The best books to make you want to write your own damn book

Why am I passionate about this?

I started reading voraciously at age 4, and read Camus by 6th grade, which is why it made sense that I was so into Pink Floyd, my favorite album of theirs being Animals, which is super depressing. I then studied writing extensively with some great writers, getting my MA and MFA, and teaching writing at colleges from 1991-2021. Along the way I became an editor, a writing coach, ran a writing workshop for 7 years, and started a publishing company. I know good writing when I see it versus crap, and I can tell for sure in about 300 words. I also fall hard for books, and do want to marry them


I wrote...

Simona's Son

By Dianne Pearce,

Book cover of Simona's Son

What is my book about?

Simona's Son was inspired by "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong," written by Tim O'Brien in The Things They Carried. It is the chapter in that book that my students never believed was real, because the woman liked killing.

My woman, Simona, likes killing too, a lot. And good shoes. I am pretty much the same.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Things They Carried

Dianne Pearce Why did I love this book?

In many ways, this is the book that taught me how to write.

If I were to open it and read it right now, especially the end of "On the Rainey River," I would bust out crying because the pacing, the plotting, the writing, is so freaking good. O'Brien plays with his readers all through this book, and he absolutely takes us to war, without any blood or guts or gore, and lets us know what the true cost of war is.

If you read this, you'll be a better writer than you are today, and you'll be anti-war. Sorry Putin.

By Tim O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked The Things They Carried as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The million-copy bestseller, which is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

'The Things They Carried' is, on its surface, a sequence of award-winning stories about the madness of the Vietnam War; at the same time it has the cumulative power and unity of a novel, with recurring characters and interwoven strands of plot and theme.

But while Vietnam is central to 'The Things They Carried', it is not simply a book about war. It is also a book about the human heart - about the terrible weight of those things we carry through…


Book cover of Still Life with Woodpecker

Dianne Pearce Why did I love this book?

This is the Tom Robbins book for me: the glorious bastard that made me want to be a writer.

It's a day lost in Tijuana, or Nice, or Beijing, or some other place you'd never thought you'd be, and you don't speak the language, but you've convinced yourself that you're fluent, and you can do it: you can get around anyway, and there's no cabs, and so you get into some guy's really old Volvo or, more ill-advised, van, and you give him the local equivalent of ten bucks to take you where you hope you want to be and not kill you, and he does it, but when he drops you off he yells at you, in his language, for being stupid enough to take a ride with a stranger.

And you do it again the next day, and you never learn your lesson.

By Tom Robbins,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Still Life with Woodpecker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Still Life with Woodpecker is sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.


Book cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Dianne Pearce Why did I love this book?

I recommend THGTTG because it is “...something almost, but not quite entirely unlike tea.”

It is also a book that teaches me how to write, and how to be funny, and how I can go at describing something in many ways, not just through stupid old simile or musty-fusty metaphor. I can tell you what it is not.

I can discuss in minute detail the least important thing by way of making you realize that there is no most important thing, and we're all just hapless fools for love and the illusion that we have some control over life, the universe, or, slipperiest of all, our own writing. We do not, and the sooner we learn that as authors, the better.

By Douglas Adams,

Why should I read it?

34 authors picked The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This box set contains all five parts of the' trilogy of five' so you can listen to the complete tales of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Bebblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android! Travel through space, time and parallel universes with the only guide you'll ever need, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Read by Stephen Fry, actor, director, author and popular audiobook reader, and Martin Freeman, who played Arthur Dent in film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He is well known as Tim in The Office.

The set also includes a bonus DVD Life, the Universe and…


Book cover of A Little Yellow Dog

Dianne Pearce Why did I love this book?

I've met Mr. Mosely a few times, and he's a helluva guy.

This is my favorite of the Easy Rawlins series. Mosley writes in my favorite genre, hardboiled, and he's perfect Chandler, but with two important distinctions: his books teach us about being in a Black man's shoes in a white man's world, and we can never learn that well enough, and Easy is a genuinely good person, and there are not nearly enough of him.

He is good to his bones, to his soul, and we all want him to succeed: we're with him from the first line, and we all get religion praying for him to make it all the way, not to solving the crime, but to solving the mystery of living life well, and on his own terms.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Yellow Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With each succeeding mystery featuring his reluctant detective (and natural-born existentialist) Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley gains new fans and builds on what is now recognized as a permanent addition to American crime writing. His current book is A Little Yellow Dog--another instant classic of suspense, style, and shrewd social observation.

It's 1964. Easy Rawlins has given up the street life that has brought him so much trouble and grief. He's taken on a job as supervising custodian of Sojourner Truth Junior High School in Watts. For two years he's been getting up early and going off to work. He wears…


Book cover of Rhinoceros

Dianne Pearce Why did I love this book?

Eugene Ionesco is an absurd theater playwright. Absurd plays tell us things without overtly telling us things.

Rhinoceros depicts the way that Nazism went from something as shocking as a rhinoceros running around Europe, to a thing that everyone takes as a fait accompli. Only one character, who is no great shakes himself, alternately self-loathing and confused, wanting to do right, but not knowing how to, avoids becoming one of them.

It's a simple skillful play, depicting a chilling problem. It is perfect for MAGA-ism in America: book banning, election-stealing, vaccine distrust, and the like, because it shows how easily and seamlessly people fall into line behind horrific, but compelling, movements. Ionesco's dialogue is brilliant, as is his message; his work can show us the way to writing with meaning.

By Eugene Ionesco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rhinoceros as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Text: French


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Snow on Magnolias

By Betty Bolte,

Book cover of Snow on Magnolias

Betty Bolte Author Of Notes of Love and War

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Author Editor Traveler Crocheter Reader

Betty's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Magnolia Merryweather, a horse breeder, is eager to celebrate Christmas for the first time after the Civil War ended even as she grows her business. She envisions a calm, prosperous life ahead after the terror of the past four years. Only, all of her plans are thrown into disarray when her secret lover returns and starts asking questions she can’t answer without disaster following.

Bryce Day comes home to Alabama after he’s discharged from the First Alabama Cavalry USA with guilt weighing on his heart. His neighbors won’t cotton to his Unionist bent, and the woman of his heart likely…

Snow on Magnolias

By Betty Bolte,

What is this book about?

One terrible lie, a desperate measure to save her past, just might destroy her future…

Award-winning author of historical fiction presents a new novel of love and lies, secrets and sensuality, and the hands of fate weaving it all together.

The American Civil War is finally over and Christmas beckons. Magnolia Merryweather, backyard horse breeder, is eager to celebrate for the first time since the war began even as she continues to grow her business. She envisions a calm, prosperous life ahead after all the terror of the past four years. She’s preparing to follow in her mother’s matriarchal footsteps,…


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