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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 Brenda Wineapple, Editor

Published in 2011 by Trinity University Press

This anthology of essays, letters, poems, prose, and excerpts of interviews by fifty-seven authors of the 19th century—including Kate Chopin, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Walt Whitman—offers insight into what it means to be a writer within the context of history, as well as classic guidance about craft, style, and form. 

by Ezra Pound, introduction by Michael Dirda

Published in 2010 by New Directions

Originally published in 1934, Pound's book serves as a guide for those interested in honing their critical thinking through reading the classics. The book is based on the premise that to be a good writer one must be a good reader, aware of the traditions out of which the best literature has emerged.

by Andrea Barrett and Peter Turchi, editors

Published in 2011 by Trinity University Press

This anthology features essays by twenty fiction writers, including Charles Baxter, Maud Casey, Lan Samantha Chang, Stacey D'Erasmo, and Kevin McIlvoy, covering narrative distance and voice, character, setting, structure, and more. As the editors write in the introduction, "Writers and readers interested...in contemplation of various aspects of the fiction writer's craft will, we think, find this collection surprising, provocative, and even useful." One hundred percent of the book's royalties go to Friends of Writers, Inc., to provide scholarships for developing writers.

by Jennifer Traig, editor

Published in 2008 by Holt Paperbacks

Edited by memoirist and 826 Valencia tutor and workshop teacher Jennifer Traig, this resource offers advice from contemporary memoirists, including Steve Almond, Jonathan Ames, Ishmael Beah, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby, Maxine Hong Kingston, Tobias Wolff, and many more, plus writing exercises and work plans to get writers started. 

by Bill Roorbach

Published in 2000 by Oxford University Press

This anthology includes more than sixty works of the three main forms of creative nonfiction—literary memoir by writers such as Mary McCarthy, Annie Dillard, and Judy Ruiz; personal essays by authors such as E. B. White to Phillip Lopate to Ntozake Shange; and literary journalism by Truman Capote, Barbara Ehrenreich, Sebastian Junger, and many others. Bill Roorbach's general introduction and introductions to each of the five sections provide useful definitions, crucial history, and critical context for the genre.

by Stephen King

Published in 2010 by Scribner

Best-selling author Stephen King offers an entertaining writing guide that draws on his life experiences, including his near-fatal accident in 1999, to offer insight into the origin of the writer's imagination and perception of the world. 

by Natalie Goldberg

Published in 2008 by Free Press

Written by Natalie Goldberg, author of the best-selling classic Writing Down the Bones, Old Friend From Far Away is a meditation on the capacity of the written word to remember the past, free us from any stifling effects it may have on our voice, and transform the way we think—and write—about ourselves and our lives.

by Laura Oliver

Published in 2011 by Alpha Books

Author and longtime writing instructor Laura Oliver offers a guide to aspiring writers on how to access and bring to life personal stories. The Story Within employs memoir to advise readers on craft, writing principles, cultivating the creative spirit, publication, and more.

by Francine Prose

Published in 2006 by HarperCollins

Best-selling author Francine Prose meditates on how quality reading informs great writing in this literary guide to craft. Taking lessons from writers such as Dostoyevsky, Austen, Woolf, Joyce, and Roth, Prose draws attention to the nuts and bolts of writing by close-reading masters of the written word.

by Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn, editors

Published in 2005 by Longman

Poets Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn present pieces of short fiction from fifty-two classic, contemporary and new voices alongside material to place the stories in historical, biographical, and critical context. A section called "Critical Approaches to Literature" explains how to take an informed, critical stance when reading literature, and a glossary of literary terms further enhances the experience of reading the works.

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