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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 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.

by Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda B. Swanson-Davies

Published in 2006 by Writer's Digest Books

The first volume of the Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction series collects excerpts from over a hundred interviews by authors including ​​Sandra Cisneros, Jamaica Kincaid, and Tobias Wolff.​ In short passages, writers share their thoughts on topics such as plot, theme, and dialogue, all conveniently divided by chapters.

by ​Stephen Koch

Published in 2003 by Modern Library

Stephen Koch, former chair of Columbia University’s graduate creative writing program, presents indispensable advice covering all the basics of craft in this comprehensive volume. Starting from the moment of inspiration, to writing a first draft, to techniques for character development and plot, this book offers insight and guidance for writers at every stage.

by Frank Conroy

Published in 1999 by William Morrow

In this wide-ranging anthology of essays, former Iowa Writers' Workshop director Frank Conroy has compiled twenty-three pieces written by faculty about the craft of writing. Authors such as Deborah Eisenberg, Francine Prose, and Abraham Verghese share their insights and tips on the writing and revision processes.

by The Paris Review

Published in 2006 by Picador

For more than fifty years, the Paris Review has conducted interviews with some of the world's most notable writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. This first volume collects sixteen interviews which are full of insight about the writing lives of authors such as Elizabeth Bishop, Ernest Hemingway, and Rebecca West.

by Judith Barrington

Published in 2002 by Eight Mountain Press

Teacher and memoirist Judith Barrington offers practical advice drawn from years of personal experience on how to overcome difficulties, and take risks when writing your own memoir. The guide covers everything from questions about truth and ethics to craft, and each chapter concludes with writing exercises.

by Steve Kowit

Published in 1995 by Tilbury House

Poet and teacher Steve Kowit provides guidance for aspiring poets on crafting modern poetry, as well as for more practiced poets looking to hone their technical skills. The book reads like a lecture with more than a hundred poems and excerpts to illustrate his discussions.

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