Best Books for Writers

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

  • Fast-Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours

    by
    Rachael Herron
    Published in 2018
    by HGA Publishing

    From the author of the memoir, A Life in Stitches (Chronicle Books, 2011), this guidebook goes through the entire process of drafting a memoir: from preliminary conception of ideas and direction, to organizing and outlining narrative structure and themes, planning character arc, revising, and getting published. With a humorous tone and a straightforward style, Herron provides experienced advice on managing friends and family, overcoming worries and other obstacles, and practicing self-care.

    ISBN: 
    978-1940785417
  • Poetry: A Writers’ Guide and Anthology

    by
    Amorak Huey and W. Todd Kaneko
    Published in 2018
    by Bloomsbury Academic

    Poetry: A Writers’ Guide and Anthology combines elements of an introductory textbook, encyclopedia, and anthology into one comprehensive volume on the craft of poetry. Amorak Huey and W. Todd Kaneko provide in-depth discussions of thirty-eight components of poetry, in alphabetical order from ambiguity to work, that they consider “the building materials and tools every poet relies on when making a poem.” The anthology section covers twenty poetic modes (list poems, love poems, and protest poems to name a few), each illustrated with acclaimed contemporary poetry by poets including Natalie Diaz, Terrance Hayes, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Danez Smith, and Ocean Vuong.

    ISBN: 
    978-1350020153
  • Literature Class

    by
    Julio Cortázar, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver
    Published in 2017
    by New Directions

    Literature Class is a collection of eight lectures delivered by renowned Argentine author Julio Cortázar while visiting the University of California in Berkeley in 1980, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver and edited by Carles Álvarez Garriga. In these talks, which are occasionally directed or rerouted by students’ questions and interjections, Cortázar shares insights into his personal experiences dealing with the challenges of writing short stories and novels. His inquisitive discussions on elements such as time, fate, realism, musicality, humor, and eroticism will provide new approaches to language and storytelling, and a refreshed perspective for writers seeking inspiration.

    ISBN: 
    978-0811225342
  • The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction

    by
    Michael Noll
    Published in 2018
    by A Strange Object

    In The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction, Michael Noll presents as single excerpted page from forty different contemporary novels and short stories in order to examine and point out specific writing techniques. These insightful discussions and analyses are followed by practical writing prompts and exercises, such as how to “write pretty” or how to “move through time space,” that will motivate writers to approach their craft with refreshed perspective.

    ISBN: 
    978-0998518411
  • Write Smart, Write Happy: How to Become a More Productive, Resilient, and Successful Writer

    by
    Cheryl St. John
    Published in 2018
    by Writer’s Digest Books

    Write Smart, Write Happy is a book for managing the ups and downs of the writing life, which often includes obstacles such as writer’s block, rejection, procrastination, and general self-doubt. Readers and writers will appreciate Cheryl St. John’s straightforward and practical guide divided into seven parts and covering career planning, setting goals and priorities, maintaining interpersonal relationships, honing time management skills, and defining success.

    ISBN: 
    978-1440351792
  • Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems

    by
    Susan Grimm, editor
    Published in 2006
    by Cleveland State University Poetry Center

    “When we have a problem, we look for advice—what do others do? Not so we can replicate their strategies, but so we can listen, consider, begin to make wordless decisions deep in the cerebral mass. It is the conversation that is useful, rather than the single instruction,” writes Susan Grimm in her introduction to Ordering the Storm. The book is comprised of essays by eleven poets, including Maggie Anderson, Wanda Coleman, Beckian Fritz Goldberg, and Bonnie Jacobson, reflecting on the process of assembling a collection of poetry. The essays offer a range of perspectives and approaches to the task of arranging poems while providing a sense of community with each voice and insight.

    ISBN: 
    978-1880834701
  • FLASH!: Writing the Very Short Story

    by
    John Dufresne
    Published in 2018
    by Norton

    In FLASH!, John Dufresne provides an introductory examination of flash fiction, exploring the elements that distinguish very brief fiction from longer stories, and how this literary form is particularly suitable for the twenty-first century. The book contains dozens of writing prompts and exercises, as well as samples of short short stories that demonstrate an expansive range of styles and techniques.

    ISBN: 
    978-0393352351
  • From Language to Creative Writing: An Introduction

    by
    Philip Seargeant and Bill Greenwell
    Published in 2013
    by Bloomsbury Academic

    In From Language to Creative Writing, Philip Seargeant and Bill Greenwell combine language studies and the practice of creative writing to create an informative and useful guide for writers interested in manipulating the structures of the English language for the purpose of crafting poetry and prose. Chapters cover topics such as “Speech and conversation,” “Context, time and point of view,” and “‘Literary’ language,” and include exemplary passages as well as writing activities and exercises.

