Best Books for Writers

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

  • The Writing Life

    by
    Annie Dillard
    Published in 1990
    by HarperPerennial

    In The Writing Life, Pulizer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard gives insight into her own writing process and what it means to write. In a series of short, personal essays, she details the solitude and challenges faced by an individual who devotes her life to words. 

    ISBN: 
    0060919884
  • The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction

    by
    Robert Boswell
    Published in 2010
    by Graywolf Press

    The Half-Known World is a collection of essays by writing instructor and author Robert Boswell on craft issues facing literary writers. Boswell details how important it is for writers to give themselves over to what he calls the “half-known world” of fiction, where surprise and meaning converge.

    ISBN: 
    1555975046
  • The Poem's Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody

    by
    Alfred Corn
    Published in 2008
    by Copper Canyon Press

    Poet and educator Alfred Corn presents a guide to the art and science of poetic meter—the very foundation of writing (and reading) poetry. In ten progressive chapters, Corn covers everything from metrical variation and phonic echo to the basics of line and stanza.

    ISBN: 
    1556592817
  • On Becoming a Novelist

    by
    John Gardner
    Published in 1999
    by W.W. Norton & Company

    On Becoming a Novelist contains the wisdom accumulated during John Gardner's twenty-year career as a fiction writer and creative writing teacher. Gardner describes the life of a working novelist; warns what needs to be guarded against, both from within the writer and from without; and predicts what the writer can reasonably expect and what, in general, he or she cannot.

    ISBN: 
    9780393320039
  • A Writer's Workbook: Daily Exercises for the Writing Life

    by
    Caroline Sharp
    Published in 2002
    by St. Martin’s Griffin

    With a foreword by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, A Writer’s Workbook is a collection of thirty-two unique writing exercises that offer encouragement and guidance for generating ideas to anyone who writes.

    ISBN: 
    9780312286217
  • The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life

    by
    Priscilla Long
    Published in 2010
    by Wallingford Press

    Suitable for both beginning and advanced writers of fiction and nonfiction, The Writer's Portable Mentor brings together 20 years of teaching and creative thought by author Priscilla Long. The book helps writers understand and incorporate the regular practices of virtuoso creators; provides a guide to structuring literary, journalistic, or fictional pieces or entire books; opens the door to the sentence strategies of the masters; provides tools for developing a poet's ear for use in prose; trains writers in the observation skills of visual artists; and guides them toward more effective approaches to getting their work into the world.

    ISBN: 
    9780984242108
  • Views From the Loft: A Portable Writer's Workshop

    by
    Daniel Slager, editor
    Published in 2010
    by Milkweed Editions

    Founded nearly four decades ago by a group of young writers, the Loft has become the nation's largest independent literary center. Views From the Loft brings together the collected wisdom of the Loft community—its authors, students, and editors—on the subject of writing and craft. Chapters are divided into sections on writing, teaching, critiquing, and publication.

    ISBN: 
    9781571313232
  • Life Work

    by
    Donald Hall
    Published in 2003
    by Beacon Press

    Distinguished poet Donald Hall reflects on the meaning of work, solitude, and love in this memoir about the writing life.

    ISBN: 
    9780807071335
  • Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

    by
    Charles Baxter
    Published in 1998
    by Graywolf Press

    In this Burning Down the House, author and educator Charles Baxter offers several essays that examine the many forces currently shaping contemporary American fiction. 

    ISBN: 
    1555975081
  • A Poet's Guide to Poetry

    by
    Mary Kinzie
    Published in 1999
    by University of Chicago Press

    A Poet's Guide to Poetry brings Mary Kinzie's expertise as poet, critic, and director of the creative writing program at Northwestern University to bear in a comprehensive reference work. Detailing the formal concepts of poetry and methods of poetic analysis, she shows how the craft of writing can guide the art of reading poems. Using examples from the major traditions of lyric and meditative poetry in English from the medieval period to the present, Kinzie considers the sounds and rhythms of poetry along with the ideas and thought-units within poems. 

    ISBN: 
    0226437396
  • Lit From Within: Contemporary Masters on the Art and Craft of Writing

    by
    Kevin Haworth and Dinty W. Moore, editors
    Published in 2011
    by Ohio University Press

    Lit from Within offers creative writers a window into the minds of a wide variety of poets, novelists, and nonfiction writers. From Billy Collins to Maggie Nelson to Robin Hemley, the collection presents thought-provoking pieces on issues of craft and the elements of the writing life.

    ISBN: 
    9780821419489
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

    by
    Natalie Goldberg
    Published in 1986
    by Shambhala Publications

    In Writing Down the Bones, painter and writing instructor Natalie Goldberg gives clear, accessible writing advice that approaches the art of writing as spiritual practice. 

    ISBN: 
    0877733759
  • The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics

    by
    Lewis Turco
    Published in 2000
    by University Press of New England

    A standard in the field of poetics and prosodics, The Book of Forms serves as a reference guide on the forms of poetry, from Middle Ages to the present. The book is divided into “The Elements of Poetry,” the “Form-Finder Index,” and “Traditional Verse Forms.”

    ISBN: 
    1584650419
  • The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

    by
    John Gardner
    Published in 1991
    by Vintage

    The late novelist John Gardener offers in this classic practical, instructive advice based on the courses and seminars that he gave during his years as a teacher. The book details the principles and techniques of good writing, from general aesthetic rules to common errors.

     

    ISBN: 
    0679734031
  • Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months

    by
    John Dufresne
    Published in 2011
    by W.W. Norton & Company

    Novelist John Dufresne writes a practical guide for aspiring novelists that touches on the history of the novel, along with organizing principles of the form, and advice on how to move forward, think, and observe. Chapters are divided by weeks to form the course of a six-month program.

    ISBN: 
    0393338835
  • A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry

    by
    Mary Oliver
    Published in 1994
    by Mariner Books

    Poet Mary Oliver tells of the basic ways a poem is built, including meter and rhyme, form and diction, sound and sense. Drawing on poems from Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and others, Oliver gives clear instruction on how to approach poetry.

     

    ISBN: 
    0156724006
  • The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays From Tin House

    by
    Dorothy Allison, Steve Almond, Rick Bass, Susan Bell, Aimee Bender, Kate Bernheimer, Lucy Corin, Tom Grimes, Matthea Harvey, and more
    Published in 2009
    by Tin House Books

    The Writer's Notebook compiles the best craft seminars in the history of the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, along with a variety of craft essays from some of Tin House's favorite writers. With how-tos, close readings, and personal anecdotes, The Writer's Notebook offers aspiring writers advice and inspiration to hone their own craft.

    ISBN: 
    0979419816
  • Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft

    by
    Janet Burroway
    Published in 2010
    by Longman

    Imaginative Writing:  The Elements of Craft explores the craft of creative writing in four genres:  fiction, poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction.  A trade author as well as a professor of creative writing, Burroway brings her years of teaching and writing to this book.  "Try-This" exercises appear throughout each chapter. 

    ISBN: 
    9780205750351

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