Creative Writing MA Reading List

A Creative Writing MA has a substantial reading list. The suggested reading mostly deals with the theory of writing and literature, as well as the act of writing.

It is useful to see course reading lists before the start of term, though most universities don’t provide a lot of time for this. So in case you are starting an MA and want to get ahead with the reading, or if you’re generally just interested in reading more theory about creative writing, then I hope this reading list is of use to you.

Recommended Reading

From our very long reading list, these were the core books, the ones we referred to again and again.

  • Atwood, Margaret, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, Virago, 2003
  • Culler, Jonathan, Literary Theory—A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 1997
  • Eco, Umberto,  Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, Harvard, 2001
  • Lodge, David, The Art of Fiction, Penguin, 1992
  • Baxter, Charles, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction, Graywolf Press, 1997
  • Forster, E M, Aspects of the Novel, Penguin, 2005
  • Wood, James, How Fiction Works, Vintage, 2008

Further Reading

As well as the books listed above, we’d also often refer to the following (or at least they would crop up in conversation or be recommended for something specific):

  • Bennett, Andrew & Royle, Nicholas, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (2nd Ed.) Prentice Hall, 1999
  • Booker, Christopher, The Seven Basic  Plots, Continuum, 2004
  • Lodge, David & Wood (eds.), Nigel, Modern Criticism and Theory—A Reader (3rd Ed.) Longman, 2008
  • Rivkin, Julie & Ryan, Michael (eds.), Literary Theory: An Anthology (2nd Ed.) Blackwell, 2004
  • Pope, Rob, Creativity—Theory, History, Practice Routledge, 2008
  • Prose, Francine, Reading Like a Writer Harper Perennial, 2007

Personal Recommendations

These weren’t on the list, but from the many books about writing that I have read, I have found these the most inspiring. They mostly deal with the philosophy, motivation and creativity of writing, rather than academic theory (though I have seen Short Circuit on university reading lists).

  • Gebbie, Vanessa, Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story, Salt, 2009
  • King, Stephen, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, New English Library, 2001
  • Morgan, Nicola, Write to be Published, Snowbooks, 2011
  • Naimark-Goldberg, Natalie, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Shambhala Publications Inc, 1988

It is important to understand the theory of writing. Much of it is conflicting, and you might not agree with all of it, but it is useful to know what is being said and understood by informed individuals and literary movements, so that we, as writers, can take the most appropriate and informed direction in our own work.

Have I missed out your favourite book about writing? Leave some recommendations in the comments section.

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6 thoughts on “Creative Writing MA Reading List

  1. Hi Sophie. Great post.

    I’d like to add that I found the less academic texts to be helpful while I’m writing as they tend to be rather cheerful and encouraging.

    I particularly like dipping into Louise Doughty’s ‘A Novel in a Year’, taken from her Guardian column. Not because her exercises are anything new, but because she is relaxed and rather slapdash about approaching a first draft, letting you write what you want, even if it doesn’t make sense (yet).

    The ‘feeling your way’ approach has worked for me- I know my characters very well now and a stronger, more complex and resonant plot is emerging; something I could not have sat down and planned.

  2. A great list, Sophie. Glad you swung by my blog and I was able to discover it.

    Your list seems heavily weighted to fiction, but for anyone interested in creative nonfiction (or simply learning how to better connect with an audience via lyrical prose in the first person, a technique highly applicable to fiction) I’d recommend “The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present” by Phillip Lapote.
    Patrick Ross recently posted..A Writer’s Must-Read List

  3. Hi Sophie! Great list. I stumbled upon this post using google. I thought I would try to tackle the reading list of an MA course as I can’t attend a course just yet (money and toddler) and I wondered if I could gain from studying the same books at home. This list looks great. I’ve also found the list for the University of East Anglia MA in creative writing so I’m going to try to get through your suggestions and theirs. Maybe I’ll come out at the other side a better writer!
    Lisa Wilton recently posted..Nanowrimo 2012 – scared or excited?

    1. Hi, would anyone be able to share the book list for the M.A. in creative writing at the University of East Anglia please?

  4. Likewise, could someone print the reading list for East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing (prose).
    Also the one for Sheffield Hallam and Oxford University.

    Thanks!!

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