Best Books for Writers

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

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

    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.

  • Life Work

    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.

  • Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

    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. 

  • A Poet's Guide to Poetry

    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. 

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

    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.

  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

    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. 

  • The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics

    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.”

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

    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.


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

    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.

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

    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.


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

    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.

  • Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft

    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.