Best Books for Writers

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

  • 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
  • The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV

    by
    David Corbett
    Published in 2013
    by Penguin

    New York Times notable author David Corbett offers a unique and indispensable toolkit for creating characters that come vividly to life on the page and linger in memory. Corbett delves into the human heart of characterization, showing beginning and advanced writers how to plumb the rich source materials of their own lives and the world around them to fashion credible, compelling characters.

    ISBN: 
    9780143121572
  • From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction

    by
    Robert Olen Butler
    Published in 2006
    by Grove Press

    Based on a series of his lectures, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler provides in-depth guidance about how to fully develop one's fiction. Butler's advice stems from his belief that "art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where we dream." 

    ISBN: 
    9780802142573
  • On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

    by
    William Zinsser
    Published in 2006
    by HarperCollins

    Writer, editor, and teacher William Zinsser offers straightforward advice to the beginning writer about the principles of what makes strong nonfiction. Topics include style, voice, audience, and structure, and Zinsser breaks down the art of the interview, the travel essay, and the memoir.

    ISBN: 
    9780060891541
  • Negotiating With the Dead: A Writer on Writing

    by
    Margaret Atwood
    Published in 2002
    by Cambridge University Press

    Based on a series of lectures Canadian author Margaret Atwood delivered at the University of Cambridge in 2000, this book comprises six essays that explore the role of the writer—especially the woman writer—in society. Atwood is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction and is best known for her novels. Her many literary accolades include the Governor General's Award in 1985 for her novel The Handmaid's Tale (McClelland and Stewart) and the Man Booker Prize in 2000 for her novel The Blind Assassin (McClelland and Stewart). 

    ISBN: 
    9780521662604
  • Poets on Place: Interviews and Tales From the Road

    by
    W. T. Pfefferle
    Published in 2005
    by Utah State University Press

    Poet W. T. Pfefferle take a roadtrip across the United States to interview America's poets about how they relate to where they live and how it informs their poetry. The interviews, some of which originally appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, feature poets such as Marvin Bell, Lucy Brock-Broido, Rita Dove, Linda Gregerson, Carol Muske-Dukes, Paisley Rekdal, Alberto Rios, Mark Strand, Karen Volkman, and more.

    ISBN: 
    9780874215977
  • The Best American Essays 2012

    by
    Robert Atwan, editor
    Published in 2012
    by Mariner Books

    Edited by Robert Atwan, with an introduction by David Brooks, this collection continues the series launched in 1986. It includes essays by writers such as Jonathan Franzen, Malcolm Gladwell, Sandra Tsing Loh, Francine Prose, and Wesley Yang.

    ISBN: 
    90547840093
  • The Writing of Fiction

    by
    Edith Wharton
    Published in 1997
    by Scribner

    Edith Wharton, author of The Age of Innocence and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, offers an analysis of modern fiction, plus a wealth of guidance on developing form and style, structuring both short stories and novels, and the importance of character and situation in fiction. 

    ISBN: 
    9780684845319
  • In Praise of Reading and Fiction

    by
    Mario Vargas Llosa
    Published in 2011
    by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    Translated by Edith Grossman, In Praise of Reading and Fiction is Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa's lecture delivered after he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010. Llosa argues for the necessity of literature in our lives today. As he puts it, "literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression."

    ISBN: 
    9780374175757
  • The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry

    by
    Harold Bloom
    Published in 1997
    by Oxford University Press

    Originally published in 1973, this seminal text, written by scholar and critic Harold Bloom, explores the relationship between individual artists and those who came before them. Bloom argues that all literary texts are a strong misreading of those that precede them. 

    ISBN: 
    0195112210
  • The Writer's Notebook II: Craft Essays From Tin House

    by
    Tin House authors
    Published in 2012
    by Tin House Books

    A follow-up to The Writer's Notebook, published in 2009, this collection includes essays based on workshop lectures from Tin House's annual Summer Writers Workshop, plus freshly commissioned pieces that together guide writers on the craft of writing fiction. Contributors include Steve Almond, Andrea Barrett, Christopher R. Beha, Aimee Bender, Adam Breaver, Anthony Doerr, Ann Hood, Bret Anthony Johnston, Jim Krusoe, Antonya Nelson, Maggie Nelson, Benjamin Percy, Karen Russell, Elissa Schappell, and Mary Szybist, with an introduction by Francine Prose. 

    ISBN: 
    9781935639466
  • Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry

    by
    Louise Gluck
    Published in 1994
    by Ecco Press

    Winner of the 1993 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, Proofs and Theories is a compilation of essays on the work of other poets, as well as reflections on the art. Author Louise Gluck is a former U.S. poet laureate who has written numerous poetry collections, including the The Wild Iris, which received the Pulitzer Prize.

    ISBN: 
    0880013699
  • Writers on Writing

    by
    The New York Times, editor
    Published in 2002
    by Times Books

    With an introduction by John Darnton, Writers on Writing: Collected Essays From The New York Times features contributions from more than forty authors, including André Aciman, Russell Banks, Richard Ford, Kent Haruf,Alice Hoffman, Jamaica Kincaid, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Miller, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Alice Walker, and Elie Wiesel, who share what inspires them to keep at it.

    ISBN: 
    0805070850
  • The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets

    by
    Dominic Luxford, editor
    Published in 2007
    by McSweeney's Books

    In this collection from McSweeney’s Books editor Dominic Luxford chose ten poems from ten different poets, and then asked each of them to contribute an additional poem of his or her own, plus a poem from another poet. That new poet was then asked to do the same. As Luxford writes in the introduction, “The result: ten chains, five poets per chain, two poems per poet—one almighty collection of verse.” With poems by authors such as Elizabeth Alexander, Tina Chang, Mark Doty, Heidi Johannesen Poon, Mary Ruefle, C. D. Wright, and Dean Young, the collaboration offers poetry by a range of older, more accomplished poets as well as by poets at the beginning of their careers and allows readers to discover what each writer values most in both his or her own work and the work of others.

    ISBN: 
    9781932416817

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