Best Books for Writers

From the newly published to the invaluable classic, our list of essential books for creative writers.

  • What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing

    by
    Peter Ginna, editor
    Published in 2017
    by University of Chicago Press

    This compilation of essays is a revealing and thorough exploration of the variety of functions held by editors who hold indispensable roles in the process of preparing a manuscript for publication. In What Editors Do, over twenty-five editors from small presses to large publishing houses share advice, insights into the inner workings of the publishing industry, and perspectives on editing as both an art and a craft. All readers and writers passionate about literature and the creative process will find valuable inspiration in this informative resource.

    ISBN: 
    978-0226299976
  • The Education of a Young Poet

    by
    David Biespiel
    Published in 2017
    by Counterpoint Press

    The Education of a Young Poet is poet and nonfiction author David Biespiel’s coming-of-age story of the writer’s awakening to the creative impulse—how that impulse both shaped and was shaped by his family ancestry, and from a childhood in Houston to young adulthood in Boston. Woven throughout the memoir are inspiring anecdotes about leading a literary life, including insights into the craft of writing and the power of language in everyday life and in literature.

    ISBN: 
    978-1619029934
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process

    by
    Joe Fassler, editor
    Published in 2017
    by Penguin Books

    “A life can change in a paragraph, in a turn of a phrase, in a single well-used word.” Light the Dark is a collection of essays exploring inspiration from over forty acclaimed authors, including Sherman Alexie, Junot Díaz, Angela Flournoy, William Gibson, Khaled Hosseini, Yiyun Li, Walter Mosley, Eileen Myles, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Marilynne Robinson. Each writer begins by sharing a favorite passage from literature that has transformed his or her writing life, and then delves into the various ways a powerful encounter with art can shape the creative process and be integrated into one’s own work.

    ISBN: 
    978-0143130840
  • Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them Into Compelling Fiction

    by
    Denise Jaden
    Published in 2017
    by New World Library

    “Don’t be afraid of tiny ideas or half-formed ideas. Have faith. If ideas are meant to create stories, given time and focus they will grow and complete themselves.” In Story Sparks, author Denise Jaden moves away from the notion of inspiration as a visitation from the muse and demonstrates that the growth of ideas, of any size or shape, into stories is a process. The four-part book offers steps on how to develop creative habits for writers working at all levels and appendixes to help when feeling stuck.

    ISBN: 
    978-1608685097
  • The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop

    by
    Diane Lockward, editor
    Published in 2016
    by Terrapin Books

    A follow-up to Diane Lockward’s 2013 book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, this second volume guides poets seeking to transform their practice through practical steps such as revising the creative process; selecting and refining diction, syntax, and sound; and completing final revisions. Each of the ten sections thoroughly explores and discusses craft tips provided by an experienced poet (Ellen Bass, Ada Limon, Dean Young, and others) and includes illuminating sample poems and related writing prompts.

    ISBN: 
    978-0996987172
  • Devotion

    by
    Patti Smith
    Published in 2017
    by Yale University Press

    “Inspiration is the unforeseen quantity, the muse that assails at the hidden hour. The arrows fly and one is unaware of being struck....” Devotion, part of the Why I Write series based on Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Lectures, offers an intimate and poetic glimpse into Patti Smith’s personal history and creative experiences as a musician, author, and visual artist. Smith explores the mysteries and intricacies that connect artist, inspiration, and audience, and shares insightful musings on craft and the creative process.

    ISBN: 
    978-0300218626
  • Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process

    by
    John McPhee
    Published in 2017
    by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    The author of more than thirty books of nonfiction as well as more than a hundred pieces of journalism published in the New Yorker over the past fifty years offers a collection of essays on the writer’s craft in which he shares memories and tips of the trade gleaned throughout his distinguished career as a writer and an instructor at Princeton University. McPhee uses excerpts of his work to provide lessons on crucial decisions regarding structure, diction, and tone that shape well-written nonfiction pieces.

    ISBN: 
    978-0374142742
  • Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life

    by
    Diana Raab
    Published in 2017
    by Loving Healing Press

    “The art of writing for change is about setting out on a journey.” In Writing for Bliss, Diana Raab thoroughly details her seven steps to writing personal narrative as a means of self-transformation. Chock-full of inspiring techniques and expressive and embodied writing exercises, the book demonstrates to readers the healing potential of therapeutic storytelling and how sharing deeply personal and life-changing experiences with others can be freeing.

