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Great American Books To Read When You're Stuck In A Writing Slump

This bird has the right idea: reading something great helps improve your own work. Image: Bird reading Harvard Crimson, by Leslie Jones [ca 1934-1956]. Print Department, Boston Public Library.

What to Read When You're Stuck in a Writing Rut

It happens to everyone: the dreaded writer's block. Though plenty of tips and tricks abound, one of the best tools to alleviate creative constipation is to read something wonderful. Being a great writer usually goes hand-in-hand with being a great reader. Sometimes that may mean reading books on the craft itself, but more often, the cure comes from stories that elevate writing from beyond mere prose to bona fide works of art.  With that in mind, we've whittled our list to four modern American masterpieces that have helped us through periods of writer's block.  Here they are, in no particular order: 1. The World According to Garp, by John Irving (1978). Irving's fourth novel focuses on writing, wrestling, and tolerance despite intolerance. The bestselling National Book Award finalist showcases Irving's prowess at combining humor, horror, lunacy, and audacity in one whirlwind package.  2. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). Consistently ranked as one of the top 100 best English-language novels in modern history, Hurston's book defies categorization in this tale of self-discovery and empowerment. Language and dialect are welded with decisive power here.  3. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway (1926). Short, declarative, sentences. Bold, clear prose. It's Hemingway at the top of his form and a reminder that a journalistic approach can often make a story more interesting than overwrought linguistic feats.  4. My Antonia, by Willa Cather (1918). Perhaps you read this back in high school. Perhaps not. Either way, read it now--you'll appreciate this ode to the American West and the pioneers who made it home.  What do you read when you're stuck in a rut?

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