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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 Glyn Maxwell

Published in 2013 by Harvard University Press

Less a digest on technique, form, or reading, poet Glyn Maxwell’s On Poetry is an extended, lyrical meditation on what makes poetry tick from within—think more organism than machine. As funny as it is surprising, the book moves through chapters with titles like “Pulse,” “Chime,” and “Space,” striking with simplicity and clarity at some of the fundamental elements of poetry’s greatness.

by Annie Liontas and Jeff Parker, editors

Published in 2015 by University of Massachusetts Press

In this book, editors Annie Liontas and Jeff Parker collect over sixty personal essays written by contemporary authors on the mentors who have contributed significantly to their writing development. The selections, including Rodrigo Rey Rosa on Paul Bowles, Christine Schutt on Elizabeth Hardwick, and Henry Rollins on Hubert Selby Jr., provide insights into the complex relationships between writer and mentor, and act as a source of writing inspiration and guidance.

by Meredith Maran, editor

Published in 2016 by Plume

In this book compiled by Meredith Maran, twenty contemporary writers including Nick Flynn, Sandra Tsing Loh, James McBride, and Cheryl Strayed, share thoughts and strategies on the process of crafting creative nonfiction. First-person accounts reveal each author's reasons for and individual approaches to the art of writing about the self.

by Katrina Roberts, editor

Published in 2015 by Lost Horse Press

The product of fifteen years directing Whitman College's Visiting Writers Reading Series, Katrina Roberts has gathered into one anthology the wisdom shared by the authors who have joined the series. The volume collects tips and wisdom, confessions and secrets, and inspiration and prompts from over eighty poets, fiction writers, and memoirists.

by Adam Kirsch

Published in 2014 by Norton

In this collection of essays, literary critic and poet Adam Kirsch expounds on such wide-ranging subjects as Saul Bellow, Slavoj Žižek, Giacomo Leopardi, and Susan Sontag. The eponymous essay that anchors the collection manages to touch on writing, oblivion, and the fundamental contradictions of a literary life.

by Roy Peter Clark

Published in 2016 by Little, Brown

Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute and the author of seventeen books on writing and journalism, examines the work of more than twenty-five writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Jackson, William Shakespeare, and Donna Tartt, to reveal the strategies and techniques deployed in examples of great literature. With lessons at the end of each chapter serving as insightful summaries of the methods explored in the text, The Art of X-Ray Reading demonstrates how in-depth reading can ultimately inform and transform the process of authoritative writing.

by Eric Olsen and Glenn Schaeffer, editors

Published in 2011 by Skyhorse Publishing

This compilation of interviews, essays, and anecdotes written by and about the students and teachers at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the 1970s is full of wise and entertaining bits of advice and inspiration. Authors ​such as T. C. Boyle, Sandra Cisneros, Allan Gurganus, and Joy Harjo share insights about the workshop community and personal stories about their publishing histories and writing habits.

by Marguerite Duras, translated by Mark Polizzotti

Published in 2011 by University of Minnesota Press

In this volume of five personal essays by Marguerite Duras, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti, topics range from the death of a fly to a painter's exhibition. Duras explores the experiences that inspired her to write and shares her perspectives on the relationships between memory, writing, and solitude.

by Brenda Ueland

Published in 2007 by Graywolf Press

"Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic, striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time." First published in 1938, Brenda Ueland's classic book is a guide for writers at all levels offering insight to the writing process and the artist's identity. Ueland encourages all to find their creative center and provides spirited advice on how to channel creativity during happy, idle time spent ruminating and imagining.

by Vladimir Nabokov

Published in 2002 by Mariner Books

With an introduction by Fredson Bowers, Nabokov’s collection of discussions on Russian classics by such greats as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov are driven by a personal perspective. Speaking as an exile, Nabokov is especially dedicated to bringing to life the language and culture of the bygone Imperial Russia he once knew and loved.

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