    ISBN: 
    978-1615993239
  • Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism, and Creative Nonfiction Exercises From Today’s Best Writers and Teachers

    by
    Sherry Ellis, editor
    Published in 2009
    by TarcherPerigee

    In this book from the Now Write! series, Sherry Ellis compiles over eighty writing prompts focused on nonfiction writing that will inspire readers and writers to embark on a new theme or direction, or help refine and craft elements of current works in progress. The collection includes ideas and exercises by acclaimed nonfiction authors including Reza Aslan, Jenny Boully, Paul Lisicky, Carole Maso, Dinty W. Moore, Rene Steinke, Gay Talese, and Xu Xi.

    ISBN: 
    978-1585427581
  • De/Compositions: 101 Good Poems Gone Wrong

    by
    W. D. Snodgrass
    Published in 2001
    by Graywolf Press

    For each of the acclaimed classics collected in this poetry anthology, W. D. Snodgrass has rewritten an accompanying “wrong” version to illustrate the various ways elements of craft and artistry combine to create remarkable verse. By viewing Snodgrass’s often humorous reimaginings side by side with the originals by poets such as William Blake, e. e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Wallace Stevens, and W. B. Yeats, readers and writers gain valuable insight into the inner workings of great poetry.

    ISBN: 
    978-1555973179
  • The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing

    by
    Margot Livesey
    Published in 2017
    by Tin House Books

    Each of the ten essays in The Hidden Machinery is rooted in close readings of authors such as Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, Tom Stoppard, and Virginia Woolf, from whom Livesey, the New York Times best-selling author of eight novels, draws invaluable lessons about rhythm in dialogue, the pitfalls of research, creating indelible characters, and much more about the inner workings of fiction.

    ISBN: 
    978-1941040683
  • You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)

    by
    Jeff Goins
    Published in 2014
    by Tribe Press

    “It’s a choice, writing is. One that belongs to you and me. We get to choose it (or not) every single day,” writes Jeff Goins in the first chapter of You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One). Goins helps readers overcome doubt and hesitation in order to gain the confidence and discipline needed to choose writing everyday and move forward with projects. Also included in the book are strategies for self-branding, publicizing, networking, and social media.

    ISBN: 
    978-0990378501
  • The Wilds of Poetry: Adventures in Mind and Landscape

    by
    David Hinton
    Published in 2017
    by Shambhala

    Focusing on over a dozen poets including John Cage, Robinson Jeffers, W. S. Merwin, Charles Olson, Jerome Rothenberg, and Gary Snyder, writer and translator David Hinton explores the ways in which each poet’s work embodies a twentieth-century avant-garde notion of self-identity influenced by ancient and classical Chinese concepts and spiritual practices. Readers are given inspiring insights into the development of the modern ecopoetic tradition and gain new perspective into the power of poetry to construct a holistic worldview that encourages a wildness of consciousness.

    ISBN: 
    978-1611804607
  • ​“Coming to Writing” and Other Essays

    by
    Hélène Cixous, edited by Deborah Jenson
    Published in 1992
    by Harvard University Press

    “Writing: a way of leaving no space for death, of pushing back forgetfulness, of never letting oneself be surprised by the abyss.” In this collection of six essays edited by Deborah Jenson, Hélène Cixous takes readers on a meandering journey through the complex and intricate relationships between writing, language, poetry, painting, music, gender and sexuality, and feminism. Writers of all levels will find inspiration in the playfulness and lyricism of Cixous’s prose as she explores the work of Clarice Lispector and examines the urgency of the artistic impulse to create.

    ISBN: 
    978-0674144378
  • True Stories, Well Told: From the First 20 Years of Creative Nonfiction Magazine

    by
    Lee Gutkind and Hattie Fletcher, editors
    Published in 2014
    by In Fact Books

    “Gathering information is where you start, and disseminating it is where you end, but if you don’t spend the time in the middle processing what you’ve learned, putting it in context, questioning why you cared about it, and assessing how learning it has changed you, you can’t write a great story,” writes Susan Orlean in the anthology’s introduction. The twenty nonfiction narratives by authors such as Toi Derricotte, Carolyn Forché, Gordon Lish, and Jerald Walker will inspire readers and writers with the depth and range of great stories showcasing profound learning experiences and unique voices.

    ISBN: 
    978-1937163167
  • The Stuff of Fiction: Advice on Craft

    by
    Douglas Bauer
    Published in 2006
    by University of Michigan Press

    From this book’s first chapter on story openings to its last chapter on closings, author, editor, and writing instructor Douglas Bauer covers the most essential elements of a complete work of fiction, guiding readers through the process of writing dialogue, characters, and dramatic events. In this revised and enlarged edition, Bauer emphasizes the attentive engagement and consistent work that all writers must commit to in order to strengthen their storytelling and craft skills.

