Best Books for Writers

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

  • Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry

    by
    Alice Fulton
    Published in 1999
    by Graywolf Press

    In this collection of essays, award-winning poet and critic Alice Fulton presents her theories on the strangeness and complexity of poetry, and its ability to access and recreate emotion. In pieces exploring topics such as the concept of fractal poetry and the importance of the writings of Emily Dickinson and Margaret Cavendish to her own work, Fulton calls for a movement toward a socially and culturally conscious poetry of “inconvenient knowledge.”

    ISBN: 
    978-1555972868
  • How We Speak to One Another: An Essay Daily Reader

    by
    Ander Monson and Craig Reinbold, editors
    Published in 2017
    by Coffee House Press

    “Good essays essay interminably.... They keep thinking, keep sorting through their stimuli, keep uncovering and echoing meaning. An essay is thinking in action,” writes Ander Monson, founder of the website Essay Daily, who edited this collection with Craig Reinbold. The book combines many of the best essays from Essay Daily with original pieces, all of which serve as an inspirational showcase for the potential range and elasticity of the personal essay form.

    ISBN: 
    978-1566894579
  • The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

    by
    Matt Bird
    Published in 2016
    by Writer’s Digest Books

    The Secrets of Story is a humorous guide to the essentials that constitute the most engaging stories. Matt Bird emphasizes the value of “powerful audience identification, which is the heart of good storytelling,” and provides an “Ultimate Story Checklist” to help writers focus on integral craft elements to master, such as character, structure and plot, scene work, dialogue, and theme.

    ISBN: 
    978-1440348235
  • The Writer’s Reader: Vocation, Preparation, Creation

    by
    Robert Cohen and Jay Parini, editors
    Published in 2017
    by Bloomsbury Academic

    This anthology compiles over thirty essays on the literary life by authors including Julia Alvarez, Walter Benjamin, Edwidge Danticat, Henry James, Ha Jin, Cynthia Ozick, Binyavanga Wainaina, and David Foster Wallace. Readers gain access and insight into the reflections of a diverse range of writers, all of whom share their approach to the craft and their perspectives on the writing life.

    ISBN: 
    978-1628925371
  • Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art From Trauma

    by
    Melanie Brooks
    Published in 2017
    by Beacon Press

    After attempting to write about her father’s death from AIDS in 1985, author Melanie Brooks was left with difficult questions about what it takes to write an honest memoir. In her new book, Brooks shares the guidance she received from talking with acclaimed memoirists such as Andre Dubus III, Mark Doty, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Blanco, Abigail Thomas, and many others who describe the process of writing their most painful memories.

    ISBN: 
    978-0807078815
  • Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

    by
    Manjula Martin, editor
    Published in 2017
    by Simon & Schuster

    ​“This book is by and for writers who are building careers that deftly encompass all we are: a little bit artist, a little bit hawker, and a whole lot of love…” Manjula Martin, founder of Scratch magazine, has compiled a collection of essays and interviews that reveal the ways different writers have managed the economics and finances of living the writing life. Authors such as Alexander Chee, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, Leslie Jamison, Porochista Khakpour, and Kiese Laymon share a variety of advice and strategies gleaned from their own experiences navigating the reality of making art while making a living.

    ISBN: 
    978-1501134579
  • Syllabus: Notes From an Accidental Professor

    by
    Lynda Barry
    Published in 2014
    by Drawn and Quarterly

    Syllabus: Notes From an Accidental Professor provides an inside look into Lynda Barry’s funny, smart, and thoughtful lesson plans for writing and creative thinking. ​Filled with colorful illustrations and hand lettering, Barry’s notes, tips, and exercises are a source of inspiration and encouragement to expand and explore one’s writing practice and process, and to make the most of the imagination that goes into all aspects of brainstorming.

    ISBN: 
    978-1770461611
  • Finishing School: The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done

    by
    Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton
    Published in 2017
    by TarcherPerigee

    In Finishing School, Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton identify and discuss the most common emotions (self-doubt, shame, arrogance) that keep writers from completing their work, and then share techniques on how to tackle the straightforward process of committing to a project from start to finish. Throughout the book, the authors emphasize the importance of setting and scheduling manageable goals, and being held accountable by others while offering helpful tips and insights gained from their own writing success stories.

    ISBN: 
    978-0399184703
  • Writing Poems

    by
    Michelle Boisseau, Hadara Bar-Nadav, and Robert Wallace
    Published in 2011
    by Pearson

    Michelle Boisseau, Hadara Bar-Nadav, and Robert Wallace share their knowledge and love of poetry in this eighth edition of Writing Poems, which introduces an array of poetic traditions and teaches the essentials to guide aspiring poets to develop their craft. An examination of classical and contemporary poems, as well as powerful writing exercises are included to inspire readers to put pen to paper.

