11 Book Recommendations From Famous Authors, So You Can Read Like A Writer

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If you're ever looking to boost your To Read list, check out what the best writers are reading. Here are 11 book recommendations from literary stars so you can read like a writer. Because the best writers? They're almost always boss-ass readers.

In his seminal essay "Good Readers and Good Writers," Vladimir Nabokov quotes another novelist with a seat in the hall of venerated wordsmiths: Flaubert. "Commel'on serait savant si l’on connaissait bien seulement cinq a six livres," he quotes. "What a scholar one might be if one knew well only some half a dozen books."

There is a reason why the concept of reading and writing is so deeply intertwined, why writers often have towering libraries and recommendation lists a mile long. It's because a love of words, of the way sentences develop a rhythm, of the way we break down and reconstruct lived experiences onto the page, is more than a hobby, or even a career: it's a way of seeing the world. There is a relationship one develops with the authors of their favorite books, regardless of whether you've ever spoken a word to them. Their words, put onto paper, go through an additional transformation once you get your hands on them. Each reader is part of the process.

Curious what your favorite writers love to read? Check out this list.

Cheryl Strayed: "The Dream of A Common Language" by Adrienne Rich

At the top of Cheryl Strayed's real-life reading list as she made her way through the Pacific Crest Trail was The Dream of a Common Language by feminist poet Adrienne Rich, which Strayed described as "a consolation, an old friend."

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Junot Diaz: "The Lord of the Rings" by JRR Tolkien

Having read The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien is listed as a pre-requisite on the syllabus for Junot Diaz's writing course "World Building," which he teaches at MIT.

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Mary Karr: "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou

In an interview with the New York Times Sunday Book Review, memoirist Mary Karr named Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings when asked which book shaped her as a person. "Maybe because she survived a childhood rape to become that most exalted of creatures," Karr told the Times. "A writer."

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Ta-Nehisi Coates: "Ida: A Sword Among the Lions" by Paula J. Giddings

Ta-Nehisi Coates named Ida: A Sword Among the Lions by Paula J. Giddings as "criminally underrated" in a 2015 talk at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: "Arrow of God" by Chinua Achebe

When asked to list some of her favorite books by Oprah Magazine, Chimamanda Adichie recognized Chinua Achebe's Arrow of God for providing a key moment of realization. "It made me see that it was, in fact, possible for people of color to exist within literature," said Adichie.  

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Melissa Harris-Perry: "The Light of the World" by Elizabeth Alexander

When the New York Times published a summer reading list of exclusively white writers, Melissa Harris-Perry hit back with her own list, featuring Elizabeth Alexander's The Light of the World. "Everyone who has ever loved and lost needs to read the gut-wrenching and lyrical memoir 'The Light of the World,'" said Harris-Perry.

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George Saunders: "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison

"This book reawakened part of me that had been slumbering since my young Catholic days," George Saunders told The Week. "The part that knows that the point of life on earth is to learn to be more sympathetic to others.

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J.K. Rowling: "Emma" by Jane Austen

J.K. Rowling is on record as saying Jane Austen is her favorite writer ~of all time~ and Emma is her favorite of Austen's works. In 1999, Rowling told Amazon that she'd read this classic novel at least 20 times.

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Stephen King: "A Head Full of Ghosts" by Paul Tremblay

Tremblay/HarperCollins

"Scared the living hell out of me, and I'm pretty hard to scare," tweeted Stephen King about Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts. If that's not a bonafide vote of confidence for horror fans, I don't know what is.

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Rainbow Rowell: "Saga" by Brian K. Vaughn

Vaughn/Amazon

YA writer Rainbow Rowell suggests "anything by Brian K. Vaughn" for fans of comics. A writer's entire canon? That's one glowing rec.

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Haruki Murakami: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald/Simon & Schuster

Haruki Murakami has named F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby as his favorite book in several interviews, to such a degree that young Murakami even wanted to translate the classic as a young man in his 20s.

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