    ISBN: 
    978-1408175217
  • A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line

    by
    Emily Rosko and Anton Vander Zee, editors
    Published in 2011
    by University of Iowa Press

    In A Broken Thing, contemporary poets, including Kazim Ali, Kathy Fagan, Alice Fulton, Kimiko Hahn, Ben Lerner, Carl Phillips, and Paisley Rekdal, offer short essays and reflections on the nature of the poetic line. The seventy essays included offer a practical discussion on how to use lineation to achieve certain effects, and present—as Vander Zee notes in his introduction—a range of perspectives on how “the line has become an aesthetic, sociopolitical, and, at times, metaphysical variable even as it remains deeply invested in the formal minutiae of rhythm and metrics.”

    ISBN: 
    978-1609380540
  • The Reader Over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose

    by
    Robert Graves and Alan Hodge
    Published in 2018
    by Seven Stories Press

    The new edition of The Reader Over Your Shoulder, a restoration of the complete original 1943 handbook written in response to the tumult of World War II, discusses major stylistic elements, peculiarities, and uses and abuses of English prose. Poet and novelist Robert Graves and historian Alan Hodge provide forty-one basic principles of writing focused on producing clarity and grace of expression, and a thorough section of correctives for common errors using examples from texts by leading authors of their era (Ernest Hemingway, Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw).

    ISBN: 
    978-1609807337
  • The Art of Mystery: The Search for Questions

    by
    Maud Casey
    Published in 2018
    by Graywolf Press

    “There’s a lot that needs making in fiction but creating a space for mystery requires a certain amount of unmaking.” In the fourteenth volume of Graywolf’s “Art of” series, Maud Casey examines the employment of mystery as an element in literary fiction that provides compelling tension with uncertainty and unknowing. Casey presents in-depth discussions on creating mystery by constructing a sense of innocence, the use of haunted presences, and imbuing the unknown into characterization, imagery, and story structure.

    ISBN: 
    978-1555977948
  • Writing as a Path to Awakening: A Year to Becoming an Excellent Writer and Living an Awakened Life

    by
    Albert Flynn DeSilver
    Published in 2017
    by Sounds True

    “A brilliant writer is someone who is devoted to expressing their creativity through the written word. Devotion is the key.” In twelve chapters, each one corresponding to a different month, poet, author, and teacher Albert Flynn DeSilver guides writers through a yearlong transformation and awakening of one’s creative process. Focusing on strengthening storytelling skills through the integration of life and art, the book includes numerous reading, writing, and meditative exercises, and explores topics such as poetic language, imagery, humor, the five senses, and revision.

    ISBN: 
    978-1622039111
  • The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision

    by
    Sandra Scofield
    Published in 2017
    by Penguin Books

    “Be patient and methodical, like a seamstress or a boat builder. You are over the hurdle of wondering if you have a story at all. You have pages you can handle.” Sandra Scofield’s The Last Draft provides motivation and inspiration for writers who are ready to transform and refine the pages of their first-draft manuscripts into finished novels. Scofield thoroughly reviews the narrative elements integral when considering a novel’s structure, then guides readers step-by-step through the process of revision, from planning to polishing.

    ISBN: 
    978-0143131359
  • Why Poetry

    by
    Matthew Zapruder
    Published in 2017
    by Ecco

    Why Poetry is Matthew Zapruder’s exploration—and defense—of the value of poetry. Zapruder claims no special training is required to enjoy poetry, and suggests that “a poem is like a person. The more you know someone, the more you realize there is always something more to know and understand.” Through this lens, he considers examples by poets ranging from Matsuo Bashō to Adrienne Rich to John Ashbery, and grounds his analysis in stories from his own life as a poet, teacher, and editor at Wave Books.

    ISBN: 
    978-0062343079
  • A Writer’s Craft: Multi-Genre Creative Writing

    by
    Kendall Dunkelberg
    Published in 2017
    by Palgrave

    Either as an introduction or as a refresher, A Writer’s Craft serves as a straightforward guide to the broad world of creative writing. Many craft elements applicable across genres are discussed in chapters such as “The Writing Process,” “Language, Rhythm, and Sound,” “Character and Voice,” and “Perspective and Point of View.” The book presents an in-depth exploration of the specific forms of creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, and provides lists of further recommended reading, a glossary of literary terms, guidelines for workshops, and advice on how to be a good literary citizen.

    ISBN: 
    978-1137610942
  • The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction

    by
    Ann Charters, editor
    Published in 2016
    by Bedford/St. Martin’s

    Ann Charters’s anthology collects eighty short stories, including new fiction and neglected classics by authors such as Sherman Alexie, Anton Chekhov, Lydia Davis, Junot Díaz, Louise Erdrich, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Denis Johnson, Clarice Lispector, Marjane Satrapi, and Alice Walker. A distinctive innovation of the anthologies is the “Commentaries” section, which in this ninth edition consists of in-depth essays and discussions by the authors themselves, providing insight into the stories, historical and biographical contexts, and the craft of fiction.

