Best Books for Writers

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

  • The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry

    by
    Harold Bloom
    Published in 1997
    by Oxford University Press

    Originally published in 1973, this seminal text, written by scholar and critic Harold Bloom, explores the relationship between individual artists and those who came before them. Bloom argues that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them. 

    ISBN: 
    0195112210
  • The Writer's Notebook II: Craft Essays From Tin House

    by
    Tin House authors
    Published in 2012
    by Tin House Books

    A follow-up to The Writer's Notebook, published in 2009, this collection includes essays based on workshop lectures from Tin House's annual Summer Writers Workshop, plus freshly commissioned pieces that together guide writers on the craft of writing fiction. Contributors include Steve Almond, Andrea Barrett, Christopher R. Beha, Aimee Bender, Adam Breaver, Anthony Doerr, Ann Hood, Bret Anthony Johnston, Jim Krusoe, Antonya Nelson, Maggie Nelson, Benjamin Percy, Karen Russell, Elissa Schappell, and Mary Szybist, with an introduction by Francine Prose. 

    ISBN: 
    9781935639466
  • Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry

    by
    Louise Gluck
    Published in 1994
    by Ecco Press

    Winner of the 1993 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, Proofs and Theories is a compilation of essays on the work of other poets, as well as reflections on the art. Author Louise Gluck is a former U.S. poet laureate who has written numerous poetry collections, including the The Wild Iris, which received the Pulitzer Prize.

    ISBN: 
    0880013699
  • Writers on Writing

    by
    The New York Times, editor
    Published in 2002
    by Times Books

    With an introduction by John Darnton, Writers on Writing: Collected Essays From The New York Times features contributions from more than forty authors, including André Aciman, Russell Banks, Richard Ford, Kent Haruf,Alice Hoffman, Jamaica Kincaid, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Miller, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Alice Walker, and Elie Wiesel, who share what inspires them to keep at it.

    ISBN: 
    0805070850
  • The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets

    by
    Dominic Luxford, editor
    Published in 2007
    by McSweeney's Books

    In this collection from McSweeney’s Books editor Dominic Luxford chose ten poems from ten different poets, and then asked each of them to contribute an additional poem of his or her own, plus a poem from another poet. That new poet was then asked to do the same. As Luxford writes in the introduction, “The result: ten chains, five poets per chain, two poems per poet—one almighty collection of verse.” With poems by authors such as Elizabeth Alexander, Tina Chang, Mark Doty, Heidi Johannesen Poon, Mary Ruefle, C. D. Wright, and Dean Young, the collaboration offers poetry by a range of older, more accomplished poets as well as by poets at the beginning of their careers and allows readers to discover what each writer values most in both his or her own work and the work of others.

    ISBN: 
    9781932416817
  • Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots

    by
    William Wallace Cook
    Published in 2011
    by Tin House Books

    In his classic, originally published in 1928, William Wallace Cook analyzes the elements of compelling fiction, laying out his own approach to writing in painstaking detail, exemplified by hundreds of scenarios.

    ISBN: 
    9781935639183
  • The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction

    by
    Dinty W. Moore, editor
    Published in 2012
    by Rose Metal Press

    Edited by Dinty W. Moore, who is also the longtime editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction, this book features twenty-six essays by the genre's most established writers. Each essay is followed by an exercise or writing prompt to help readers apply to their own practice the ideas the essayists offer.

    ISBN: 
    9780984616664
  • The Portable Poetry Workshop

    by
    Jack Myers
    Published in 2004
    by Wadsworth Publishing

    Poet and professor Jack Myers explores the craft of poetry with an instructional guide on what goes into making a poem. The Portable Poetry Workshop offers a thorough look at the elements of good poetry, and offers practical advice about generating material, assembling metaphors, workshopping poems in a group, and more.

    ISBN: 
    0155060023
  • Style: Toward Clarity and Grace

    by
    Joseph M. Williams
    Published in 1995
    by University of Chicago Press

    Joseph M. Williams offers a practical guide to improving one’s writing by focusing on the sentence and paragraph levels. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace includes strategies for identifying weak writing and using form as a way to approach revision.

    ISBN: 
    0226899152
  • Several Short Sentences About Writing

    by
    Verlyn Klinkenborg
    Published in 2012
    by Knopf

    Verlyn Klinkenborg draws from his years of experience as a writer and teacher of writing to offer fresh pieces of wisdom about the writing process. Written in short prose bursts, Several Short Sentences About Writing provides tried-and-tested starting points, ideas, and experiments for writers at any level.

    ISBN: 
    0307266346
  • You Can't Make This Stuff Up

    by
    Lee Gutkind
    Published in 2012
    by Da Capo Press

    In this comprehensive how-to guide for the genre, Lee Gutkind, founder of Creative Nonfiction magazine, provides insights on writing creative nonfiction--from memoir to literary journalism and everything in between, including chapters on point of view, narrative, research, structure, and more.

