Nick Orsini's Top 10 Books that Made Me Want to Become a Writer

By Nick Orsini,

Nick Orsini shares with us the top ten books that inspired him to write. Nick won Apostrophe Book's Fiction Fast-Track prize for new writing with Fingerless Gloves, a story about best friends and the mistakes we never knew we were making.

10. Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman

I read this book my senior year in high school, and for the first time, everything I loved came together. It was a book about music, film, television, sports …all of it told in the most relatable way. It was the first time I stepped back and thought about what American culture had made …all the successes and all the failures. Before I read this book, I was all about close-up analysis of culture. After it, I knew that if I was every going to try to write anything on my own, I had to find a point of view…a vantage point.

9. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Admittedly, I read these books after I heard about the upcoming film adaptation in 2010. Despite people writing off graphic novels and comics, they often have denser, deeper layers than people realize. Scott isn’t the most likeable character, but the reader is always rooting for him. This series is the coming-of-age genre brought to brilliant, illustrated life. I thought about Scott Pilgrim when I sat down to write Anton, the protagonist of Fingerless Gloves. How could I make someone screw up so many times, yet keep his heart in the right place.

8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I read this during a particularly bad spell of writer’s block. I just had to step away from the keyboard and the notebook for a bit. The most rewarding part of this story is Lady Brett Ashley, who is perhaps one of the finest female characters ever written. This is a story, to me, about choices that set us on paths for better or worse. It’s a fine example of the quiet impacts that we make on each other. It taught me that never over-writing is the key to telling a great story.

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Like every young person coming-of-age in the late 1990’s-early 2000’s, Chbosky’s book had a resonance with me that has stuck around ever since. Pure and simple, it taught me that liking the things you like, and being the person that you are, while it may not land you in the coolest clique, will always keep you honest and well-rounded. Years later, the lessons taught in this book have all come true. The coolest kids I know were the Sam’s, Charlie’s and Patrick’s back in high school.

6. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

When I sat down to write my first book, Two Wrongs Make a Vice, all that came to mind was the music in High Fidelity. I have never read a character quite like Rob- obsessed with pop culture, full of conviction, and yet so lost on some of the most basic points of human interaction. The music in this book is absolutely fantastic, and it holds a mirror up to all men to confront their fears of commitment.

5. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundra

Imagery from this book is tattooed on my left arm because it is one of the few books that found me when I needed it most. I was toiling away on the swing/night shift at the worst job, reading this on breaks. The complex ideologies layered in the narrative ran parallel to what I was going through. It is a story about choices, and the fragile idea that we only get to make each choice and decision one time. The one line at the end, “…And it’s a terrific relief to realize you’re free …free of all missions” has stayed with me ever since.

4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The timelessness of this story is what makes it so inspiring. It’s about being young, but also feeling young. So many people I know are feeling old very quickly …and this is a book about what it’s like to get older, feel certain responsibilities, and not know how to respond. I always felt a great sympathy towards Dean Moriarty because it feels like he is on this search that can never be fulfilled and satisfied. He has this hunger for life that pushes him on and on. I find now, more than ever, we are a generation returning to some of the questions that On the Road asks. It’s hard to not be inspired to write after reading a story that has been relatable since the 1950’s.

3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The book is bleak, and there’s no way around it …yet the story, and the tragedy of it, I found to be inspiring not in a down-in-the-dumps type of way, but in the way that it exemplifies how to write young people for young people. The raw emotions, hopes, fears, and trials that the main characters experience are so well-stated, that it perfectly contrasts the cold dystopian language used throughout the book. Again, hinging in such a way on the importance of music and art and creativity, this book spoke to me on many levels.

2. Watchmen by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore

A comic book on this list? Absolutely. This is one of the great superhero stories of our time …and the large takeaways from this story are the things that inspired so much of my writing. The nature of heroes and heroics, and what classifies given actions as such …and what happens when heroes fail or make wrong choices, are big things that I’ve always thought about both in my poetry and my novels. Because of this book, I learned to believe that the hero complex is both dense and full of exceptions. Being raised on things like pro-wrestling and comic books, it wasn’t until I read this story that I understood that being a hero isn’t about costumes and crime or good guys versus bad guys …and it’s not restricted to the theatricalities we often associate with the genre. Watchmen is one of the most necessary graphic novels, hands down.

1.Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson’s masterwork completely upended journalism. It is an example of a story, so deftly and concisely told, that it’s impossible not to be inspired by it. This book, while it didn’t start the writing fire in me off the bat, was the novel that honestly made me believe that the greatest works are also the most risky. It is a zany story, strung together on an off-the-wall narrative …yet by the end of it, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo have been made absolutely likable despite their illicit drug use and antics. The search for the “American Dream” is one that is never over. I believe that wholeheartedly. Fear and Loathing is not only one of my favorite books, but is one of the most deceptively eloquent examples of American Literature.


Nick Orsini claims not to be a writer. After graduating from college in the heart of the Great Recession in 2008, unable to find work, he set out to tell one great story. Armed with a background in Film History and Criticism, and after spending his formative years analysing everything from Blade Runner to pro-wrestling, he started to write.

Nick has self-published two books, one collection of poetry, and maintains a blog of over 2,000 original poems and short stories. He has written for The Projection List and Thought Catalog. His poetry spanned topics from the Occupy Wall Street protests to the senselessness of coming-of-age.

His first self-published novel, Two Wrongs Make a Vice, has been shipped to over 40 countries and all 50 US states. His second novel, Fingerless Gloves, is a story centering on the fragility of friendship and the ways we come to terms with ourselves and our past failures. In August 2012, it won Apostrophe Book’s Fiction Fast-Track new writing competition.



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