Best Books for Writers

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

  • The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life

    by
    Natalie Goldberg
    Published in 2016
    by Shambhala

    From the author of the quintessential writers handbook Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within—a thirtieth-anniversary edition of which was also published by Shambhala in February—comes a collection of twenty-two essays about what it takes to have a long writing life. The "great spring" of the title refers to "the great rush of energy that arrives when you think no life will ever come again." Drawing from decades of writing, teaching, and practicing Zen, Goldberg shares the experiences through which she found herself and her voice.

    ISBN: 
    9781611803167
  • The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story

    by
    Christopher Castellani
    Published in 2016
    by Graywolf Press

    "There is no more important decision the writer makes than who tells the story because, whoever that narrator is, he will compel us to tell it his way..." writes Christopher Castellani in the newest book in Graywolf's "Art of" series. The award-winning novelist and artistic director of GrubStreet examines and analyzes the ways in which writers such as E. M. Forster, Zoë Heller, Mustafa Sa'eed, and Virginia Woolf have effectively used and manipulated narrative point of view in their stories.

    ISBN: 
    9781555977269
  • On Poetry

    by
    Glyn Maxwell
    Published in 2013
    by Harvard University Press

    Less a digest on technique, form, or reading, poet Glyn Maxwell’s On Poetry is an extended, lyrical meditation on what makes poetry tick from within—think more organism than machine. As funny as it is surprising, the book moves through chapters with titles like “Pulse,” “Chime,” and “Space,” striking with simplicity and clarity at some of the fundamental elements of poetry’s greatness.

    ISBN: 
    9780674725669
  • A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors

    by
    Annie Liontas and Jeff Parker, editors
    Published in 2015
    by University of Massachusetts Press

    In this book, editors Annie Liontas and Jeff Parker collect over sixty personal essays written by contemporary authors on the mentors who have contributed significantly to their writing development. The selections, including Rodrigo Rey Rosa on Paul Bowles, Christine Schutt on Elizabeth Hardwick, and Henry Rollins on Hubert Selby Jr., provide insights into the complex relationships between writer and mentor, and act as a source of writing inspiration and guidance.

    ISBN: 
    9781625341822
  • Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature

    by
    Meredith Maran, editor
    Published in 2016
    by Plume

    In this book compiled by Meredith Maran, twenty contemporary writers including Nick Flynn, Sandra Tsing Loh, James McBride, and Cheryl Strayed, share thoughts and strategies on the process of crafting creative nonfiction. First-person accounts reveal each author's reasons for and individual approaches to the art of writing about the self.

    ISBN: 
    9780142181973
  • Because You Asked: A Book of Answers on the Art and Craft of the Writing Life

    by
    Katrina Roberts, editor
    Published in 2015
    by Lost Horse Press

    The product of fifteen years directing Whitman College's Visiting Writers Reading Series, Katrina Roberts has gathered into one anthology the wisdom shared by the authors who have joined the series. The volume collects tips and wisdom, confessions and secrets, and inspiration and prompts from over eighty poets, fiction writers, and memoirists.

    ISBN: 
    9780990819356
  • Rocket and Lightship: Essays on Literature and Ideas

    by
    Adam Kirsch
    Published in 2014
    by Norton

    In this collection of essays, literary critic and poet Adam Kirsch expounds on such wide-ranging subjects as Saul Bellow, Slavoj Žižek, Giacomo Leopardi, and Susan Sontag. The eponymous essay that anchors the collection manages to touch on writing, oblivion, and the fundamental contradictions of a literary life.

    ISBN: 
    9780393243468
  • The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing

    by
    Roy Peter Clark
    Published in 2016
    by Little, Brown

    Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute and the author of seventeen books on writing and journalism, examines the work of more than twenty-five writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Jackson, William Shakespeare, and Donna Tartt, to reveal the strategies and techniques deployed in examples of great literature. With lessons at the end of each chapter serving as insightful summaries of the methods explored in the text, The Art of X-Ray Reading demonstrates how in-depth reading can ultimately inform and transform the process of authoritative writing.

