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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 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.

by Jill Krementz

Published in 1996 by Random House

With an introduction by John Updike, The Writer's Desk showcases Jill Krementz's black-and-white portraits of over fifty well-known writers from the latter half of the twentieth century, such as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Pablo Neruda, Susan Sontag, and Kurt Vonnegut, at work on their craft. Emerging and established writers alike will be inspired and fascinated by the photos of the authors, which are accompanied by their own descriptions on individual creative routines and spaces.

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Published in 2015 by Riverhead Books

The author of the best-selling memoir Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia (Viking, 2006) offers a transformative nonfiction treatise on creativity in which she explains where inspiration comes from, how ideas form and develop, and how to overcome the fear of pushing beyond one's comfort zone to create something new.

by Margot Singer and Nicole Walker, editors

Published in 2013 by Bloomsbury

This anthology, which collects contemporary essays by writers such as Eula Biss, Wayne Koestenbaum, Lia Purpura, and David Shields, demonstrates the range and expansion of the creative nonfiction genre with a selection of exploratory pieces, all pushing the boundaries of form and expectation.

by Carl Phillips

Published in 2014 by Graywolf Press

As part of Graywolf’s "Art of" series, award-winning poet Carl Phillips presents seven lyric essays about the importance of taking risks when making art. Through the examination of poems by Ashbery, Bogan, Frost, Niedecker, Shakespeare, and others, Phillips shows the ways in which poetry allows us to explore our humanity.

by Gary Soto

Published in 2013 by Sasquatch Books

Gary Soto's memoir takes the form of over sixty short essays filled with insightful and humorous observations and wisdom gained from his experiences as a poet: giving readings, confronting award nominations and journal acceptances and rejections, and struggling daily with his craft. Soto reflects on both the role and status of the writer in society, and his personal trajectory as a poet.

by Eric Maisel

Published in 2008 by Adams Media

Eric Maisel draws upon his extensive experience as a creativity coach, psychotherapist, and author of over forty books to guide readers through the steps it takes to create the most inspiring and productive space—both physical and mental—for writing. Maisel's practical advice helps writers identify their creative impulses and transform their habits by implementing focus and an organized schedule to their writing lives.

by Sheila Heti, Ross Simonini, and Vendela Vida, editors

Published in 2013 by McSweeney's

This volume collects twenty-two conversations from five years of interviews originally published in the Believer. The often irreverent exchanges between authors such as Don DeLillo with Bret Easton Ellis, Mary Gaitskill with Sheila Heti, and Joan Didion with Vendela Vida reveal insights into their personalities and experiences—both writing-related and not.

by Vladimir Nabokov

Published in 2002 by Mariner Books

In these trenchant and whimsical lectures, Nabokov taps into the craft behind such European classics as Madame Bovary, Bleak House, and Ulysses. With an introduction by John Updike, this collection includes lectures as valuable for their content as they are for their delivery.

by Twyla Tharp

Published in 2003 by Simon & Schuster

"I've learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns. That's why writers, for example, like to establish routines for themselves." Choreographer Twyla Tharp explains how creativity comes from the willingness to work hard and make it a habit. The book includes thirty-two practical exercises to inspire people across the creative spectrum to become more productive.

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