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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 Margaret Atwood

Published in 2002 by Cambridge University Press

Based on a series of lectures Canadian author Margaret Atwood delivered at the University of Cambridge in 2000, this book comprises six essays that explore the role of the writer—especially the woman writer—in society. Atwood is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction and is best known for her novels. Her many literary accolades include the Governor General's Award in 1985 for her novel The Handmaid's Tale (McClelland and Stewart) and the Man Booker Prize in 2000 for her novel The Blind Assassin (McClelland and Stewart). 

by W. T. Pfefferle

Published in 2005 by Utah State University Press

Poet W. T. Pfefferle take a roadtrip across the United States to interview America's poets about how they relate to where they live and how it informs their poetry. The interviews, some of which originally appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, feature poets such as Marvin Bell, Lucy Brock-Broido, Rita Dove, Linda Gregerson, Carol Muske-Dukes, Paisley Rekdal, Alberto Rios, Mark Strand, Karen Volkman, and more.

by Robert Atwan, editor

Published in 2012 by Mariner Books

Edited by Robert Atwan, with an introduction by David Brooks, this collection continues the series launched in 1986. It includes essays by writers such as Jonathan Franzen, Malcolm Gladwell, Sandra Tsing Loh, Francine Prose, and Wesley Yang.

by Edith Wharton

Published in 1997 by Scribner

Edith Wharton, author of The Age of Innocence and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, offers an analysis of modern fiction, plus a wealth of guidance on developing form and style, structuring both short stories and novels, and the importance of character and situation in fiction. 

by Mario Vargas Llosa

Published in 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Translated by Edith Grossman, In Praise of Reading and Fiction is Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa's lecture delivered after he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010. Llosa argues for the necessity of literature in our lives today. As he puts it, "literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression."

by Harold Bloom

Published in 1997 by Oxford University Press

Originally published in 1973, this seminal text, written by scholar and critic Harold Bloom, explores the relationship between individual artists and those who came before them. Bloom argues that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them. 

by Tin House authors

Published in 2012 by Tin House Books

A follow-up to The Writer's Notebook, published in 2009, this collection includes essays based on workshop lectures from Tin House's annual Summer Writers Workshop, plus freshly commissioned pieces that together guide writers on the craft of writing fiction. Contributors include Steve Almond, Andrea Barrett, Christopher R. Beha, Aimee Bender, Adam Breaver, Anthony Doerr, Ann Hood, Bret Anthony Johnston, Jim Krusoe, Antonya Nelson, Maggie Nelson, Benjamin Percy, Karen Russell, Elissa Schappell, and Mary Szybist, with an introduction by Francine Prose. 

by Louise Gluck

Published in 1994 by Ecco Press

Winner of the 1993 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, Proofs and Theories is a compilation of essays on the work of other poets, as well as reflections on the art. Author Louise Gluck is a former U.S. poet laureate who has written numerous poetry collections, including the The Wild Iris, which received the Pulitzer Prize.

by The New York Times, editor

Published in 2002 by Times Books

With an introduction by John Darnton, Writers on Writing: Collected Essays From The New York Times features contributions from more than forty authors, including André Aciman, Russell Banks, Richard Ford, Kent Haruf,Alice Hoffman, Jamaica Kincaid, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Miller, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Alice Walker, and Elie Wiesel, who share what inspires them to keep at it.

by Dominic Luxford, editor

Published in 2007 by McSweeney's Books

In this collection from McSweeney’s Books editor Dominic Luxford chose ten poems from ten different poets, and then asked each of them to contribute an additional poem of his or her own, plus a poem from another poet. That new poet was then asked to do the same. As Luxford writes in the introduction, “The result: ten chains, five poets per chain, two poems per poet—one almighty collection of verse.” With poems by authors such as Elizabeth Alexander, Tina Chang, Mark Doty, Heidi Johannesen Poon, Mary Ruefle, C. D. Wright, and Dean Young, the collaboration offers poetry by a range of older, more accomplished poets as well as by poets at the beginning of their careers and allows readers to discover what each writer values most in both his or her own work and the work of others.

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