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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 Sean Prentiss and Joe Wilkins, editors

Published in 2014 by Michigan State University Press

For this collection of more than a dozen essays on creative nonfiction, editors Sean Prentiss and Joe Wilkins requested a wide range of contributing writers, including Joy Castro, Brenda Miller, and Dinty W. Moore, to explore their own questions about the definitions and boundaries of the genre. Beginning and experienced writers, as well as those simply curious to learn more about these writers' perspectives, will find inspiring new ways to challenge and deepen their understanding of the art of personal essay and memoir.

by Rod Judkins

Published in 2016 by TarcherPerigee

In short sections filled with lively anecdotes, examples, and quotes, Rod Judkins cites the common misconceptions and detours that surround creativity. The book explores the habits and insights of artists including Miles Davis, Yo-Yo Ma, Georgia O'Keeffe, Oscar Wilde, and Frank Lloyd Wright, to demonstrate the variety of ways in which creative thinkers can mold their lives to suit their work.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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