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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 John Gardner

Published in 1999 by W.W. Norton & Company

On Becoming a Novelist contains the wisdom accumulated during John Gardner's twenty-year career as a fiction writer and creative writing teacher. Gardner describes the life of a working novelist; warns what needs to be guarded against, both from within the writer and from without; and predicts what the writer can reasonably expect and what, in general, he or she cannot.

by Caroline Sharp

Published in 2002 by St. Martin’s Griffin

With a foreword by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, A Writer’s Workbook is a collection of thirty-two unique writing exercises that offer encouragement and guidance for generating ideas to anyone who writes.

by Priscilla Long

Published in 2010 by Wallingford Press

Suitable for both beginning and advanced writers of fiction and nonfiction, The Writer's Portable Mentor brings together 20 years of teaching and creative thought by author Priscilla Long. The book helps writers understand and incorporate the regular practices of virtuoso creators; provides a guide to structuring literary, journalistic, or fictional pieces or entire books; opens the door to the sentence strategies of the masters; provides tools for developing a poet's ear for use in prose; trains writers in the observation skills of visual artists; and guides them toward more effective approaches to getting their work into the world.

by Daniel Slager, editor

Published in 2010 by Milkweed Editions

Founded nearly four decades ago by a group of young writers, the Loft has become the nation's largest independent literary center. Views From the Loft brings together the collected wisdom of the Loft community—its authors, students, and editors—on the subject of writing and craft. Chapters are divided into sections on writing, teaching, critiquing, and publication.

by Donald Hall

Published in 2003 by Beacon Press

Distinguished poet Donald Hall reflects on the meaning of work, solitude, and love in this memoir about the writing life.

by Charles Baxter

Published in 1998 by Graywolf Press

In this Burning Down the House, author and educator Charles Baxter offers several essays that examine the many forces currently shaping contemporary American fiction. 

by Mary Kinzie

Published in 1999 by University of Chicago Press

A Poet's Guide to Poetry brings Mary Kinzie's expertise as poet, critic, and director of the creative writing program at Northwestern University to bear in a comprehensive reference work. Detailing the formal concepts of poetry and methods of poetic analysis, she shows how the craft of writing can guide the art of reading poems. Using examples from the major traditions of lyric and meditative poetry in English from the medieval period to the present, Kinzie considers the sounds and rhythms of poetry along with the ideas and thought-units within poems. 

by Kevin Haworth and Dinty W. Moore, editors

Published in 2011 by Ohio University Press

Lit from Within offers creative writers a window into the minds of a wide variety of poets, novelists, and nonfiction writers. From Billy Collins to Maggie Nelson to Robin Hemley, the collection presents thought-provoking pieces on issues of craft and the elements of the writing life.

by Natalie Goldberg

Published in 1986 by Shambhala Publications

In Writing Down the Bones, painter and writing instructor Natalie Goldberg gives clear, accessible writing advice that approaches the art of writing as spiritual practice. 

by Lewis Turco

Published in 2000 by University Press of New England

A standard in the field of poetics and prosodics, The Book of Forms serves as a reference guide on the forms of poetry, from Middle Ages to the present. The book is divided into “The Elements of Poetry,” the “Form-Finder Index,” and “Traditional Verse Forms.”

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