Best Books for Writers

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

  • Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

    by
    Dani Shapiro
    Published in 2013
    by Atlantic Monthly Press

    In Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro offers wisdom, insights, and practical lessons drawn from her twenty-year journey as a writer and teacher. "Everything I know about life, I learned from the daily practice of sitting down to write." The book is a blend of personal stories, tales from other authors, and an examination of her own writing process.

    ISBN: 
    9780802121400
  • Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters

    by
    Robert Pinsky
    Published in 2013
    by W. W. Norton

    According to poet and editor Robert Pinsky, one learns to write poetry by first learning to read it. Divided into four sections—Freedom, Listening, Form, and Dreaming Things Up—Pinsky presents his mentors' work in Singing School to encourage the reader to take a practical approach, with informed pleasure and sharp interest in the craft.

    ISBN: 
    978033348972
  • About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews

    by
    Samuel R. Delany
    Published in 2006
    by Wesleyan University Press

    Samuel R. Delany's book About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews examines the condition of the contemporary creative writer. The award-winning novelist and Grand Master of Science Fiction also offers tips on specifics such as when to use flashbacks, along with advice on employing general elements of structure and style.

    ISBN: 
    9780819567161
  • The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

    by
    John Gardner
    Published in 1991
    by Vintage

    The Art of Fiction is a practical, instructive handbook based on novelist John Gardner's seminars on the principles and techniques of good writing. Gardner employs detailed examples from classic works of literature and covers a range of topics—from the nature of aesthetics to the shape of a refined sentence.

    ISBN: 
    9780679734031
  • Writing Wild

    by
    Tina Welling
    Published in 2014
    by New World Library

    In Writing Wild, Tina Welling details a three-step "Spirit Walk" process for inviting nature to enliven and inspire our creativity. Welling suggests we form a creative parntnership with nature, because "everything we know about creating we know intuitively from the natural world."

    ISBN: 
    9781608682887
  • Why I Write

    by
    George Orwell
    Published in 2005
    by Penguin Great Ideas

    This compilation of essays by George Orwell features the titular essay "Why I Write," originally published in the Summer 1946 edition of Gangrel, which offers a mini-autobiography detailing how he became a full-fledged writer. Orwell then goes on to highlight the "four great motives for writing," which he claims exist in every writer. Two other essays by Orwell are also included in the volume, "The Lion and the Unicorn" and "Politics and the English Language," as well as the short story "A Hanging."

    ISBN: 
    9780143036357
  • On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

    by
    William Zinsser
    Published in 2006
    by Harper Perennial

    First published in 1976, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction offers readers fundamental principles on writing across all subjects, as well as insights on craft, style, and process from distinguished writer and teacher William Zinsser.

    ISBN: 
    9780060891541
  • Make Good Art

    by
    Neil Gaiman
    Published in 2013
    by William Morrow

    Bestselling author Neil Gaiman's graduation speech to Philidelphia's University of the Arts class of 2012 encourages young artists, writers, musicians, and dreamers to "make good art." The book is designed by graphic artist Chip Kidd and contains the full text of Gaiman's famous speech.

    ISBN: 
    9780062266767
  • To The Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing

    by
    Robert Hartwell Fiske
    Published in 2014
    by W. W. Norton

    In To The Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing, Robert Hartwell Fiske suggests how to identify and correct wordiness, and provides alternative expressions with real-world examples to help keep your writing clear and convincing.

    ISBN: 
    9780393347173
  • First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process

    by
    Robert D. Richardson
    Published in 2009
    by University of Iowa Press

    Ralph Waldo Emerson's exuberant and unconventional advice to writers grew from personal experience. In First We Read, Then We Write, Robert D. Richardson focuses and distills Emerson's advice by providing biographical and historical context.

    ISBN: 
    9781587297939
  • The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

    by
    June Casagrande
    Published in 2014
    by Ten Speed Press

    The Best Punctuation Book, Period is an all-in-one reference from grammar columnist June Casagrande that covers the basic rules along with the finer rules of punctuation. Casagrande offers clear answers to perplexing questions; a guide to show how punctuation rules differ for book, news, academic, and science styles; and rulings from an expert "Punctuation Panel."

