The Top 5 Books You Need to Read In Your Genre

Reading the most popular novels in your genre is the single best thing you can do to improve your writing.

I don’t care if the novel sucks. This exercise is to show you what your audience is interested in. Educate yourself in how the most popular authors write: their pacing, style, characters, conflict, transitions, twists, foreshadowing, the hook, the climax, and all the other ones I’m not going to take the time to mention.

Reading a book

Each book is a free manual to you saying, “This is what your demographic enjoys.”

You will have one of two reactions to this.

  1. That’s great. I’ll read and educate myself.
  2. I don’t care what’s popular, my novel is going to be different and I don’t want to have any similarities to that book.

For those in group #1, pat yourself on the back.

For those in group #2, you’re naive.

You can learn a lot from any book whether it’s good or a bad. If you don’t read the best-sellers in your genre, how can you possibly know if your novel is unique? Maybe their premise is different, but one of their secondary characters might be a carbon copy of yours.

Now it looks like you copied the best-seller. And your demographic will likely notice. Reading will help you be different. And it will help you to adopt the genre’s accepted norms.

If for nothing else, reading also educates you on the genre’s cliches.

In 1995, a kick-ass female protagonist beating up a bar full of biker dudes was edgy and different. Today, it’s so cliche I want to barf. A few years ago, I didn’t know that the phrase “dilapidated house” was cliche. Then I read three things in a row with the same description.

I’ve avoided it ever since.

It’s far from comprehensive, but here are 5 extremely popular books in 5 popular genres. It’s a good place to start if you haven’t read them yet.


The best time to read

Science Fiction & Fantasy:

Dead Ice – Laurell K. Hamilton

The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi

The Darkling Child: The Defenders of Shannara – Terry Brooks

Nemesis Games – James S. A. Corey

The Long Utopia – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Teen and Young Adult

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

The Game of Love and Death – Martha Brockenbrough

The Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma

A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas

Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Finders Keepers – Stephen King

The English Spy – Daniel Silva

Radiant Angel – Nelson DeMille

The Cartel – Don Winslow

Paranormal Romance

Wicked Charms – Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood – Diana Gabaldon

If I Stay – Gayle Forman

The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness

Literature & Fiction

A Dark Lure – Loreth Anne White

The Perfect Son – Barbara Claypole White

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

The Martian – Andy Weir

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr


Reading on the train

I’ve been reading a book a week lately. That will likely slow to a book every two weeks, but it’s good to push yourself.

Minimize other sources of entertainment like Netflix so your entertainment becomes reliant on books. In the long run it will help your writing, and you’ll likely feel more fulfilled.

Question(s) of the day: How often do you read? How do you try to be different than the genre you write in?  


    • bdschmitt

      July 8, 2015 at 9:18 am

      Dang it, you’ve discovered that I’m human and make mistakes! I’m done for. 😉 Thanks for pointing that out, Kaylin, just fixed it!

  1. ‘If I Stay’ is one of my favorites! 🙂

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