It’s that most wonderful time of the year when curling up with a good book is more pleasurable than ever, because, as Mason Cooley reminds us, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” But if you’re a writer, it’s also obligatory. We writers have to stay where we are to write—and good reading is our gateway to good writing.

As an agent, author, and former acquisitions editor, I’m always stunned when aspiring writers tell me that they don’t have time to read (don’t ever say that, it’s a red flag, seriously). Writers read, and good writers read a lot. (That’s why agents and editors will often ask you what you’re reading and/or start a conversation about books, to see if you walk the talk.) If you need any more motivation, here’s a round-up of famous authors on the importance of reading for writers.

“The greatest gift is a passion for reading.”

— Elizabeth Hardwick

“The Six Golden Rules of Writing: Read, read, read, and write, write, write.”

— Ernest Gaines

“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 one book.”

— Samuel Johnson

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

— Stephen King

“I kept always two books in my pocket: one to read, one to write in.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”

— Lisa See

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

— Henry David Thoreau

“Read. Everything you can get your hands on. Read until words become your friends. Then when you need to find one, they will jump into your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them. And you can select whichever you like, just like a captain choosing a stickball team.”

— Karen Witemeyer

“It is books that are the key to the wide world; if you can’t do anything else, read all that you can.”

— Jane Hamilton

“I believe that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading.”

— Charles Kuralt

“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.”

— Roald Dahl

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

— Oscar Wilde

“I owe everything I am and everything I will ever be to books.”

— Gary Paulsen

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

— Haruki Murakami

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading’.”

— Virginia Woolf

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”

— Charles William Eliot

“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”

— Malcolm X

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The world belongs to those who read.”

— Rick Holland

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

— Victor Hugo

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”

— James Baldwin

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

— George R. R. Martin

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

— Harper Lee

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

— Stephen King

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”

— Annie Proulx

“Read, read, read. Read everything  —  trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

— William Faulkner

“Only a generation of readers will spawn a generation of writers.”

— Steven Spielberg

“Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out.”

— Pam Allyn

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

— Toni Morrison

So go ahead, curl up with a good book—and a blank notebook. Reading is your homework for the holidays. Here’s to a sweet season full of inspiring reading and inspired writing!

Originally published at Career Authors.

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