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reading
edgar allen poe
ralph waldo emerson
henry david thoreau
literature course
Writer Development – Reading
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In this article, I am going to discuss the all-important writer development activity of reading. In particular, this article is one of a pair of articles that will suggest some authors from previous eras that developing writers should try to read.

Indeed, when I first realized my attraction to the craft of writing, I read up on the craft in places like Writer’s Digest. The recommendation of that time suggested that developing writers were poorly served by undertaking to develop their craft by enrolling in a college-based creative writing course. Rather, the experts of that era recommended that writers learn about the craft by studying how other writers constructed their work. I took that advice seriously and when I did enroll in college with an English Major, I took my Concentration within the Major in Literature where I assigned a diverse range of books to read over the course of the four year program.

While most of my series I’ve been submitting to Street Articles over the last few days are targeted to young writers, this one is for developing writers more generally. Some of these authors pre-high schoolers may find difficult to understand, and in some cases even high schoolers may find them difficult. This article will cover American authors, and the next in the pair will cover British/European authors.

Some of these books are considered “classics” in the sense of worthwhile for study in a college literature course. Others are more viewed as the equivalent in their day to the popular contemporary authors of today. Certain authors on this list have books in their cannon that fall into both the classic and of-the-day popular categories.

Some of the American authors that developing authors of today should read include:

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Washington Irving

Stephen Crane

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Harper Lee

Ralph Ellison

Robert Frost

Mark Twain

Edgar Allen Poe

Henry David Thoreau

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walt Whitman

William Faulkner

Ernest Hemingway

Robert Parker

Dashell Hammet

Eugene O’Neill

Rachel Carson

Arthur Miller

Tennessee Williams

Zane Gray

Louisa May Alcott

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Harriet Beecher Stowe

My list is by no means exhaustive, since I am for the most part including only fiction and only those authors I have myself read and therefore have some familiarity with their works. You can find other lists online of American authors, and your local librarians can also recommend additional authors from previous eras that you can consider blending into your overall program when you are looking for books to read as an activity to develop your writing.

The exceptions involve Harper Lee, whom I have not read but know enough about To Kill a Mockingbird to recommend, and Longfellow, Frost and Dickinson as to being more poetic writers than general fiction writers.

Studying the work of authors of previous times can give you insights that can help you in developing your own writing craft. As you work in developing your writing, you also need to feed into the well by reading material by a variety of different authors reflecting a variety of different historical eras and perspectives.


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