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Best Books for Writers

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

by Lia Purpura

Published in 2006 by Sarabande Books

In this collection of essays, poet Lia Purpura explores the act of observation as it relates the to the writer's endeavor. Purpura is an award-winning writer who teaches at the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program in Tacoma, Washington.

by Barbara Abercrombie

Published in 2012 by New World Library

Novelist and essayist Barbara Abercrombie offers a collection of wide-ranging anecdotes, lessons, and prompts for beginning and veteran writers. A Year of Writing Dangerously devotes sections to writerly topics such as "failing better," mentorship, and keeping faith, and pairs each lesson with a quotation from a famous writer.

by Klara Glowczewska, editor

Published in 2007 by Penguin Books

This volume of travel writing contains twenty-one pieces pairing well known writers with their favorite exotic locales. Russell Banks writes on the Everglades, Francine Prose explores the secrets of Prague, Robert Hughes takes us on a tour of Italy, and more. The collection also includes practical advice and insider travel tips on the featured locations.

by Steven Clay and Rodney Phillips, editors

Published in 1998 by Granary Books

Published in partnership with the New York Public Library and based on an exhibit that originally appeared there, this guide offers a comprehensive but idiosyncratic look at the small press publishing scene in San Francisco and in downtown Manhattan during the 1960s and '70s. It includes a timeline and over two hundred images from one of the richest periods of American writing and publishing. 

by Vendela Vida, editor

Published in 2008 by McSweeney's

This collection features twenty-three conversations between writers such as Tayari Jones and Chris Abani, Jonathan Lethem and Paul Auster, Ben Ehrenreich and John Banville, and Vendela Vida and Jennifer Egan, whose discussions range well beyond writing and craft, offering insight into the author's perspective of the world.  

by Muriel Rukeyser

Published in 1996 by Paris Press

In this American classic, with a foreword by poet Jane Cooper, Muriel Rukeyser explores the promise of poetry as an art form that can help us shape a civil society. 

by Reginald Shepherd

Published in 2007 by University of Michigan

The late poet and editor Reginald Shepherd explores the transformative power of poetry in a selection of autobiographical essays and those that focus on the work of other writers, including Alvin Feinman, Jorie Graham, Samuel R. Delany, and Linda Gregg. 

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published in 1998 by Eighth Mountain Press

The author of numerous books of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin offers in this guide advice about crafting stories and presents examples from other master storytellers to illuminate her points. 

by Luke Reynolds

Published in 2012 by Divertir Publishing

Author Luke Reynolds reflects on forging his own writing life and interviews fourteen other authors—including Jane Smiley, Daniel Handler, Robert Pinsky, George Saunders, Lindsey Collen, and David Wroblewski—about their worst rejections, their first publications, what keeps them motivated, and why they believe in the power of words.

by Sandra Scofield

Published in 2007 by Penguin

In this practical guide, National Book Award–nominee Sandra Scofield offers straightforward information and exercises designed to help writers write strong scenes in fiction.

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