As storytellers comfortable in our own niche, it’s often hard to step out of our comfort zones because we don’t even know where to begin. In our own medium we may know not only the greats, but the obscure influences of those greats, yet when it comes to a new and unfamiliar one we may feel lost. Luckily, after perusing the many mediums myself, I have created a brief list of the greats in every medium!

It is worth noting that these lists are a compilation of what society deems to be the standard of greatness in its medium combined with works that I have personally enjoyed. They are by no means all-encompassing, hence the fact that this is a newbie’s guide to finding new stories.

Prose

This medium is perhaps the hardest for me to narrow down as I have the most experience in it and believe most people are required to read books in school instead of watch movies or play video games, therefore putting them in contact with a lot of these reads. For that reason, I apologize if this list is by no means helpful to those less familiar with prose.

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Poetry

Poetry is difficult for me to always qualify as a story, so for the sake of simplicity I have listed off the best epic poetry around as well as Chaucer’s short story collection written as a poem. If you are put off by the idea of tackling poetry, I suggest you start with Shakespeare’s sonnets, something I have even written a guide on, linked below!

  • Beowulf by Anonymous
  • The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Shakespeare’s sonnets

Film

Most of the films listed here are the major ones people will likely give you crap for not having seen before. However, the first two films listed are actually foreign films, though any film major or snob you meet will list these films as absolute essentials, and I must agree with them.

  • The 400 Blows
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • Casablanca
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Godfather I and The Godfather II
  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Shawshank Redemption

Television

Television is unique in that it is created with intention of lasting forever, something I talk about being a major factor in Game of Throne’s success. Comedy can actually do this far more easily than drama can – look at The Simpsons – so for that reason I have mostly listed dramas.

  • Breaking Bad
  • Game of Thrones
  • Mad Men
  • The Office
  • The Sopranos
  • The West Wing

Plays

While many of these exist in film form, I highly recommend reading them or even seeing them performed if you are so lucky! Films often make changes or take liberties, so it is best to consume the story as close to the author’s true voice as you can.

  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill
  • Our Town by Thornton Wilder
  • Shakespeare: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

Video Games

Despite the fact that they are the newest medium, video games have already done quite a bit to play with form and offer a ton for new writer’s. Below are just some starting points, but you may find an even more in-depth list of games to start with here at the bottom of the post.

    • Bioshock
    • Gone Home
    • Life is Strange
    • The Mass Effect trilogy
    • Portal 1 and Portal 2
    • All Telltale games: The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, etc.

Have any must-knows for any newbies? Let me know!