    ISBN: 
    978-0472031535
  • The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips From Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field

    by
    Tara L. Masih, editor
    Published in 2009
    by Rose Metal Press

    In twenty-five brief essays by experts in the field, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction explores the popular flash fiction genre. The book’s introduction provides a comprehensive history of the short short story, from its early roots and publications, to its current state and practice. Featuring essays by Steve Almond, Stace Budzko, Kim Chinquee, Pia Z. Ehrhardt, Lex Williford, and others, this guide will especially interest those teaching or writing short fiction.

    ISBN: 
    978-0978984861
  • Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft

    by
    Tony Hoagland
    Published in 2006
    by Graywolf Press

    This collection is “intended for the reader who loves poems and likes to think about them,” writes Tony Hoagland in the foreword. In each of the conversational essays exploring poets such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Matthea Harvey, Galway Kinnell, Yusef Komunyakaa, Harryette Mullen, and Sharon Olds, Hoagland ruminates and thinks through craft elements like diction, metaphor, tone, and composition with an enthusiasm and practical curiosity that will inspire readers and writers of all levels.

    ISBN: 
    978-1555974558
  • Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction

    by
    Jessica Lourey
    Published in 2017
    by Conari Press

    “The point is to learn how to recycle your facts into fiction so you can experience the personal transformation that comes with rewriting your life.” Filled with anecdotes, exercises, and guidance on character, structure, and revision, Rewrite Your Life combines elements of craft book and self-help to explore the process of using one’s own experiences as building blocks for life-changing storytelling. 

    ISBN: 
    978-1573246934
  • You, Too, Could Write a Poem

    by
    David Orr
    Published in 2017
    by Penguin Books

    This collection of essays and reviews features critic and columnist David Orr’s​ incisive investigations of poetry’s role in contemporary culture​. Readers and writers alike will ​find inspiration and insight in Orr’s explorations, which cover a broad range of poets, books, celebrities, and poetry-related subjects​ including Oprah Winfrey, beach poems, translation, Louise Glück, Matthea Harvey, James Franco, Mary Jo Bang, and Robert Frost.

    ISBN: 
    978-0143128199
  • The Story Cure: A Book Doctor's Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir

    by
    Dinty W. Moore
    Published in 2017
    by Ten Speed Press

    The directory of creative writing at Ohio State University and author of a number of books of literary nonfiction as well as textbooks and craft guides, including most recently Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals (Ten Speed Press, 2015), returns with a handbook for writers who have encountered artistic ailments such as writer’s block, character anemia, flat plot, and silent voice. Moore’s signature wit and wisdom are once again on display in this useful guide for writers of all levels of experience.

    ISBN: 
    978-0399578809
  • This Word Now

    by
    Owen Egerton and Jodi Egerton
    Published in 2016
    by Write Good Books

    “All you need is a word,” write Jodi and Owen Egerton at the beginning of This Word Now, emphasizing the importance of getting the first word or idea down on the page. Chock-full of essays, anecdotes, lists, and exercises, the book is designed to help readers warm up and stay engaged through the various stages of the creative process, and to approach and access the imagination while both having fun and being challenged.

    ISBN: 
    978-0692720486
  • Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice

    by
    Colum McCann
    Published in 2017
    by Random House

    Letters to a Young Writer charges aspiring writers not only to learn the rules, but also to break them. This collection of short essays examines different aspects of both the craft and the profession of writing fiction. McCann’s book offers both inspiration and concrete examples, calling you to look outward rather than inward to push the boundaries of experience.

    ISBN: 
    978-0399590801
  • Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier

    by
    Joni B. Cole
    Published in 2017
    by University Press of New England

    “I wrote this book because I want writers, including myself, to cheer up. I want us to swap out the all-too-common mindsets and practices that do not serve us for ones that feed our creativity, our productivity, and our souls.” Author and instructor Joni B. Cole guides readers through the steps of actively attending to the joyful aspects of creativity, while steering clear of unproductive attitudes, habits, and perceptions. With engaging honesty and humor, Cole shares anecdotes, examples, and exercises designed to jumpstart the discovery of happiness and inspiration throughout the entire writing process.

    ISBN: 
    978-1611689112
  • Turning Life Into Fiction

    by
    Robin Hemley
    Published in 2006
    by Graywolf Press

    In this manual, Robin Hemley guides writers through the process of incorporating and fictionalizing real people, events, experiences, and anecdotes. Filled with exercises for generating ideas from daily life and strategies for “molding the factual material to the specifications of one’s fictional world,” this expanded second edition also includes an appendix with the complete texts of many of the short stories referred to throughout the book.

    ISBN: 
    978-1555974442

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