Literature Aspiring Writers Should Read – Part 1

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

Skills acquired by reading:

· The way to seduce readers with lyricism
· The ability to describe desire so that the reader will be both compelled and sickened
· The ability to plant a wry smile on a readers face despite him/herself
· The way to challenge censors, even personal ones
· Aesthetic abilities – succulent imagery, absorbing turn of phrase, humour and irony
· Ability to cast doubt in the readers minds and challenge them to recognise a mistrustful narrator

‘But nymphets do not have acne although they gorge themselves on rich food. God, what agony, that silky shiver above her temple grading into brown bright hair. And the little bone twitching at the side of her dust-powdered ankle… The glistening tracery of down on her forearm.’

Available in 2006, Penguin Red Classics, 9780141023496, click on the cover to purchase:Lolita (Penguin Red Classics S.)

The Lady with the Pet Dog – Anton Chekhov (1899) (short story)

Skills acquired by reading:

· Recognition of the sheer joy of the short story form
· The way to write about small incidents, subtly, but loaded with pathos
· The way to inject mystery and wonder into human interaction
· The ability to write about love without resorting to sentimentality
· The way to leave a reader pondering for hours, perhaps days, afterwards, left with a sense of having uncovered some secret, feeling slightly disturbed for it, but all the more experienced and knowledgable
· How to write a story that will be relevant for decades to come

‘He was living a double life: an open and public life visible to all who had any need to know, full of conventional truth and conventional lies, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances, and another which followed a secret course.’

Available in various collections of Anton Checkov’s short fiction, click on the cover to purchase one:The Essential Tales of Chekhov

7 thoughts on “Literature Aspiring Writers Should Read – Part 1

  1. i’d add roy’s “the god of small things” for an exploration of the profundity in the mundane and sheer beauty of prose, early hemingway for lessons on the economy of words, and kundera for magic.

  2. Thanks for your input! This will be an ongoing segment (note the Part 1) and I welcome anyone to add their suggestions. Any book that highlights the profundity of the mundane is a winner in my book.

  3. I love running into tips like this, though I don’t think of myself as aspiring to anything. I write just for the fun of writing and to please my personal aesthetic sense. If someone else likes what I wrote, I’m very lucky.Lolita is a wonderful book to read, for just the reasons you mention. The short story is one I don’t know. But now I will read it! Thank you very much for sharing.

  4. P.S. I should probably add my own reading tips. Of course there are thousands of great books to read, but I would especially recommend something from Sholem Alejchem, perhaps Tewje the Milkman. He has the sublime ability to make the reader laugh and cry at the same time. To me this borders on the divine.

  5. Now I’ve read the Chekhov story too, and thank you again for the tip. It’s the work of a genius, definitely. However, thinking in the sense of learning about writing from the story was rather intimidating. It’s too brilliantly written – even perfectly written. I take it as an example of how a master works and marvel at what he achieved, and try to convince myself not to give up.

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