You should read the book that your history professor mentions and then says, “which, by the way, is a great book,” offhandedly.
You should read the book that you loved in high school. Read it again.
You should read the book that you find on the library’s free cart whose cover makes you laugh. The Millions recommends 28 Books You Should Read If You Want To. What’s on your list?
I really did come to writing by being a reader. Most of the books I read as a very young boy—the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Enid Blyton books, the adventures of Quartermas, The Day of the Triffids, Dostoevsky and Chekhov, Baldwin, Fredrick Forsythe, Robert Ludlum, Michener, even Leon Uris, comic books, Faulkner, Steinbeck—they were all about risk. They were, in their own ways, evaluating and repositioning the risk of being a human with consciousness but no more import in the vastness of existence as a twig, and the danger of consciousness unchecked magnifying that despair.
Narrative is a very feeble weapon in the face of human darkness and yet it’s all we have. That we have to hang the transformation and survival of our species on the journey and transformation of one singular person so far outside of what we expect they can do. So all my characters exist in risk, in the places we are either too afraid to go to, or have enough privilege not to have to, but whatever the reason, these characters I fashion go before us and come back transformed for us. Another fantastic quote from Chris Abani. Read more here.