Best Books for Writers

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

  • Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

    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.

    ISBN: 
    9780981484600
  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

    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.

    ISBN: 
    9780684857435
  • Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of Eight Hybrid Literary Genres

    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.

    ISBN: 
    9781941628027
  • The 3 AM Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction

    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.

    ISBN: 
    9781582973517
  • Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer's Vocation

    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.

    ISBN: 
    9780472873005
  • The Poet, The Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All

    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.

    ISBN: 
    1556594852
  • The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: An Anthology of Explorations in Creative Nonfiction

    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.

    ISBN: 
    9781611861211
  • The Art of Creative Thinking: 89 Ways to See Things Differently

    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.

    ISBN: 
    9780399176838
  • 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

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