Half a library to make a book

For some reason I’ve found myself quoting Samuel Johnson recently.  I thought I’d better turn two quotes into three so his soundbites stop bugging me.

Plenty of quotes on writing to choose from, but here’s one on reading that’s easy to chew.

The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write. A man will turn over half a library to make a book.

Well said.

I don’t know how much time I spend reading compared to writing - but I know that I couldn’t write if I didn’t first, last, always and forever read.

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5 Responses to “Half a library to make a book”

  1. On July 11, 2007 at 5:57 pm Laura responded with... #

    This is so true! I always say that the best writers are readers first.

  2. On July 11, 2007 at 11:07 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Laura

    I think that makes two of us then :)


  3. On July 12, 2007 at 8:40 am Emma Bird responded with... #

    And then there were three…

    When I was doing my post-grad in newspaper journalism, this was always rammed down our throats. We were expected to have ploughed our way through at least one book a week. You can’t write if you don’t read.

    A great reminder :-)

  4. On July 12, 2007 at 8:22 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Emma - welcome on in!

    I’m curious about the books you were expected to read. Were they books about writing, books that were examples of great writing - or books that you deemed to be poor writing, to show you what to avoid?!


  5. On April 5, 2009 at 10:09 pm Matt Hayward responded with... #

    That quote is just awesome, Joanna! And so very true.

    Reading the title of this blog entry, I walked (metaphorically, of course) into it expecting something entirely different. But, nevertheless, still as pertinent.

    I’d also agree with Laura that a great writer needs also to be a great reader. For me, my love of reading evolved into my love of writing: I’d read as a kid the likes of Dahl and thought that, one day, I’d like to be able to write so well. (Of course, as I got older, my expectations grew as did what I was able to read. ;) )

    For what I was expecting, however, probably stemmed from the fact I write fiction. I know that when writing even Fantasy or Sci-Fi, if you don’t know what you’re talking about - take this article as an example - then your writing starts to lose credibility. As such, even in fictitious works, research may be needed. In fact, unless biographical in nature, I’d say the same is true for all writing.


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