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Best Books for Writers

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

by Travis Kurowski, Wayne Miller, and Kevin Prufer, editors

Published in 2016 by Milkweed Editions

Thirty-six years after Bill Henderson's The Art of Literary Publishing: Editors on Their Craft (Pushcart Press, 1980) shared the insights of some of the most successful editors of the last century, such as Maxwell Perkins, John Farrar, James Laughlin, and Theodore Solotaroff, this new anthology showcases an even wider range of perspectives on the current state of literary publishing, attempting to answer some of the questions raised by Henderson's classic volume. From industry veterans to digital mavericks, including agents, editors, authors, and reviewers such as Erin Belieu, Sven Birkerts, Jessa Crispin, Gerald Howard, Richard Nash, Chris Parris-Lamb, and Daniel Slager, the voices collected in Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century offer a discussion of the role of books, bookselling, and literary publishing for the future.

by Colm Tóibín

Published in 2015 by Princeton University Press

In this book, novelist Colm Tóibín's close readings chisel down Elizabeth Bishop’s almost monolithic masterpieces to their personal cores. Moreover, readers will see, poem to poem, how much Bishop’s gift for restraint and observation have impacted Tóibín’s writing. The result is not only a valuable study of a master poet, but a testament to how one writer can become a compass, and an engine, for another.

by Laraine Herring

Published in 2016 by Shambhala Publications

"Instead of reacting to the block, I encourage you to stop and look at it. Listen to it. Touch it. Find out what its gifts are, what it's offering you." Laraine Herring presents a new perspective of writer's block, sharing strategies for transforming the feeling of being stuck into an opportunity to challenge oneself. Herring encourages writers to take a closer look at the writing process, channel creative energy through meditation and breathing exercises, and provides innovative writing techniques and prompts.

by James Salter

Published in 2016 by University of Virginia Press

As the first Kapnick Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia​, James Salter delivered these three lectures just months before his passing: "The Art of Fiction," "Writing Novels," and "Life into Art." Now compiled in this book, readers will be inspired and heartened by ​Salter's candid thoughts on the inevitable rejection, criticism, and struggle with best practices that accompany the writer's life. Salter also shares the books and authors that informed him throughout the years, and his personal beliefs in the value of the written word.

by Leonard Koren

Published in 1994 by Stone Bridge Press

​"I have since come to believe that wabi-sabi is related to many of the more emphatic anti-aesthetics that invariably spring from the young, modern, creative soul: beat, punk, grunge, or whatever it's called next."​ ​In this book, artist and writer Leonard Koren introduces the concept of the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi​: the beauty of incomplete, imperfect, impermanent things​.​ ​Readers and writers interested in a new perspective on artistic practice will find inspiration in Koren's application of wabi-sabi to contemporary, Western approaches to the creative process, and the focus on transcending conventional ways of observation.

by Noah Lukeman

Published in 2000 by Touchstone

In The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, Noah Lukeman, president of Lukeman Literary Management Ltd., dispenses valuable advice concerning both the creative and practical challenges of writing. From how to strengthen the foundational elements of a narrative or sentence, to how to avoid common, but at times overlooked, mistakes that sink a manuscript into slush-pile oblivion, this is a comprehensive guide and reference for crafting a book that aims to rise to the top.

by Jacqueline Kolosov and Marcela Sulak, editors

Published in 2015 by Rose Metal Press

​This pioneering anthology provides a thorough examination of eight different hybrid genres in contemporary literature: epistolary, flash fiction, ​lyric essay, performative, pictures made of words, poetic memoir, prose poetry, and short-form nonfiction. Readers and writers new to or experienced with hybrid forms will appreciate the exploratory scope of craft essays and exemplary work by forty-three authors including Jenny Boully, Terrance Hayes, Takashi Hiraide, Etgar Keret, and Maggie Nelson.

by Brian Kiteley

Published in 2005 by Writer's Digest Books

​In this compendium of writing prompts Brian Kiteley, former director of the University of Denver's creative writing program, shares over two hundred exercises to explore the craft of fiction, find new avenues of inspiration, and be more productive. Kiteley encourages an approach to writing that imposes creative restrictions while ultimately invigorating and liberating the imagination.

by William Stafford

by University of Michigan Press

In this classic 1978 book of essays in the University of Michigan Press's Poets on Poetry series, William Stafford explores the craft of writing as a process of discovery, and encourages writers to think deeply and to keep an open mind. Readers will be inspired by Stafford's clear and direct approach to being patient and welcoming of new ideas and creative modes.

by C. D. Wright

Published in 2016 by Copper Canyon Press

In this blend of prose poem and lyric essay, the late poet C. D. Wright engages with a range of subjects including Jean Valentine, Robert Creeley, the world within words, and Walmart. The book is a chance to experience one of our most unique poetic thinkers in action, arguing on behalf of poetry’s persistence while enacting her own gifts passage by passage.

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