Best Books for Writers

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

  • The Novelist’s Lexicon: Writers On the Words That Define Their Work

    by
    Vila Gillet
    Published in 2011
    by Columbia University Press

    Renowned contemporary authors—including Rick Moody, Etgar Keret, Colum McCann, and Annie Proulx— select and write about a specific word that is meaningful to them. Their essays reveal to the reader the author’s inner-thoughts and quirky musings.  

    ISBN: 
    9780231150804
  • The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song

    by
    Ellen Bryant Voigt
    Published in 2009
    by Graywolf Press

    The author examines the structure of successful poems written by reputable authors and stresses syntax as one of the most important means for composing rhythmic works.

    ISBN: 
    9781555975319
  • Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir

    by
    Sue William Silverman
    Published in 2009
    by University of Georgia Press

    In this resource for writers, Silverman focuses on honing one’s personal story and voice in order to write a truthful, captivating memoir. Silverman also explores effective ways of marketing and publishing one’s “confessional,” as well.

    ISBN: 
    9780820331669
  • Poetry In Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversation With America’s Poets

    by
    Alexander Neubauer
    Published in 2010
    by Knopf

    The author compiles interviews between Pearl London (daughter of M. Lincoln Schuster) and prominent poets including Derek Walcott, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, Louise Gluck, and Charles Simic. The poets gave writing seminars to students at the New School from from 1973 to 1996.

    ISBN: 
    9780307269676
  • Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction

    by
    Lee Gutkind, editor
    Published in 2008
    by W. W. Norton

    The author provides practical ideas and techniques for writing truthful, absorbing, and factual memoirs. This guidebook is broken down into handy sections such as “Family Members as Characters,” “Fact-Checking,” “Reconstruction of Events,” and “Writer’s Responsibilities to Subjects.”

    ISBN: 
    9780393330984
  • Novel Ideas: Contemporary Authors Share the Creative Process

    by
    Barbara Shoup and Margaret-Love-Denman
    Published in 2009
    by The University of Georgia Press

    Shoup and Denman explore how to write a novel and focus on the elements of fiction and the process of revision. The authors also interview successful novelists in order to provide readers with further insight into crafting their own stories.

    ISBN: 
    9780820332796
  • Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry

    by
    Dennis O'Driscoll, editor
    Published in 2008
    by Copper Canyon Press

    O’Driscoll collects hundreds of inspirational and thought-provoking quotations about poetry, spanning topics such as “Poetry in Motion,” “Poetic Drive,” and “Call Yourself a Poet,” from prominent authors.

    ISBN: 
    9781556592706
  • Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing

    by
    Constance Hale
    Published in 2012
    by W. W. Norton

    The author of Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose (Broadway Books, 1999) explores syntax, grammar, and powerful ways of utilizing verbs to write more compelling, effecive prose.

    ISBN: 
    9780393081169
  • 642 Things to Write About: A Journal

    by
    The San Francisco Writers' Grotto
    Published in 2011
    by Chronicle Books

    Get your creative juices flowing with this collection of witty, outrageous, and thought-provoking writing prompts compiled by thirty-five members of the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, a workspace for professional writers.

    ISBN: 
    9781452105444
  • An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery

    by
    Janna Malamud Smith
    Published in 2012
    by Counterpoint Press

    The author uses stories of artists' lives, personal anecdotes, and insights from the author's work as a psychotherapist to examine the psychological obstacles that prevent people, including poets and writers, from staying with, and relishing, the process of art-making.

    ISBN: 
    9781619020047
  • Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories

    by
    Maria Mazziotti Gillan
    Published in 2013
    by MiroLand Publishers

    The author, a widely published poet and the executive director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, New Jersey, combines her own personal story as a writer with suggestions for writers at all stages of development.

    ISBN: 
    9781550717471
  • In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction

    by
    Lee Gutkind, editor
    Published in 2004
    by W. W. Norton

    This collection of work previously published in the literary journal that helped define a genre includes writing by Diane Ackerman, Phillip Lopate, John McPhee, Richard Rodriguez, Floyd Skloot, John Edgar Wideman, and Terry Tempest Williams.

    ISBN: 
    9780393326659
  • The Art of Styling Sentences

    by
    Ann Longknife and K. D. Sullivan
    Published in 2012
    by Barron's Educational Series

    The new edition of this reference book for students, writers, and educators reviews the fundamentals of correct sentence structure, then presents twenty basic sentence patterns that encompass virtually every effective way in which simple, compound, and complex sentences can be structured.

    ISBN: 
    9780764147838
  • Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure

    by
    Jesse Lee Kercheval
    Published in 2003
    by University of Wisconsin Press

    In this resource for fiction writers, short story and novelist Jesse Lee Kercheval equates structuring fiction with building a house. Kercheval offers advice on generating story ideas, developing characters, and revision. Each chapter is accompanied by writing exercises as well.

    ISBN: 
    9780299187248
  • Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

    by
    Mason Currey, editor
    Published in 2013
    by Knopf

    By presenting the habits and routines of various artists—including writers such as Maya Angelou, W. H. Auden, Jane Austen, Ann Beattie, Simone de Beauvoir, Patricia Highsmith, Arthur Miller, Gertrude Stein, Philip Roth, and Voltaire—Mason Currey aims to show, as he writes in his introduction, "how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one's working habits influence the work itself, and vice versa."

    ISBN: 
    9780307273604
  • After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography

    by
    Kate Sontag and David Graham, editors
    Published in 2001
    by Graywolf Press

    In this collection of twenty-eight essays, poets such as Frank Bidart, Marilyn Chin, Billy Collins, Louise Glück, Kimiko Hahn, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Sharon Olds explore the autobiographical impulse in poetry. As Library Journal writes: "Each weighs in on a different area of the discussion, but all are evocative and engaging. One quickly discovers that the confessional poem's legacy extends further than the expected Plath, Sexton, and Lowell. Sappho, Shakespeare's elusive figures, Milton's daughters, and Mary Wordsworth are as likely to be evoked by these writers, as they demonstrate how poetic voice spans an infinite variety of combinations." 

    ISBN: 
    9781555973551
  • The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life With Language

    by
    Natalie Goldberg
    Published in 2013
    by Atria Books

    Author of the classic Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg offers another writing guide based on her forty years of teaching small, intensive workshops at a remote center in the rural Southwest. In chapters with titles such as "Why Silence?," "Meditation (Sitting)," "Seven Attitudes of Mindfulness," and "Six-Word Memoir," Goldberg shares her insights about finding truth and clarity on the way to establishing a literary life.

    ISBN: 
    9781451641240
  • The Virtues of Poetry

    by
    James Logenbach
    Published in 2013
    by Graywolf Press

    Written by poet and critic James Logenbach, this collection of twelve essays explores various ways that poetry at its most successful delivers meaning. Longenbach uses as examples poems by Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Keats, Dickinson, Yeats, Pound, Bishop, and Ashbery, among other greats.  

    ISBN: 
    9781555976378
  • The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders

    by
    Brian Turner, Jared Hawkley, and Susan Rich, editors
    Published in 2013
    by McSweeney’s Books

    An anthology of essays by poets such as Kazim Ali, Elizabeth Bishop, Naomi Shihab Nye, Nick Flynn, Yusef Komunyakaa, Claudia Rankine, and Alissa Valles whose travels have informed their writing. The book also includes practical resources for finding work abroad, applying for fellowships and residencies, funding a trip, obtaining proper travel documents, and attending to other cultural considerations.

    ISBN: 
    9781938073267

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