    ISBN: 
    978-1319125189
  • The Essential Poet’s Glossary

    by
    Edward Hirsch
    Published in 2017
    by Mariner Books

    “The devices work the magic in poetry, and a glossary gives names to those devices.” Edward Hirsch’s book is a focused selection of his comprehensive 2014 volume, A Poet’s Glossary, and unpacks the most essential poetic devices, terms, and movements that have informed international verse. From “abecedarian” to “Zen poetry,” the insightful entries will inspire readers and writers to experience and create poetry with a newfound understanding of its integral components.

    ISBN: 
    978-0544931237
  • Writing Abroad: A Guide for Travelers

    by
    Peter Chilson and Joanne B. Mulcahy
    Published in 2017
    by University of Chicago Press

    “At every point, writing deepens our exploration of unknown terrain, new cultures and languages, and connections with people.” Writing Abroad explores the ways in which journeys and travel experiences can be a rich and compelling source of insights about people and cultures both familiar and unknown. Chapters such as “Encountering Another Language in Your Own Voice,” “Portraits and Profiles,” and “Travel Writing in the Age of the Internet” demonstrate the power of using memories, observations, and engagement with other cultures for storytelling, and each section is filled with inspiring writing, revision, and fieldwork exercises.

    ISBN: 
    978-0226444499
  • Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo

    by
    Grant Faulkner
    Published in 2017
    by Chronicle Books

    The executive director of National Novel Writing Month, cofounder of 100 Word Story, and frequent contributor to Poets & Writers Magazine gathers a wide range of observations and advice for writers, addressing challenges such as starting a new project, going deeper and taking risks, nourishing the muse, and overcoming creative doubts. “We become the things we do,” Faulkner writes in this inspiring handbook, “and I can promise you, if you excavate your life to make room for your imagination, if you open up time to keep writing, you won’t just finish your novel, pen the poem in your head, or submit a short story you’ve worked so hard on, you’ll change, because once you realize yourself as a creator, you create worlds on and off the page.”

    ISBN: 
    978-1452161082
  • On Imagination

    by
    Mary Ruefle
    Published in 2017
    by Sarabande Books

    “It is impossible for me to write about the imagination; it is like asking a fish to describe the sea,” claims poet Mary Ruefle on the first page of this chapbook-length essay. Through her unique blend of anecdotes and meditations upon subjects ranging from John Keats to Jesus to the Ukrainian art of Easter egg dyeing, Ruefle manages to demonstrate that the act of writing is much more than the solitary task it can sometimes feel like—it is a collaboration between yourself and the world. “The imagination is not what you play with, the imagination plays with you.”

    ISBN: 
    978-1941411476
  • The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing: How to Find Funds and Write Foolproof Proposals for the Visual, Literary, and Performing Artist

    by
    Gigi Rosenberg
    Published in 2010
    by Watson-Guptill

    In this guide, writer and artist coach Gigi Rosenberg leads readers through the process of grant writing and navigating resources to fund artistic projects. With chapters covering topics such as deciphering applications, writing proposals and artist statements, selecting work samples, and constructing a budget, the book includes advice, anecdotes, and interviews with grant writers, recipients, panel members, and decision makers, as well as useful appendices indispensable to both professional and aspiring writers.

    ISBN: 
    978-0823000708
  • Interview With a Ghost

    by
    Tom Sleigh
    Published in 2006
    by Graywolf Press

    In this collection of essays, Tom Sleigh investigates the ways private life, selfhood, and aesthetics are served by poetry written in the first person, and uses multiple forms to explore identity and the limits of subjectivity. Sleigh discusses his own writing, as well as work by poets including Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Bradstreet, Seamus Heaney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Tomas Tranströmer, and Derek Walcott to inspire new ways to think about poetic craft.

    ISBN: 
    978-1555974404
  • Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life

    by
    Lee Martin
    Published in 2017
    by University of Nebraska Press

    “After years of writing both fiction and memoir, I’ve come to believe that the term storytelling best fits what I do.... The point is that no matter the approach I take to the material at hand, I’m always relying on the tools of the storyteller to construct an interesting narrative.” Writer and teacher Lee Martin’s practical guide is an informative and instructive journey through the integral tools of the storyteller, such as structure, scene, detail, characterization, point of view, and language. Martin shares insightful advice and techniques covering the revision process, as well as tips and anecdotes on formative elements of the writing life.

    ISBN: 
    978-1496202024
  • 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

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