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Best Books for Writers

From the newly published to the invaluable classic, our list of essential books for creative writers.

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by John Casey

Published in 2014 by W. W. Norton

Award-winning novelist John Casey's Beyond the First Draft is a collection of essays that address various topics of concern to fiction writers, including comedy, point of view, structure, and scene-setting. For example, in "Dogma and Anti-Dogma," Casey examines the advice of authors—like J.D. Salinger's "Write for yourself"—and offers ways to interpret their reccomendations.

by Meredith Maran

Published in 2013 by Plume

Why We Write is a collection of tips, tricks, and secrets from twenty acclaimed American authors on how to lead a successful writing life. The book was compiled and edited by Meredith Maran, and includes contributions from authors such as Ann Patchett, Jodi Picoult, and Jennifer Egan.

by Henry Miller

by New Directions Publishing

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. In this state of god-like awareness one sings; in this realm the world exists as a poem." A collection of stories and essays by Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart offers musings on philosophy and writing.

by Dani Shapiro

Published in 2013 by Atlantic Monthly Press

In Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro offers wisdom, insights, and practical lessons drawn from her twenty-year journey as a writer and teacher. "Everything I know about life, I learned from the daily practice of sitting down to write." The book is a blend of personal stories, tales from other authors, and an examination of her own writing process.

by Robert Pinsky

Published in 2013 by W. W. Norton

According to poet and editor Robert Pinsky, one learns to write poetry by first learning to read it. Divided into four sections—Freedom, Listening, Form, and Dreaming Things Up—Pinsky presents his mentors' work in Singing School to encourage the reader to take a practical approach, with informed pleasure and sharp interest in the craft.

by Samuel R. Delany

Published in 2006 by Wesleyan University Press

Samuel R. Delany's book About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews examines the condition of the contemporary creative writer. The award-winning novelist and Grand Master of Science Fiction also offers tips on specifics such as when to use flashbacks, along with advice on employing general elements of structure and style.

by John Gardner

Published in 1991 by Vintage

The Art of Fiction is a practical, instructive handbook based on novelist John Gardner's seminars on the principles and techniques of good writing. Gardner employs detailed examples from classic works of literature and covers a range of topics—from the nature of aesthetics to the shape of a refined sentence.

by Tina Welling

Published in 2014 by New World Library

In Writing Wild, Tina Welling details a three-step "Spirit Walk" process for inviting nature to enliven and inspire our creativity. Welling suggests we form a creative parntnership with nature, because "everything we know about creating we know intuitively from the natural world."

by George Orwell

Published in 2005 by Penguin Great Ideas

This compilation of essays by George Orwell features the titular essay "Why I Write," originally published in the Summer 1946 edition of Gangrel, which offers a mini-autobiography detailing how he became a full-fledged writer. Orwell then goes on to highlight the "four great motives for writing," which he claims exist in every writer. Two other essays by Orwell are also included in the volume, "The Lion and the Unicorn" and "Politics and the English Language," as well as the short story "A Hanging."

by William Zinsser

Published in 2006 by Harper Perennial

First published in 1976, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction offers readers fundamental principles on writing across all subjects, as well as insights on craft, style, and process from distinguished writer and teacher William Zinsser.

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