4 Types of Books to Read to Improve Your Writing

By Emily O’Neill, Writing Mentor


If you are a literature-lover like me, that word fills your heart with pure joy.

I love to read, and I am convinced that reading is one of the best things that writers can do to hone their craft. We absorb what we read, and then it flows right back out through our pen – whether we are aware of it or not. With that in mind, here are four types of books that you should read if you want to improve your writing.

Books that Inform

If you want to learn a particular idea, find a book to teach you about it.

Nearly every type of writing requires some sort of outside knowledge. Whether it’s a fictional story set in a particular era, a biography of a famous scientist or a persuasive essay about the effects of genetic modified organisms, you have to know your topic well so that you can present it accurately. Therefore, read books that teach you.

Books that Show

When you want to grow in some particular writing skill, find books that excel in that area.

For example, when I want to work on descriptive writing, I read books by Charles Dickens. He is a genius of detail, rendering people, settings and events in a vivid manner. Whenever I read one of his works, I am inspired to dig deeper into my own writing and draw out richer visualization.

Books that Challenge

If your objective is to develop as a writer, then don’t read fluff books.

There’s nothing wrong with lighthearted stories. However, they generally aren’t all that helpful for writers. Let seasoned authors teach you how to utilize different writing techniques, like irony or symbolism. Don’t just skim over these literary goldmines – truly analyze them.

“The Awakening of Miss Prim” by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera is one goldmine that challenged me. I had high expectations going in, but I didn’t anticipate that it would make me question everything I’d ever written. Fenollera adds stunning depth, ingenuity and intelligence to her story, particularly the character dialogue. Even before the end of Chapter 1, I felt the need to go and add some more personality to the conversations in my novel.

Books That Differ from Your Preferences

When I’m picking a book, I generally steer toward the ones that were written at least half a century ago.

I love heart-warming Austen romances, exciting hobbit adventures, and just about anything sad (“Les Misérables,” anyone?).

But if I don’t expand my horizons to other genres, like science fiction, I will inevitably miss out on learning some skills or techniques that I wouldn’t have gleaned from “Little Women.

Try reading a book that you wouldn’t naturally be attracted to – you might find that your preferences are broader than you thought! And I can almost guarantee that you’ll learn something beneficial that you can implement into your own writing.

To find out more about the Ally Center or to schedule a session, visit lbc.edu/ally


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