The Definitive

Litopia Writers’ Reading List 2024

Peter Cox, founder of Litopia

I asked our members a simple question.

Which books have had the most profound impact on your development as a writer?

Here’s what they told me. A glorious cornucopia of more than forty definitive titles that ought to be on your reading list.

And note: if you buy them all (why not?) it will still be cheaper than taking one average-priced commercial writing course.

We’ve all enjoyed putting this list together, and we hope you get as much out of it as we have.

Peter Cox

71w8YtbEqrL._SL1500_

Writing Historical Fiction by Emma Darwin

Our Summary

A beginners' guide to writing historical fiction which draws on the material in her coaching sessions and lectures: characters, plot structure, research, using your senses to recreate the past and psychic distance. There are plenty of examples and exercises.

What I learned From It

I still dip into this book if I'm stuck in my writing or need some inspiration. It's practical rather than theoretical which works for me.

Liz Brown

Buy UK

Buy US

81tL463Sp2L._SL1500_

The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Our Summary

First published in 1949, this dense, sometimes impenetrable, and somewhat controversial book on comparative mythology takes a tour through world folklore to tease out common themes and archetypes.

What I learned From It

What George Lucas was thinking when he wrote Star Wars. If you want to understand Hollywood's obsession with this mode of storytelling, you should read this book. If you've heard other writers talk/evangelize/fret about the "Hero's Journey" and you're not exactly sure what they're talking about, you should read this book. If you have even the most passing interest in commercial Western storytelling, you should read this book.  Also see "The Writer's Journey" by Christopher Vogler.

Rich.

Buy UK

Buy US

51ofrIAeelL

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges

Our Summary

This is a coming-of-age fiction book about a 24-year-old boy who feels stuck in his small town taking care of his overweight mother and special needs brother, while it feels like his other siblings and friends have moved on outside.

What I learned From It

I really learned alot about voice and character from reading this book. Gilbert Grape is an incredibly flawed character and can be pretty cruel at times, but I loved him. He emotes in ways that feel unconventional to a reader/are far from cliche. Rather than crying when he's sad, he takes it out through acting out at work or little internal jabs at other people. His relationship with his mother and siblings is fascinating to read, because he never says exactly how he feels about them, but his attitude changes throughout the book. Its just a really subtle way to draw a reader in and attach them to a character, even if he can be a jerk.

tmartini

Buy UK

Buy US

51PoVGhYsfL

Developing A Written Voice by Dona J Hickey

Our Summary

This dense work focuses on a directed attitude towards developing Voice. From conversational to formal, snarky to respectful, it's all about word choice and the way that language will both sound and convey meaning. The same words with the same meaning can nevertheless be ordered in different ways with a difference in the way they are perceived, the it is this that comprises 'voice'. Replete with concrete examples and pertinent exercises, this book is hard to find but well worth the search.

What I learned From It

All writers have a voice, but not all work at developing it - or even possess a framework for it. This book provides a framework and it's a book I will continue working through for years to come.

Dan Payne

Buy UK

Buy US