Best Books for Writers

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

  • The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life

    by
    Floyd Skloot
    Published in 2011
    by Bison Books

    At forty-one, novelist and poet Floyd Skoot suffered from a brain disease that damaged his memory. The Wink of the Zenith is a memoir about how his unique circumstances made him develop as a writer. The book explores fundamental questions about how life shapes the creative spirit.

    ISBN: 
    9780803211193
  • Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry

    by
    David Orr
    Published in 2011
    by HarperCollins

    Award-winning poetry critic David Orr provides a tour and guide to contemporary poetry and the ways in which to appreciate it. Beautiful & Pointless examines what poets and poetry readers talk about when they discuss poetry, such as why poetry seems especially personal and what it means to write "in form."

    ISBN: 
    9780061673450
  • A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society, 1996-2008

    by
    Adrienne Rich
    Published in 2009
    by W.W. Norton & Company

    American poet and essayist Adrienne Rich examines a diverse section of writings and their place in past and present social disorders and transformations. Beyond literary theories, she explores from many angles how the art of language has acted on and been shaped by their creators’ worlds.

    ISBN: 
    9780393070064
  • Sol Stein's A-Z Guide to Writing Success and Publishing Know-How

    by
    Sol Stein
    Published in 2010
    by St. Martin’s Griffin

    Sol Stein—novelist, editor, and publisher—offers a handy reference on a wide variety of writing-related questions and concerns. Readers will find explanations of publishing terms, information about craft, advice on constructive writing habits, and more.

    ISBN: 
    9780312550950
  • Letters to a Young Poet

    by
    Rainer Maria Rilke
    Published in 1993
    by W.W. Norton & Company

    Drawn by some sympathetic note in one of his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of responses to a young would-be poet, on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. An accompanying chronicle of Rilke's life shows what he was experiencing in his own relationship to life and work when he wrote these letters.

    ISBN: 
    9780393310399
  • The Art of the Story: An International Anthology of Contemporary Short Stories

    by
    Daniel Halpern, editor
    Published in 2000
    by Penguin

    Editor of The Art of the Tale, Daniel Halpern has assembled the next generation of short-story writers—those born after 1937—to create a companion volume, The Art of the Story. The collection includes seventy-eight contributors from thirty-five countries. The Art of the Story combines works of established masters as well as new voices of writers whose work have seldom been translated into English.

    ISBN: 
    0140296387
  • Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction

    by
    Jack Hart
    Published in 2011
    by University of Chicago Press

    Jack Hart, former managing editor of the Oregonian, has created a guide to the methods and mechanics of crafting narrative nonfiction. Hart covers what writers in this genre need to know, from understanding story theory and structure, to mastering point of view and such basic elements as scene, action, and character, to drafting, revising, and editing work for publication. 

    ISBN: 
    0226318141
  • Argument and Song: Sources and Silences in Poetry

    by
    Stanley Plumly
    Published in 2003
    by Handsel Books

    In this collection of essays, poet Stanley Plumly meditates on poetry and art, especially the impulses, occasions, and places out of which art arises and the forms by which imagination gives it shape.

    ISBN: 
    1590510763
  • The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist

    by
    John McNally
    Published in 2010
    by University of Iowa Press

    Novelist and essayist John McNally writes comprehensively about living the life of the writer. With chapters on writing degrees and graduate programs, the nuts and bolts of agents and query letters, and book signings, McNally covers a wide range of writerly topics for aspiring writers and teachers of writing.

    ISBN: 
    1587299208
  • Writing Fiction

    by
    R.V. Cassill
    Published in 1975
    by Prentice-Hall

    In Writing Fiction, R.V. Cassill,the original editor of The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, provides an instructional text on fiction that covers mechanics, revision, the writing process, and general advice about craft.

    ISBN: 
    0139701117
  • Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet

    by
    Christian Wiman
    Published in 2007
    by Copper Canyon Press

    Ambition and Survival is a collection of personal essays and critical prose by Christian Wiman, the editor of Poetry magazine. Wiman recounts his path to becoming a poet, his struggle with a rare form of incurable cancer, and how mortality reignited his religious passions.

    ISBN: 
    9781556592607
  • The Secret Miracle: The Novelist's Handbook

    by
    Daniel Alarcon, editor
    Published in 2010
    by St. Martin’s Griffin

    Drawing back the curtain on the process of writing novels, The Secret Miracle brings together well-known practitioners of the craft to discuss how they write. Paul Auster, Mario Vargas Llosa, Susan Minot, Rick Moody, Haruki Murakami, George Pelecanos, Gary Shteyngart, and others take readers step by step through the alchemy of writing fiction, answering everything from nuts-and-bolts queries—“Do you outline?”—to questions posed by writers and readers alike: “What makes a character compelling?”

