Book recommendation: The View from the Cheap Seats: Select Nonfiction, by Neil Gaiman

A copy of The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman, alongside a notebook, marker and highlighter.

No matter what profession you’re in, people are going to tell you what books you have to read—to get ahead, to better understand what you’re doing, or just to get a laugh only you and others like you will understand. Writing is no exception.

I’ve talked before about a few books I think every writer can get something out of. On Writing is a great collection of Stephen King’s personal anecdotes and writing advice. Writing Monsters should be added to any fantasy or horror writer’s repertoire. And Dear Fahrenheit 451 is fantastic if you want something a little light-hearted but still related to books.

Today, I want to add another to my list: The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman.

In this collection of essays and speech transcripts, Neil Gaiman discusses everything from his early writing career to the importance of libraries and creativity. Along the way he also doles out some wonderful advice for writers at every stage of their career.

Here’s the main thing I want you to take away from this recommendation: Gaiman includes things that I think every writer needs to read. It starts with what he says about libraries and reading, and the importance of both, and just continues from there. Hell, his “Make Good Art” speeches alone are worth reading, even if you don’t touch the rest of the book.

One of the things I love is the insight he provides into how he writes. He makes some really good points about science fiction, and how it’s for talking about the now, not the future.

He also says some absolutely wonderful things about other writers and artists. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another miniature biography that makes it clear just how much someone admires a person. Gaiman’s, though, made me want to learn more about the people he wrote about—or, at the very least, check out their work.

Goodreads summary

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

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