    ISBN: 
    9780316282178
  • We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers' Workshop

    by
    Eric Olsen and Glenn Schaeffer, editors
    Published in 2011
    by Skyhorse Publishing

    This compilation of interviews, essays, and anecdotes written by and about the students and teachers at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the 1970s is full of wise and entertaining bits of advice and inspiration. Authors ​such as T. C. Boyle, Sandra Cisneros, Allan Gurganus, and Joy Harjo share insights about the workshop community and personal stories about their publishing histories and writing habits.

    ISBN: 
    9781602397354
  • Writing

    by
    Marguerite Duras, translated by Mark Polizzotti
    Published in 2011
    by University of Minnesota Press

    In this volume of five personal essays by Marguerite Duras, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti, topics range from the death of a fly to a painter's exhibition. Duras explores the experiences that inspired her to write and shares her perspectives on the relationships between memory, writing, and solitude.

    ISBN: 
    9780816677535
  • If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit

    by
    Brenda Ueland
    Published in 2007
    by Graywolf Press

    "Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic, striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time." First published in 1938, Brenda Ueland's classic book is a guide for writers at all levels offering insight to the writing process and the artist's identity. Ueland encourages all to find their creative center and provides spirited advice on how to channel creativity during happy, idle time spent ruminating and imagining.

    ISBN: 
    9781555974718
  • Lectures on Russian Literature

    by
    Vladimir Nabokov
    Published in 2002
    by Mariner Books

    With an introduction by Fredson Bowers, Nabokov’s collection of discussions on Russian classics by such greats as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov are driven by a personal perspective. Speaking as an exile, Nabokov is especially dedicated to bringing to life the language and culture of the bygone Imperial Russia he once knew and loved.

    ISBN: 
    9780156027762
  • The Writer's Desk

    by
    Jill Krementz
    Published in 1996
    by Random House

    With an introduction by John Updike, The Writer's Desk showcases Jill Krementz's black-and-white portraits of over fifty well-known writers from the latter half of the twentieth century, such as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Pablo Neruda, Susan Sontag, and Kurt Vonnegut, at work on their craft. Emerging and established writers alike will be inspired and fascinated by the photos of the authors, which are accompanied by their own descriptions on individual creative routines and spaces.

    ISBN: 
    9780679450146
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

    by
    Elizabeth Gilbert
    Published in 2015
    by Riverhead Books

    The author of the best-selling memoir Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia (Viking, 2006) offers a transformative nonfiction treatise on creativity in which she explains where inspiration comes from, how ideas form and develop, and how to overcome the fear of pushing beyond one's comfort zone to create something new.

    ISBN: 
    9781594634710
  • Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction

    by
    Margot Singer and Nicole Walker, editors
    Published in 2013
    by Bloomsbury

    This anthology, which collects contemporary essays by writers such as Eula Biss, Wayne Koestenbaum, Lia Purpura, and David Shields, demonstrates the range and expansion of the creative nonfiction genre with a selection of exploratory pieces, all pushing the boundaries of form and expectation.

    ISBN: 
    9781441123299
  • The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination

    by
    Carl Phillips
    Published in 2014
    by Graywolf Press

    As part of Graywolf’s "Art of" series, award-winning poet Carl Phillips presents seven lyric essays about the importance of taking risks when making art. Through the examination of poems by Ashbery, Bogan, Frost, Niedecker, Shakespeare, and others, Phillips shows the ways in which poetry allows us to explore our humanity.

    ISBN: 
    9781555976811
  • What Poets Are Like: Up and Down With the Writing Life

    by
    Gary Soto
    Published in 2013
    by Sasquatch Books

    Gary Soto's memoir takes the form of over sixty short essays filled with insightful and humorous observations and wisdom gained from his experiences as a poet: giving readings, confronting award nominations and journal acceptances and rejections, and struggling daily with his craft. Soto reflects on both the role and status of the writer in society, and his personal trajectory as a poet.