    ISBN: 
    9781607744931
  • The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery

    by
    Sarah Lewis
    Published in 2014
    by Simon & Schuster

    In Sarah Lewis's own words, The Rise "is about the advantages that come from the improbable ground of creative failure." In her "biography of an idea," Lewis riddles out the gift of failure using narratives of historical figures ranging from writers to entrepreneurs. Lewis writes about the creative failures of Frederick Douglass, Samuel F. B. Morse, and J. K. Rowling, along with those of choreographer Paul Taylor, Nobel Prize–winning physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, Arctic explorer Ben Saunders, and psychology professor Angela Duckworth.

    ISBN: 
    9781451629231
  • This Art: Poems About Poetry

    by
    Michael Wiegers
    Published in 2003
    by Copper Canyon Press

    In more than one hundred poems, sixty poets from around the world, including Hayden Carruth, W. S. Merwin, Pablo Neruda, Carolyn Kizer, and Jim Harrison, explore the nature and function of poetry.

    ISBN: 
    155651845
  • Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry

    by
    Stephen Corey and Warren Slesinger
    Published in 2001
    by The Bench Press

    The editors of twenty literary magazines discuss the philosophy and practice of selecting poems.

    ISBN: 
    0930769155
  • Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse

    by
    John Hollander
    Published in 2001
    by Yale University Press

    Poet and critic John Hollander surveys the schemes, patterns, and forms of English verse, illustrating each variation with an original and witty, self-descriptive example.

    ISBN: 
    0300088329
  • The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated): An Editor's Advice to Writers

    by
    Betsy Lerner
    Published in 2010
    by Riverhead Books

    Originally published in 2000, this updated guide includes information about electronic etiquette, book promotion via social media platforms, and the current publishing economy. Lerner, who began her career as an editor, is a partner in the Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Agency in New York City.

    ISBN: 
    159448483X
  • On Teaching and Writing Fiction

    by
    Wallace Stegner
    Published in 2002
    by Penguin

    Editor Lynn Stegner brings together eight of Wallace Stegner's previously uncollected essays on writing fiction and teaching creative writing. Stegner addresses every aspect of fiction writing, from the writer's vision to his or her audience, from the use of symbolism to swear words, from the mystery of the creative process to the recognizable truth it seeks finally to reveal.

    ISBN: 
    0142001473
  • The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide

    by
    Robert Pinsky
    Published in 1999
    by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    "Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art," Robert Pinsky declares in The Sounds of Poetry. "The medium of poetry is the human body: the column of air inside the chest, shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is as physical or bodily an art as dancing." In this book, the former poet laureate explains how poets use the "technology" of poetry (its sounds) to create works of art that are "performed" in us when we read them aloud.

    ISBN: 
    0374526176
  • Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within

    by
    Kim Addonizio
    Published in 2009
    by W. W. Norton

    "Poetry is not a means to an end," Addonizio maintains, "but a continuing engagement with being alive." Her generous guide is for beginners and experienced poets, for groups and in the classroom—indeed for anyone eager to glimpse the angel of poetry.

    ISBN: 
    0393334163
  • Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir

    by
    William Zinsser
    Published in 1998
    by Mariner Books

    Anyone undertaking the project of writing a memoir knows that the events, memories, and emotions of the past often resist the orderly structure of a book. Inventing the Truth offers wisdom from nine notable memoirists about their process (Ian Frazier searched through generations of family papers to understand his parents' lives), the hurdles they faced (Annie Dillard tackles the central dilemma of memoir: what to put in and what to leave out), and the unexpected joys of bringing their pasts to the page.

    ISBN: 
    0395901502
  • Aspects of the Novel

    by
    E. M. Forster
    Published in 1956
    by Mariner Books

    In Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster delves into the seven elements essential to a novel: story, people, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm.

    ISBN: 
    9780156091800
  • Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse

    by
    Mary Oliver
    Published in 1998
    by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    "True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, / As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance," wrote Alexander Pope. "The dance," in the case of Oliver's brief and luminous book, refers to the interwoven pleasures of sound and sense to be found in some of the most celebrated and beautiful poems in the English language, from Shakespeare to Edna St. Vincent Millay to Robert Frost. With a poet's ear and a poet's grace of expression, Oliver shows what makes a metrical poem work, and enables readers, as only she can, to "enter the thudding deeps and the rippling shallows of sound-pleasure and rhythm-pleasure that intensify both the poem's narrative and its ideas."

    ISBN: 
    9780395850862

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