    ISBN: 
    9780738215549
  • Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century

    by
    John B. Thompson
    Published in 2010
    by Polity Press

    John B. Thompson presents an accessible overview of the book publishing business—from the changes in agenting to the conglomeration of publishing houses to the growth of the retail chains to the digital revolution. This book provides writers with an in-depth understanding of publishing's ecosystem, providing them with the background they need before taking their manuscript to market.

    ISBN: 
    9780745647869
  • On Looking: Essays

    by
    Lia Purpura
    Published in 2006
    by Sarabande Books

    In this collection of essays, poet Lia Purpura explores the act of observation as it relates the to the writer's endeavor. Purpura is an award-winning writer who teaches at the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program in Tacoma, Washington.

    ISBN: 
    9781932511390
  • A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement

    by
    Barbara Abercrombie
    Published in 2012
    by New World Library

    Novelist and essayist Barbara Abercrombie offers a collection of wide-ranging anecdotes, lessons, and prompts for beginning and veteran writers. A Year of Writing Dangerously devotes sections to writerly topics such as "failing better," mentorship, and keeping faith, and pairs each lesson with a quotation from a famous writer.

    ISBN: 
    1608680517
  • The Conde Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Great Writers on Great Places

    by
    Klara Glowczewska, editor
    Published in 2007
    by Penguin Books

    This volume of travel writing contains twenty-one pieces pairing well known writers with their favorite exotic locales. Russell Banks writes on the Everglades, Francine Prose explores the secrets of Prague, Robert Hughes takes us on a tour of Italy, and more. The collection also includes practical advice and insider travel tips on the featured locations.

    ISBN: 
    0143112619
  • A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing, 1960-1980

    by
    Steven Clay and Rodney Phillips, editors
    Published in 1998
    by Granary Books

    Published in partnership with the New York Public Library and based on an exhibit that originally appeared there, this guide offers a comprehensive but idiosyncratic look at the small press publishing scene in San Francisco and in downtown Manhattan during the 1960s and '70s. It includes a timeline and over two hundred images from one of the richest periods of American writing and publishing. 

    ISBN: 
    9781887123198
  • The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers

    by
    Vendela Vida, editor
    Published in 2008
    by McSweeney's

    This collection features twenty-three conversations between writers such as Tayari Jones and Chris Abani, Jonathan Lethem and Paul Auster, Ben Ehrenreich and John Banville, and Vendela Vida and Jennifer Egan, whose discussions range well beyond writing and craft, offering insight into the author's perspective of the world.  

    ISBN: 
    9781932416947
  • The Life of Poetry

    by
    Muriel Rukeyser
    Published in 1996
    by Paris Press

    In this American classic, with a foreword by poet Jane Cooper, Muriel Rukeyser explores the promise of poetry as an art form that can help us shape a civil society. 

    ISBN: 
    0963818333
  • Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry

    by
    Reginald Shepherd
    Published in 2007
    by University of Michigan

    The late poet and editor Reginald Shepherd explores the transformative power of poetry in a selection of autobiographical essays and those that focus on the work of other writers, including Alvin Feinman, Jorie Graham, Samuel R. Delany, and Linda Gregg. 

    ISBN: 
    9780472099986
  • Keep Calm and Query On: Notes on Writing (and Living) With Hope

    by
    Luke Reynolds
    Published in 2012
    by Divertir Publishing

    Author Luke Reynolds reflects on forging his own writing life and interviews fourteen other authors—including Jane Smiley, Daniel Handler, Robert Pinsky, George Saunders, Lindsey Collen, and David Wroblewski—about their worst rejections, their first publications, what keeps them motivated, and why they believe in the power of words.

    ISBN: 
    9780984293070
  • The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer

    by
    Sandra Scofield
    Published in 2007
    by Penguin

    In this practical guide, National Book Award–nominee Sandra Scofield offers straightforward information and exercises designed to help writers write strong scenes in fiction.

    ISBN: 
    9780143038269
  • Poet’s Choice

    by
    Edward Hirsch
    Published in 2006
    by Harcourt

    Drawn from poet Ed Hirsch's Washington Post Book World column "Poet's Choice," this collection features classic and contemporary poems with essays by Hirsch about the poems and their various forms.

    ISBN: 
    9780156032674
  • Ron Carlson Writes a Story

    by
    Ron Carlson
    Published in 2007
    by Graywolf Press

    In this guide to writing a short story, acclaimed fiction writer Ron Carlson, who is also director of the graduate program in fiction at the University of California, Irvine, invites readers to join him in the process of crafting his story "The Governer's Ball."

    ISBN: 
    9781555974770

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