    ISBN: 
    9780805087147
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft

    by
    Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French
    Published in 2010
    by Longman

    Novelists Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French and essayist Ned Stuckey-French provide a guide for the novice story writer from first inspiration to final revision by providing practical writing techniques and concrete examples. The text also includes exercises to spur writing and creativity.

     

    ISBN: 
    9780205750344
  • The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot

    by
    Charles Baxter
    Published in 2007
    by Graywolf Press

    Fiction writer and essayist Charles Baxter’s The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot discusses and illustrates the hidden subtextual overtones and undertones in fictional works haunted by the unspoken, the suppressed, and the secreted. Using an array of examples from Melville and Dostoyevsky to contemporary writers Paula Fox, Edward P. Jones, and Lorrie Moore, Baxter explains how fiction writers create those visible and invisible details.

    ISBN: 
    9781555974732
  • World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down

    by
    Christian McEwen
    Published in 2011
    by Bauhan Publishing

    In World Enough and Time, Christian McEwen places emphasis on living simply and in the present moment. Drawing wisdom from writers ranging from Montaigne to Emerson, and from a long list of artists and scholars, McEwen praises the effects of slowing down on creativity and productivity.

     

     

    ISBN: 
    9780872331464
  • Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry

    by
    Stephen Dobyns
    Published in 2011
    by Palgrave Macmillan

    Author of Best Words, Best Order, Stephen Dobyns offers a helpful framework for creating poetry and navigates contemporary concerns and practices. Dobyns explores the complex relationship between writers and their work, and in the process, demystifies a subtle art form.

    ISBN: 
    9780230621820
  • The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces

    by
    Henry James
    Published in 2011
    by University of Chicago Press

    This collection of prefaces, originally written for the 1909 multi-volume New York Edition of Henry James’s fiction, first appeared in book form in 1934 with an introduction by poet and critic R. P. Blackmur. In his prefaces, James tackles the great problems of fiction writing—character, plot, point of view, inspiration—and explains how he came to write novels such asThe Portrait of a Lady and The American.

    ISBN: 
    9780226392059
  • The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story

    by
    Frank O'Connor
    Published in 2011
    by Melville House Publishing

    In The Lonely Voice Irish writer Frank O’Connor discusses the techniques and challenges of the short story form and considers his favorite writers (among them Chekhov, Hemingway, Kipling, and Joyce) and their greatest works.

    ISBN: 
    9781935554424
  • The Art of Description: World Into Word

    by
    Mark Doty
    Published in 2010
    by Graywolf Press

    In this book-length essay, poet Mark Doty writes about the art of articulating sensory experience. Looking at poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others, Doty considers the task of saying what you see, and the challenges of rendering experience through language.

    ISBN: 
    1555975631
  • The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry

    by
    Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
    Published in 1997
    by W.W. Norton & Company

    Poets Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux give guidance to aspiring beginners and those who are already published in brief essays on the elements of poetry and technique. Suggested subjects for writing are followed by writing exercises.

    ISBN: 
    0393316548
  • The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

    by
    Ted Kooser
    Published in 2005
    by University of Nebraska Press

    Former poet laureate of the United States Ted Kooser brings together tools, insights, and instructions on poetry and writing that poets—both aspiring and practicing—can use to hone their craft. Using examples from his own work and those from other contemporary poets, Kooser discusses the critical relationship between poet and reader.

    ISBN: 
    0803227698
  • The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes

    by
    Joan Silber
    Published in 2009
    by Graywolf Press

    The end point of a story determines its meaning, and one of the main tasks a writer faces is to define the duration of a plot. In this book-length essay, Joan Silber uses wide-ranging examples from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chinua Achebe, and Arundhati Roy, among others, to illustrate five key ways in which time unfolds in fiction. 

    ISBN: 
    1555975305
  • The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing

    by
    Richard Hugo
    Published in 2010
    by W.W. Norton & Company

    Poet and teacher Richard Hugo has brought together a series of lectures, essays, and reflections, all “directed toward helping with that silly, absurd, maddening, futile, enormously rewarding activity: writing poems.” The book includes pieces on how poets make a living and how to write “off the subject.”

    ISBN: 
    9780393338720
  • The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing

    by
    Alice LaPlante
    Published in 2010
    by W.W. Norton & Company

    The Making of a Story is an accessible guide to the basics of creative writing—both fiction and creative nonfiction. Its hands-on approach walks writers through each stage of the creative process, from the initial triggering idea to the revision of the final manuscript.

    ISBN: 
    0393337081

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