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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 Robert Pinsky

Published in 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art," Robert Pinsky declares in The Sounds of Poetry. "The medium of poetry is the human body: the column of air inside the chest, shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is as physical or bodily an art as dancing." In this book, the former poet laureate explains how poets use the "technology" of poetry (its sounds) to create works of art that are "performed" in us when we read them aloud.

by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Published in 2007 by Plume

The country’s most prominent journalists and nonfiction authors gather each year at Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Telling True Stories presents their best advice on everything from finding a good topic, to structuring narrative stories, to writing and selling your first book.

by The Editors of Writer's Digest

Published in 2012 by Writer's Digest Books

Advice and instruction from writers such as Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Sims, Hallie Ephron, N. M. Kelby, Heather Sellers, and Donald Maass, with a foreword by James Scott Bell.

by Kim Addonizio

Published in 2009 by W. W. Norton

"Poetry is not a means to an end," Addonizio maintains, "but a continuing engagement with being alive." Her generous guide is for beginners and experienced poets, for groups and in the classroom—indeed for anyone eager to glimpse the angel of poetry.

by William Zinsser

Published in 1998 by Mariner Books

Anyone undertaking the project of writing a memoir knows that the events, memories, and emotions of the past often resist the orderly structure of a book. Inventing the Truth offers wisdom from nine notable memoirists about their process (Ian Frazier searched through generations of family papers to understand his parents' lives), the hurdles they faced (Annie Dillard tackles the central dilemma of memoir: what to put in and what to leave out), and the unexpected joys of bringing their pasts to the page.

by E. M. Forster

Published in 1956 by Mariner Books

In Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster delves into the seven elements essential to a novel: story, people, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm.

by Mary Oliver

Published in 1998 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, / As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance," wrote Alexander Pope. "The dance," in the case of Oliver's brief and luminous book, refers to the interwoven pleasures of sound and sense to be found in some of the most celebrated and beautiful poems in the English language, from Shakespeare to Edna St. Vincent Millay to Robert Frost. With a poet's ear and a poet's grace of expression, Oliver shows what makes a metrical poem work, and enables readers, as only she can, to "enter the thudding deeps and the rippling shallows of sound-pleasure and rhythm-pleasure that intensify both the poem's narrative and its ideas."

by Jeff Gerke

Published in 2011 by Writer’s Digest

Seasoned writer Jeff Gerke offers advice and insights regarding how to create a strong opening for a novel, and provides specific tasks that help writers avoid leaving readers disoriented, frustrated, or bored.

by Beth Kephart

Published in 2013 by Gotham

Author Beth Kephart explores the many personal and professional challenges of writing memoir. From remaining faithful to the searing language of truth, to navigating the thin line between remembering and imagining, the author offers practical advice for memoirists who seek wisdom regarding the craft as well as their legal rights.

by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd

Published in 2013 by Random House

This informative and instructive guide examines the three major incarnations of nonfiction: essays, memoirs, and narratives. By offering insightful analysis and expert advice, this entertaining and practical guide to writing nonfiction is ideal for both seasoned and beginner writers.

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