    ISBN: 
    9780205176052
  • This Year You Write Your Novel

    by
    Walter Mosley
    Published in 2007
    by Little, Brown

    “If you want to finish this novel of yours within a year, you have to get to work! There’s not a moment to lose. There’s no time to wait for inspiration.” In This Year You Write Your Novel, Walter Mosley leads readers through an active approach to writing a complete novel starting with how to establish a consistent writing routine, and the basics of story beginnings and research, through the final stages of revision and editing. Writers will be invigorated by Mosley’s engaging and straightforward insights in chapters such as “The Omniscient Narrator,” “Intuition Versus Structure,” and “The Devil and the Details.”

    ISBN: 
    978-0316065498
  • No Evil Star: Selected Essays, Interviews, and Prose

    by
    Anne Sexton, edited by Steven E. Colburn
    by University of Michigan Press

    The essays and interviews compiled in this 1985 collection edited by Steven E. Colburn, which is part of the Poets on Poetry series by the University of Michigan Press, span Anne Sexton’s life as a writer, poet, and teacher. In both her prose reflections and in conversation, readers and writers will find inspiration in Sexton’s entertaining stories that trace her development from being a student of Robert Lowell at Boston University, to publishing her 1960 debut collection, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, and concluding with her own reflections on teaching poetry.

    ISBN: 
    978-0472063666
  • The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling

    by
    Charles Johnson
    Published in 2016
    by Scribner

    The National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage (Atheneum, 1990), who for more than three decades has taught and mentored students in the art and craft of writing at the University of Washington in Seattle, offers practical yet inspiring lessons—on word choice; sentence structure; narrative voice; and the mechanics of scene, dialogue, and plot—in this essential guide for anyone with a story to tell.

    ISBN: 
    9781501147227
  • The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again

    by
    Sven Birkerts
    Published in 2007
    by Graywolf Press

    In The Art of Time in Memoir, part of The Art of series, critic, editor, and memoirist Sven Birkerts explores the human impulse to write about the self. Birkerts examines how memoirists such as Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, and Mary Karr create coherent narratives and how their works demonstrate “circumstance becoming meaningful when seen from a certain remove.” 

    ISBN: 
    9781555974893
  • Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

    by
    Jeff VanderMeer
    Published in 2013
    by Harry N. Abrams

    Filled with colorful drawings, diagrams, and maps, Jeff VanderMeer’s illustrated guide provides a comprehensive approach to elements of craft integral to every type of storytelling. Writers of all levels, genres, and subject matter will find inspiration in the writing exercises and prompts, as well as essays by authors such as Lauren Beukes, Rikki Ducornet, Karen Joy Fowler, Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Charles Yu.

    ISBN: 
    9781419704420
  • Writing What You Know: How to Turn Personal Experiences Into Publishable Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry

    by
    Meg Files
    Published in 2016
    by Allworth Press

    “How do we know what our real material is? Why should we write from personal experience, anyway, rather than invent?” In Writing What You Know, Meg Files guides readers and writers through her responses to these questions while providing engaging exercises that explore the challenges and rewards of digging into one’s own pains and passions in order to create and shape the most captivating stories.

    ISBN: 
    9781621535119
  • The Poem Is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them

    by
    Stephen Burt
    Published in 2016
    by Belknap Press

    In this volume, Stephen Burt selects sixty poems as a small representation of the wide scope of contemporary American poetry, ranging from John Ashbery’s “Paradoxes and Oxymorons” published in 1981, to Ross Gay’s “Weeping” published in 2015. Each poem is accompanied by an essay that details the poem’s technique, sensibility, and context to help readers approach and enjoy the work with a new perspective.

    ISBN: 
    9780674737877
  • Writing the Intimate Character: Create Unique, Compelling Characters Through Mastery of Point of View

    by
    Jordan Rosenfeld
    Published in 2016
    by Writer's Digest Books

    The author of three novels and five books on craft, Jordan Rosenfeld explores how point of view creates powerful narratives and dynamic characters in fiction. Writing the Intimate Character examines “every element of a story, from exposition to interior monologue to plot, through the lens of point of view” with examples and exercises to help writers breathe life into their characters.

    ISBN: 
    9781440346026
  • The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

    by
    Amy Tan
    Published in 2004
    by Penguin Books

    The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life is a collection of Amy Tan’s essays, interviews, and musings tracing her journey to become a novelist. Throughout over thirty essays, including “My Love Affair with Vladimir Nabokov,” “The Ghosts of My Imagination,” and “Five Writing Tips,” Tan shares inspiring and humorous insights about the connections between life and art, underscores the transformative power of storytelling, and explores the importance of empathy in the life of a writer.

