What Writers Should Read

DBC Pierre (yes, that’s how the name is spelled) has an unusual list of books writers should read.  Never thought I’d see Petronius’s Satyricon on such a list, but there you go.  The Chambers Encyclopedia is also an unusual choice, given that most publishing houses have given up the effort and expense to publish single-volume encyclopedias in the age of the Internet, but the benefit of having one around is considerable.  Writers should cultivate the ability to absorb and connect a wide variety of disparate facts in their minds.  Sooner or later, many of those connections will show up in our writing, and make it richer.

My own suggestion to add to Pierre’s list is Richard Rhodes’ book, How to Write, which tackles both fiction and non-fiction.  Rhodes has written a great deal of everything a writer can write over his career, including magazine articles and novels, but his greatest fame has come from his non-fiction books:  The Making of the Atomic Bomb (one of the greatest books of the twentieth century, because it explains from a scientific perspective how that century came to be), and Dark Sun:  The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb.  He knows how to structure both long works and short ones.  He also knows the psychological difficulties with which writers must deal, and ways to handle those difficulties.  His work is approachable, practical and encouraging.


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