Best Books for Writers

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

  • 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
  • Life Without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People

    by
    Camille DeAngelis
    Published in 2016
    by St. Martin's Griffin

    “We must grow to become enough for ourselves, to fill our own vacancies. We must slay our own demons on our own terms.... You have to be kind to yourself so that you can keep on making your art....” In Life Without Envy, writers and creative thinkers of all types and levels of experience will learn how to slay their creative demons. DeAngelis’s helpful tips, inspiring anecdotes, and practical exercises demonstrate how to overcome feelings of negativity and competition, find support in community, and build a healthy, happy mindset as an artist.

    ISBN: 
    9781250099341
  • The Kite and the String: How to Write With Spontaneity and Control—and Live to Tell the Tale

    by
    Alice Mattison
    Published in 2016
    by Viking

    In this spirited guide to navigating the writing life, Alice Mattison—author of six novels, four story collections, and a collection of poems—urges writers to let playfulness and spontaneity “breathe life” into their work (letting the kite move with the wind) while being mindful of practical considerations such as finding trusted readers and setting appropriate goals for publication (holding the string). Mattison, who teaches at the Bennington Writing Seminars, walks readers through the stages of writing, from early inspiration to first draft to revision, all the while making clear that writing well is not nurtured by rules and instructions but rather a combination of spontaneity, clear judgment, and positive attitude.

    ISBN: 
    9780525428541
  • How to Be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, or Your Creative Compass: A Practical Guide

    by
    JoAnneh Nagler
    Published in 2016
    by Countryman Press

    “The term working artist should not refer to the amount of money made at the practice. It is more aptly a description of the person who shows up and does the work—day in, day out, year in, year out.” In seven chapters covering essential topics such as day jobs, finances, time management, and creating a support network, JoAnneh Nagler guides readers through the practical elements that enable an artist to show up and do the work in a healthy and sustainable way.

    ISBN: 
    9781581573671
  • Part Wild: A Writer's Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance

    by
    Deb Norton
    Published in 2016
    by Atria/Enliven Books

    “The wild part of our nature urges us to explore and create something new that will elevate our existence and possibly the existences of others, but this drive must run the gauntlet of the wiring that perceives our creative impulses to be dangerous.” In twenty chapters, Deb Norton examines common roadblocks to this creative drive—from confronting shyness, distractions, and perfectionism, to finding one’s own unique voice. Norton provides over three dozen practical exercises and prompts to help writers overcome their inner critics and channel their energy toward new levels of productivity.

    ISBN: 
    9781501129155
  • Why Write?: A Master Class on the Art of Writing and Why It Matters

    by
    Mark Edmundson
    Published in 2016
    by Bloomsbury

    “Writing is a meditation; writing is as close as some of us can come to prayer; writing is a way of being, righteously, in the world. And this is something that everyone ought to know.” In Why Write?, teacher, scholar, and author Mark Edmundson presents a case for the power and importance of writing to transform lives. Along the way, Edmundson shares inspirational wisdom, advice, and personal anecdotes to help readers and writers find the approach to unlock writing for themselves.

    ISBN: 
    9781632863058
  • The Butterfly Hours: Transforming Memories Into Memoir

    by
    Patty Dann
    Published in 2016
    by Shambhala

    In The Butterfly Hours, Patty Dann guides readers through ten writing lessons by sharing lively anecdotes collected from her personal experiences as a novelist and memoirist, and from over twenty-five years of teaching writing classes. Each chapter focuses on a different lesson—such as “Write Out of Love or Anger,” “Steal From Yourself,” and “Read Your Work Aloud”—and is filled with one-word writing prompts that will inspire writers to explore their own memories for new storytelling ideas.

    ISBN: 
    9781611802887
  • On Writing

    by
    Charles Bukowski
    Published in 2015
    by Ecco

    ​“I don't know what interests me. Non-dullness, I suppose. Proper poetry is dead poetry even if it looks good.” On Writing, edited by Abel Debritto, presents an entertaining array of previously unpublished letters—written by Bukowski to his friends, editors, and publishers between 1945 and 1993—that circle around the topic of writing and publishing. Readers will enjoy Bukowski’s trademark humor, insight, and self-deprecation in the correspondences, which are interspersed with lively drawings and photographs of the writer at work.

    ISBN: 
    9780062417404
  • Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)

    by
    Lisa Cron
    Published in 2016
    by Ten Speed Press

    “Humans are wired for story. We hunt for and respond to certain specific things in every story we hear, watch, or read—and they’re the exact same specific things, regardless of the genre.” Story Genius illuminates how the most successful stories engage the brain’s biological responses and sense-making instincts. With step-by-step instructions, Cron demonstrates that by connecting every element of the story to the protagonist’s internal struggle, writers can create a blueprint for an effective novel from start to finish. 

    ISBN: 
    9781607748892

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