The response can be anything from an out-pouring of favorite books and how they relate to the intended writing to a deer in the headlights look and "Read? I said I wanted to write, not read."
I truly believe a writer needs to be a reader.
Taking my own advice, I began to think about how my reading has changed over the years.
In grade school I read mostly horse stories. I knew back then I wanted to write, and I thought my future was with horses and I was partly right. Grandma Whitney gave me a Marguerite Henry book for each birthday and Christmas until there were none left to give. My father suggested Will James with the idea that I might later graduate to William James. I did, but not for many years. I never read a single Nancy Drew.
In High School I found Sherlock Holmes, first in English Lit, and then tucked into a book case at our summer home. Every year I prepared an elaborate vacation reading list. The Three Musketeers, Edmond Dante and even Alice and the White Rabbit became my summer companions.
I read a bit of modern literature as well. Exodus came out when I was in high school and it took me nearly the whole summer to digest it. I filled in the spaces when I had to put it down with Thoreau and Emerson.
One year I tried Moby Dick. I might have finished it that first summer but my mother told me I was laughing too hard and the book wasn't funny. Well in fact it is. I have been reading it ever since. I have yet to get to the end. I think it is my guilty pleasure. I know the story so I can pick it up at any place and read a bit. I have a copy on my computer and a print book on the floor by my reading chair. I hope I never finish it.
I was in college before I discovered the William James my father had spoken of. As a Psych major, I ran across him in my nonfiction reading. At the same time my boyfriend was taking American Lit, and he introduced me to William’s brother Henry. The James boys became a staple of my reading and writing life. As did my boyfriend.
It was a biography of the James family that propelled me into writing. I had been dabbling in fan fiction, mostly about the TV shows I watched, “Wild Wild West” and “Star Trek.” What I am about to tell you is a secret, so don't pass it on: I had developed a character called Gridunza Moss, the niece of a senator from New Hampshire. She was a feisty lady who was half government agent, half Cambridge intellectual. It was years before Gridunza became Emily Lothorp Lawrence, my first real home grown character.
About the time Gridunza was turning into something more significant, I found that one of my graduate school professors had turned Hosea Ballou (look it up) into a plausible detective. He was the first published mystery fiction writer I knew.
Now I read mostly detective fiction by people I know and nonfiction background for my own writing. I love research.
What do you read?