    ISBN: 
    9781570618741
  • A Writer's Space: Make Room to Dream, to Work, to Write

    by
    Eric Maisel
    Published in 2008
    by Adams Media

    Eric Maisel draws upon his extensive experience as a creativity coach, psychotherapist, and author of over forty books to guide readers through the steps it takes to create the most inspiring and productive space—both physical and mental—for writing. Maisel's practical advice helps writers identify their creative impulses and transform their habits by implementing focus and an organized schedule to their writing lives.

    ISBN: 
    9781598694604
  • Always Apprentices: The Believer Presents Twenty-Two Conversations Between Writers

    by
    Sheila Heti, Ross Simonini, and Vendela Vida, editors
    Published in 2013
    by McSweeney's

    This volume collects twenty-two conversations from five years of interviews originally published in the Believer. The often irreverent exchanges between authors such as Don DeLillo with Bret Easton Ellis, Mary Gaitskill with Sheila Heti, and Joan Didion with Vendela Vida reveal insights into their personalities and experiences—both writing-related and not.

    ISBN: 
    9781938073250
  • Lectures on Literature

    by
    Vladimir Nabokov
    Published in 2002
    by Mariner Books

    In these trenchant and whimsical lectures, Nabokov taps into the craft behind such European classics as Madame Bovary, Bleak House, and Ulysses. With an introduction by John Updike, this collection includes lectures as valuable for their content as they are for their delivery.

    ISBN: 
    9780156027755
  • The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

    by
    Twyla Tharp
    Published in 2003
    by Simon & Schuster

    "I've learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns. That's why writers, for example, like to establish routines for themselves." Choreographer Twyla Tharp explains how creativity comes from the willingness to work hard and make it a habit. The book includes thirty-two practical exercises to inspire people across the creative spectrum to become more productive.

    ISBN: 
    9780743235273
  • Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

    by
    Jane Hirshfield
    Published in 2015
    by Knopf

    In the ten essays comprising this collection, Jane Hirshfield explores a wide range of elements that give poetry its transformative power. From examinations of work by poets including Bashō, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Czeslaw Miłosz, to investigations of paradox and surprise in poetry, Hirshfield demonstrates the ability of poetry to gift its readers with "new possibilities of perceiving."

    ISBN: 
    9780385351058
  • The Art of Memoir

    by
    Mary Karr
    Published in 2015
    by Harper

    The author of the memoirs The Liars’ Club (Viking, 1995), Cherry (Viking, 2000), and Lit (Harper, 2009) draws from decades of experience as a writer, reader, and teacher to spotlight this complex and powerful form of storytelling. “Memoir done right is an art, a made thing,” she writes in the preface. Including unique insights and examples of the author’s personal favorites in the genre, The Art of Memoir provides a humorously candid examination of the literary form Karr has influenced over the past twenty years.

    ISBN: 
    9780062223067
  • Creating Poetry

    by
    John Drury
    Published in 2006
    by Writer's Digest Books

    John Drury’s Creating Poetry is a straightforward, comprehensive guide to writing verse. In sections such as “Preparing,” “Sight,” “Movement,” and “Sources of Inspiration,” Drury walks readers through his taxonomy of poetry and process from inspiration to completion, with plenty of examples, prompts, and challenges along the way.

    ISBN: 
    1582974632
  • I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory

    by
    Patricia Hampl
    Published in 1999
    by Norton

    “A writer is, first and last, a reader." Patricia Hampl's collection of essays explores the depths of writing created from the most personal memories—in works by Anne Frank, Czeslaw Milosz, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, and others—and provides insightful reflections on her own writing life as a memoirist.

    ISBN: 
    9780393320312

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