Reading Recommendations from WDC Annual Speakers

"Read as much as you write" is great advice for writers. Our WD Annual Conference speakers and presenters share some of their reading recommendations.
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"Read as much as you write" is great advice for writers. Our WD Annual Conference speakers and presenters share some of their reading recommendations.

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In her advice to writers ahead of the WD annual conference, literary agent Barbara Poelle recommended that writers "Read as much as you write." And we love that suggestion! We asked our WDC speakers to share a recent book that they loved. Here's what they said.

It's not particularly recent because she published it in 2015, but I finally got around to reading it recently--Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Most people know her from Eat Pray Love, which wasn't her best book. Her best book, in my opinion, was Committed--which chronicled her journey to overcome her fear of marriage by studying and absorbing what marriage means in cultures around the world. In that book, she touches on fear, and in Big Magic, she dives in head first. Big Magic is about letting go of all the things that hamper your creativity and coming to understand why you were born a creative. As writers, we've all dealt with fear in various manifestations and this book really puts it all into perspective. - Christine Conradt

As someone with a vast network of writers, I tend to read my friends' books first before anything on the New York Times bestseller's list. I love psychological thrillers, like American Rest Stop, written by a screenwriter who uses the pen name "Unknown Screenwriter." The story dives into the world of a serial killer who targets travelers at highway rest stops. The author created a page-turner, endless shocking twists and turns, and characters who are both real and complex. Even my 22-year-old son couldn't put it down! - Jeanne Bowerman

I loved Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy and Naomi Alderman's novel The Power. - Jordan Rosenfeld

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker. - Steven James

Well, it’s not recent but The Lord of the Flies is one of my favorite books. It is a great example of violence having a purpose and being a character all its own. The scene where Simon is attacked and stabbed to death like an animal still makes my skin hurt. And I don’t remember the scene because all of Golding’s fight blocking was spot on accurate. What sticks with me is the horror I felt for that sweet kid. That’s the hallmark of a great fight scene. A reader will forget what exactly happened, but they won’t forget how what happened made them feel. Yes, the action has to be realistic so as to not be distracting. But, it can’t be the focus of the fight. - Carla Hoch

I recently read A Planet for Rent by Cuban science fiction author Yoss. The linked short story collection was so imaginative and fun. I still keep thinking about the characters he created. - Lilliam Rivera

Milkman by Anna Burns. It’s got a learning curve, but once I got into it I was enthralled. Pro tip: Read this book and then watch Derry Girls for some serious mood/cultural whiplash. - Jeff Somers

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I bow down to her ability to create an utterly immersive reading experience, in an unforgettable voice. - Jessica Strawser

I loved Less by Andrew Sean Greer, which made me laugh and cry and laugh again. And all of Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway mystery series, which I just can’t seem to get enough of. Right now, I’m reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, which is a marvel. I usually read quickly—I read for a living—but this one I’m reading slowly, the better to savor it. - Paula Munier

Black God’s Drums by Phenderson Djèlí Clark. It was amazing, full of alternative history U.S. where the Civil War never quite ended, Haiti is a great empire and Caribbean airships are ranging up into the southern U.S.. - Tobias Buckell

I love Brené Brown's Dare to Lead. - Dima Ghawi

A recent book that I loved was Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s Heads of the Colored People: Stories. It is the kind of book I have put down and laughed out loud at how wonderfully perceptive she is. I don’t just understand the world in which she writes; I know it. - Ran Walker

Little Fires Everywhere. - Barbara Poelle

I've loved several! How to Sit: A Memoir in Essays and Stories by Tyrese Coleman is great as is the middle grade graphic novel New Kid by Jerry Craft. Both are very unique in the ways they represent personal journeys as well as the introspection of that in the moment and later on. - Jennifer Baker

I just finished Douglas Preston’s narrative nonfiction book The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story. Preston is a brilliant example of a writer rooted in journalism who can write both killer nonfiction and solid thrillers about killers. He’s also a great advocate for authors. (Aside: I once ran into him at a writing conference, and he was wearing a skull bolo tie, which only enhanced his legend.) The Lost City of the Monkey God documents the hunt for a legendary abandoned civilization in Honduras—and the severe consequences of potentially finding it. - Zac Petit

I’ve been catching up on a stack of great new books by former students: Seth Kugel’s Rediscovering Travel and Brett Kruntzch’s Dying to Be Normal (nonfiction). Daniela Petrova’s Her Daughter’s Mother, Dream Jordan’s Love Me or Miss Me, and Abby Sher’s All the Ways the World Can End (novels.) Jeff Henigson’s Warhead, and Elizabeth Weitzman's Renegade Women in Film & TV (YA nonfiction) and Zack McDermott’s memoir Gorilla and the Bird (being made into an HBO mini-series!) - Susan Shapiro

Reading Etaf Rum's A Woman Is No Man and Hala Alyan's Salt Houses back to back is wonderful literary experience. Other books I've read recently and would highly recommend are The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner, The Guest Book by Sarah Blake, and Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan. - Amy Jones

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