    ISBN: 
    9780142004890
  • Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction

    by
    Benjamin Percy
    Published in 2016
    by Graywolf Press

    The author of three novels and two story collections, who also writes the Green Arrow and Teen Titans series for DC Comics, Benjamin Percy delivers a collection of fifteen urgent and entertaining essays on the craft of fiction—many of which originally appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine. Percy looks to sources including JawsBlood Meridian, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage such issues as plot, suspense, momentum, character, setting, and dialogue.

    ISBN: 
    9781555977597
  • Vanity Fair's Writers on Writers

    by
    Graydon Carter, editor
    Published in 2016
    by Penguin Books

    The forty-three essays in this book feature writers focusing on fellow writers—reflecting on their contemporaries, as well as influential and inspirational authors from previous eras. First published in Vanity Fair between 1983 and 2016, the collection includes pieces such as Elizabeth Bishop on Marianne Moore, Martin Amis on Saul Bellow, Jacqueline Woodson on James Baldwin, Meg Wolitzer on Judy Blume, Nadine Gordimer on Wole Soyinka, and Christopher Hitchens on Stieg Larsson.

    ISBN: 
    9780143111764
  • The Jane Austen Writers’ Club: Inspiration and Advice From the World’s Best-Loved Novelist

    by
    Rebecca Smith
    Published in 2016
    by Bloomsbury

    “People love Jane Austen’s work for so many reasons—the comedy, her sparkling dialogue, the unforgettable characters, the accuracy of her observations...how she captures what it is to be in love, lonely, bullied, wrong, disappointed, to be part of a family...” In The Jane Austen Writers’ Club, Rebecca Smith reveals insights into these craft elements and storytelling techniques gleaned from Austen’s novels. The book includes many exemplary passages, practical exercises, as well as writing advice Austen offered to her aspiring novelist nieces and nephew.

    ISBN: 
    9781632865885
  • The Flexible Lyric

    by
    Ellen Bryant Voigt
    Published in 1999
    by University of Georgia Press

    “Looking closely at a hero's mortal parts has always been a risky enterprise. We want our great writers pure of heart.” In The Flexible Lyric, poet and professor Ellen Bryant Voigt compiles nine craft essays examining the art of lyric poetry, beginning with a discussion on the creative process and Voigt's fascination with Flannery O'Connor and Elizabeth Bishop. Each essay that follows examines different aspects of lyric poems, from tone to image to voice and beyond. Through close reading of an array of poets like Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Denise Levertov, Shakespeare, and others, Voigt shows us the nuance and attention it takes to write a fantastic lyric poem.

    ISBN: 
    9780820321318
  • Making Shapely Fiction

    by
    Jerome Stern
    Published in 1991
    by Norton

    ​“The shapes of fiction inspire by presenting ways to embody your experiences, memories, and imaginings.” ​In this comprehensive volume, Jerome Stern breaks down and reconstructs the component parts that come together to shape a work of fiction. Stern focuses on straightforward insights, exercises, techniques, and a list of don'ts that will help writers of all levels of experience enliven their work with new tension, immediacy, and momentum.

    ISBN: 
    9780393321241
  • Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry

    by
    The League of Canadian Poets
    Published in 2016
    by University of Regina Press

    Measures of Astonishment is a collection of essays by thirteen of Canada’s most notable poets, first presented in lectures from 2002 to 2015 as part of the League of Canadian Poets’ Anne Szumigalski Lecture Series. Poets including Margaret Atwood, Anne Carson, Robert Currie, and Gregory Scofield offer their unique and distinctive perspectives on poetry, sharing insights about its craft and exploring its far-reaching meanings.

    ISBN: 
    9780889773714
  • Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer

    by
    Bret Anthony Johnston, editor
    Published in 2008
    by Random House

    “This is what I believe in, what I trust will ultimately distinguish those who want to write and publish from those who do write and publish: work....I believe that the act of writing is itself the muse.” In Naming the World, author and professor Bret Anthony Johnston has compiled a collection of craft advice from a wide range of his favorite writers and teachers of writing, including Dorothy Allison, Dan Chaon, Joyce Carol Oates, Tom Robbins, and Vu Tran. Each chapter acts as a short master class filled with insights and experienced perspectives, as well as varied and illuminating exercises and prompts designed to inspire writers seeking to improve their narrative writing skills.

    ISBN: 
    9780812975482

Pages