better writers, and that we think you will love too:
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
If ever a writer has existed who can paint a picture as pristine as the Sistine Chapel with his words, it’s F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this seminal novel, Fitzgerald weaves intricate plot points together that culminate in unforgettable paragraphs, and captures the puzzling American Dream with unparalleled eloquence.
What You’ll Learn: The Great Gatsby is essential for writers looking to texture their pages with vibrant visuals that superimpose themselves with ease upon the reader’s imagination, and for anyone who wants to better understand the power of flashbacks and flashforwards within a work of fiction.
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
This 2018 best-seller has made its way onto the shelves of voracious readers across the world, and it’s easy to understand why. In this masterful work of fiction, Delia Owens possesses an expert command of the essential story elements that provoke endless curiosity and keep the reader gripped until the very last page.
What You’ll Learn: Where the Crawdads Sing is a must-read for any writer studying the intricate layers between the story’s theme, plot, and protagonist. Read this novel for a lesson in weaving each element into a masterful and endlessly riveting tale, where your character’s development is as intriguing as the twists and turns they encounter along their journey.
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway is known for crafting short, clippy sentences where the space between the words often says more than the words themselves. In The Sun Also Rises, we get a taste of just how powerful this technique can be in allowing heavy subject matter the breathing room it deserves to expose its depth to readers.
What You’ll Learn: This book is a great exercise in restraint, teaching writers to hone each sentence and piece of dialogue with an ample dose of realism and practicality.
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles is a must-read for more than just science fiction writers looking to launch an exploration into the unknown. It’s the perfect piece of literature for anyone who wants to write a book that is as imaginative as it is philosophical. This book is packed with literary elements that expose the universal truths we all grapple to understand, simply by shifting the setting to one where our humanity is more easily visible.
What You’ll Learn: You’ll gain a better understanding of the literary devices that help ground themes of humanity into a digestible, Pulitzer prize winning page-turner. A masterful example of modern day mythology, this treasured 20th century novel will help you strengthen the power of the vivid untold narratives you’re eager to pour onto the page.
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
For aspiring writers whose interest falls into the fantasy and science fiction genres, The Fifth Season is a modern must-read. This epic tale features a vastly dimensional world with enough intricacies to fill two end-of-the-book glossaries, and Jemisin writes with such a fluency in fantasy that readers are actually excited to refer to the slew of fictional definitions that guide their journey throughout each page.
What You’ll Learn: This book is the perfect novel for anyone looking to understand the complexities of world-building in genre fiction, without overwhelming their readers.
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most iconic books of the last century, and understandably so. This novel is set over the course of just a few days, and invites the reader into the deepest recesses of an angsty teenager’s mind. Its main character, Holden Caulfield, has become an infamous symbol for adolescent rebellion over the years, and the novel demonstrates just how powerful the written word can be in revealing the internal conflict that rages within most of our minds.
What You’ll Learn: This influential work will give you a glimpse into implementing symbols latent with meaning and layering intricate character development into your next project.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
An expert grasp on magical realism has made Murakami a stalwart of modern fiction, and his beloved book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is no exception to his mastery. In this acclaimed novel, Murakami takes you deep beneath the city’s surface, where a relatable protagonist uncovers Japan’s buried past and uncovers the darkest recesses of human identity.
What You’ll Learn: Murakami is an excellent role model for writers developing a keen eye for detail, and who are learning which of their observations are most essential to include in order to build a story that unpacks psychology through beautifully written prose.
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
Mrs. Dalloway is not an easy read, but every writer should pick up this book at least once. In this novel, Virginia Woolf expertly crafts a picture of both the macro cultural psychology of a post-war society, as well as the individual psychology of the characters who inhabit this world. This novel is a must-read for any writer seeking to explore the beauty and fragility of subjective reality in their own works.
What You’ll Learn: This novel will help you hone experimental fiction that expertly magnifies the psyches of multiple characters with the interjections of one omniscient narrator.
Beloved, Toni Morrison
This seminal novel should be on the list of any writer grappling with large social themes rooted in our complex human history. In Beloved, Toni Morrison seamlessly alternates between two stories, gripping the reader into a compelling expose of how the past creeps up to dictate a character’s present reality.
What You’ll Learn: Read Beloved to learn how to ground complex social themes into a gripping plot and riveting prose that make it impossible for anyone to turn a blind eye to the realities of our shared human past.
Remember that you don’t need to love any of these novels. In fact, you may have an active distaste for some of the writing styles – which is ultimately an equally powerful step along your journey to developing your own voice and go-to literary devices. Novels can have a profound effect on our own craft, and we’ve witnessed firsthand how delving into these masterpieces can make anyone a better writer with a little bit of effort and studying.
So, which will you read first?