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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 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.

by William Wallace Cook

Published in 2011 by Tin House Books

In his classic, originally published in 1928, William Wallace Cook analyzes the elements of compelling fiction, laying out his own approach to writing in painstaking detail, exemplified by hundreds of scenarios.

by Dinty W. Moore, editor

Published in 2012 by Rose Metal Press

Edited by Dinty W. Moore, who is also the longtime editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction, this book features twenty-six essays by the genre's most established writers. Each essay is followed by an exercise or writing prompt to help readers apply to their own practice the ideas the essayists offer.

by Jack Myers

Published in 2004 by Wadsworth Publishing

Poet and professor Jack Myers explores the craft of poetry with an instructional guide on what goes into making a poem. The Portable Poetry Workshop offers a thorough look at the elements of good poetry, and offers practical advice about generating material, assembling metaphors, workshopping poems in a group, and more.

by Joseph M. Williams

Published in 1995 by University of Chicago Press

Joseph M. Williams offers a practical guide to improving one’s writing by focusing on the sentence and paragraph levels. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace includes strategies for identifying weak writing and using form as a way to approach revision.

by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Published in 2012 by Knopf

Verlyn Klinkenborg draws from his years of experience as a writer and teacher of writing to offer fresh pieces of wisdom about the writing process. Written in short prose bursts, Several Short Sentences About Writing provides tried-and-tested starting points, ideas, and experiments for writers at any level.

by Lee Gutkind

Published in 2012 by Da Capo Press

In this comprehensive how-to guide for the genre, Lee Gutkind, founder of Creative Nonfiction magazine, provides insights on writing creative nonfiction--from memoir to literary journalism and everything in between, including chapters on point of view, narrative, research, structure, and more.

by John B. Thompson

Published in 2010 by Polity Press

John B. Thompson presents an accessible overview of the book publishing business—from the changes in agenting to the conglomeration of publishing houses to the growth of the retail chains to the digital revolution. This book provides writers with an in-depth understanding of publishing's ecosystem, providing them with the background they need before taking their manuscript to market.

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