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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 Natasha Sajé

Published in 2014 by University of Michigan Press

"I wrote the book I wished I had had in my poetry writing classes," Natasha Sajé writes in the preface. Her nine essays serve as an insightful guide to reading and writing poetry in a way that takes into consideration critical theory, as well as the politics and ideology of poetic language. The included works of contemporary poets provide examples for inspiring writing prompts for poets at all levels.

by Carolyn See

Published in 2003 by Ballantine Books

​"This book... is intended to cover the writing process from the first moment you decide, or dream, that you want to write, on through to the third month after publication of your first novel." Author, teacher, and critic Carolyn See​ guides writers through everything from the basic elements of writing a story, to how to behave around friends and family when you first get published, and emphasizes the importance of sending a daily “charming note.”

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published in 2015 by Mariner Books

"The judgment that a work is complete... can be made rightly only by a writer who's learned to read her own work." In this new update of Ursula K. Le Guin's 1998 handbook, serious writers will learn how to read and revise their own work following a discussion of the basic components of prose. The ten chapters cover everything from punctuation to point of view​, and are interspersed with examples from classic works of literature and writing exercises that put into practice Le Guin's tips on craft.

by Larry W. Phillips, editor

Published in 1999 by Scribner

​"All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time​." This book is a collection of Ernest Hemingway's comments on writing and reflections about his own process, gathered from his stories, essays, letters, and interviews. Hemingway's insights offer helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and the writing life.

by Dinty W. Moore

Published in 2015 by Ten Speed Press

In Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy, Dinty W. Moore answers a collection of questions about essay writing from essayists such as Roxane Gay, Phillip Lopate, David Shields, and Cheryl Strayed. Moore expands on topics ranging from larger themes of privacy to the minute particularities of the em dash with humorous and insightful advice, illustrative examples, and writing prompts.

by Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, and Max King Cap, editors

Published in 2015 by Fence Books

"This collection is founded on the idea that it's worth trying to write about race, again—in particular that something valuable happens when an individual writer reflects on race in the making of creative work." In 2011 Claudia Rankine created Open Letter, an online forum about race and the art of writing that elicited responses from a diverse group of artists and writers. In this anthology, authors such as Simone White, Francisco Aragón, Bhanu Kapil, Dawn Lundy Martin, and many others offer their responses, filled with their own experiences, questions, and convictions. The result is a vital conversation on a range of topics including depictions of social and racial identity; race, feminism, and creative spaces; and "the white imaginary."

by Lynda Barry

Published in 2008 by Drawn and Quarterly

In What It Is, Lynda Barry provides imaginative advice and playful instruction in the form of writing exercises, collages, personal anecdotes, and drawings. The book offers inspiration for both experienced writers who are searching for a new perspective on the roles of imagery and memory in creative writing, and those who are looking for accessible guidance on how to begin and maintain a regular writing practice.

by Phillip Lopate

Published in 2013 by Free Press

In this book, Phillip Lopate, director of the nonfiction graduate program at Columbia University, explores topics as diverse as "On the Ethics of Writing About Others," and "The Personal Essay in the Age of Facebook.” Lopate also examines master essayists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Baldwin, to demonstrate how concepts of nonfiction writing have been put into practice.

by Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi, editors

Published in 2001 by University of Michigan Press

"The book that you hold in your hands does not contain a set of rules but something quite different—what we might call a set of approaches." In this collection of essays, seventeen authors, including Margot Livesey, Richard Russo, Jim Shepard, and Joan Silber, dispense insightful guidance and personal anecdotes to inspire writers at all stages of their craft.

by Donald Revell

Published in 2007 by Graywolf Press

​​​"It is the intimacy of poetry that makes our art such a beautiful recourse," Donald Revell states in The Art of Attention. Drawing upon writers such as Samuel Beckett, John Cage, Ann Lauterbach, and Denise Levertov, Revell presents a case for the transcendent possibilities of poetry, and guides readers to an understanding of the links between the creative reading and creative writing processes.

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