Best Books for Writers

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

  • 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
  • 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

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