#2 – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird is a must-have for any writer’s kit. In this book, Anne Lamott packs in everything from the trials and tribulations to being a writer while dealing with the many perils of her personal life from addiction to parenting.
Make no mistake, Bird by Bird is the real deal as Ann writes with a mix of memoir spliced together with invaluable lessons she has learned on the writer’s journey. Ann Lamott will help you with your writing as you work through that crappy first draft to getting closer to publication.
About Anne Lamott
#3 – How to Write Best Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz
How to Write Best Selling Fiction by multiple NY Times Bestselling author Dean Koontz is considered a classic resource for many fiction authors. However, the book was published back in 1981 and has been out of print for over 3 decades, making it a unique collector’s gem for authors.
In fact, to buy this book at the current price through third party retailers will cost you over $500.00. If you are lucky enough to find this in a used bookstore, don’t hesitate…buy it!
Considered to be one of the best books on writing fiction, it tells would-be novelists about the fiction market, offers advice on grammar, writing style, character development, and plot, and explains how to deal with agents and editors.
About Dean Koontz
Dean Koontz has been writing fiction for as long as anyone can remember, and is the author of over 80+ books, often writing under pseudonyms and has been compared to the likes of Stephen King. Dean Koontz is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of many titles including Watchers, Odd Thomas, and the The Whispering Room.
Write On: 27 of the Best Books on Writing
W riting is, as a general rule, hard. Defining yourself as a writer can be even harder. Sure, there are other difficult practices like law and medicine out there, but a person becomes a lawyer or a doctor when he or she passes a series of exams and graduates from a certain school. Writing doesn’t always work that way. There aren’t tests to study for and facts to memorize. Where are we supposed to learn how to write?
From grammar rules to publishing advice to personal narratives, the books below on writing reveal in intimate detail the ins and outs of what it means to call yourself a writer. Sometimes harsh, sometimes funny, but always honest, they can be thought of as a kind of syllabus for writing. Whether you’re an aspiring artist working on your first drafts or a seasoned veteran in the publishing world, these are some of the best books on writing with insight and wisdom that can support you throughout every stage of your writing process.
For both established and prospective authors alike, the publishing house can seem like a jungle. Luckily, Betsy Lerner is here to lead a safari, citing her vast collection of experiences as an editor as her field guide. The Forest for the Trees motivates writers by helping them get over their fear of the unknown. It’s less about taming the wilderness and more about facing the demons of self-doubt and sloth that live in every person’s own mind.
William Strunk and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style is so widely known that we’re sure you already have a copy, but of course we had to mention it. The only style guide to ever appear on a bestseller list, this book should be your go-to if your writing is in need of an infusion of clarity. Plus, this particular edition is illustrated by Maira Kalman, adding a visual element of style to the classic.
Larry Books turns a technical eye to the writing process in Story Engineering. If you don’t properly plan out your story prior to setting pen to paper, he argues, your storytelling won’t be as effective as you’d like it to be. To remedy this, he takes readers through six core elements of storytelling: concept, character, theme, story structure, scene construction, and voice.
Adair Lara’s Naked, Drunk, and Writing is a must-read for any memoirist or personal essayist. With experience as a teacher, editor, and, of course, writer, Lara’s know-how will help readers through problems like how to face your family after they’ve read your work and how to find an agent who will fight for you. The perfect mix of tough love, comic relief, and passion, Lara’s book is invaluable for anyone who needs a little help telling their story.
James N. Frey’s overarching guide will be of use to both the novice and the seasoned, published writer. He provides advice for how to overcome writer’s block and fear of the blank page, how to turn a critical eye to your own writing, and more. Frey’s book is one to keep within arm’s reach while writing, to grab during those moments when you need to take a step back from your work and get back to basics.
Anne Lamott knows from writing. She’s the author of seven novels (with one on the way) and nine works of nonfiction — many of them bestsellers. In Bird by Bird, her 1994-published book on the craft of writing, Lamott addresses how to get started, accepting the shittiness of a first draft, writing groups, writer’s block, how to know when you’re done and more. Her words, advice, insight are priceless.
If these books are whetting your writing palette, download our free writing guide for all the basics to get you started.
Though some may be able to simply sit back and pull a poem from thin air, that’s not the case for most. Writing workshop leader Susan G. Wooldridge taps into her own experience writing and helping others write to share this compilation of prompts, ideas, and more. Poemcrazy is a guide that any budding poet will find valuable.
Annie Dillard, winner of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, published The Writing Life in 1989. In this book, Dillard presents a unique view on what it means to be a writer in a way that is accessible and relatable to both amateur and seasoned writers. It’s no wonder that Maria Popova calls the book “timelessly wonderful.”
In the creative process, oftentimes it is our own inner self who acts as our worst enemy. When up against self-doubt, the little naysayer in the back of your mind, how does one overcome and move past it? Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and a number of other novels and eight works of nonfiction, addresses this very question in The War of Art.
Madeleine L’Engle has mastered the art of weaving faith into fiction. In Walking on Water, the late author explores what it means to be a Christian artist, and touches on the influence of science on her writerly life. This is, truly, a book that will hold appeal for writers and readers alike, as it sheds light upon the mind of one of this last century’s most talented writers.
Charles Bukowski was a legend in his own time, and has left behind a legacy that will live on for as long as the English language does. In On Writing, take a deeper look into this complicated, brilliant writer’s mind through his correspondence with publishers, editors, friends, and other writers. And be prepared, of course, for Bukowski’s oft-hard-to-take honesty.
So much of writing is creativity. But let’s not forget about the scientific piece of the puzzle. In her new book, Story Genius, story coach Lisa Cron addresses just that, examining the role that cognitive storytelling strategies can play in writing — and how you can put them to work for yourself.
Imagine if you could get help with the very basics of writing poetry from a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet? Fact is, you can via Mary Oliver’s book A Poetry Handbook. The handbook is written in a way that makes it a perfect resource for both teens and adults as they start on their poetry journey — and is a useful refresher for veteran poets as well.
The ultimate question that Donald Miller asks of his reader in this account of the turning of his book into a movie is, “If life is a story, what kind of story are you living?” After falling into a slump following the success of his book, Miller embarks on a series of projects and adventures so that his story can be as rich and full as possible. Along the way, he discovers that if his real life is meaningful, his stories will be, too. This book will inspire you to not only write the story you’ve always imagined, but also to live it.
What started out as a series of blog posts ended up being one of the most useful and extensive writing guides on the market. More of a practical how-to than a self-help book, the chapters of Roy Peter’s Clark instructional range in topic from “Begin Sentences with Subjects and Verbs” to “Create a Mosaic of Detail to Reveal Character.” Equally useful for writers and editors, Writing Tools empowers the reader to turn good writing into great writing.
Morality and art have a complicated relationship, but John Gardner faces it fearlessly in this book-length essay. By Gardner’s way of thinking, all real art is moral, but morality doesn’t necessarily have to do with codes of conduct and submission to a Higher Power; it is the ability of art to point to some human value. The harsh lines he draws to distinguish “art” from “not art,” may frustrate some, but even in that case, this book’s ideas stick in the reader’s head.
Dani Shapiro offers this deeply personal account of her experiences as a writer in a book that is equal parts diary, advice column, and narrative story. She tells of her own success and failures always with candor, sometimes with humor, and never with regret. Still Writing is a book for both the novice writer and the seasoned veteran, as it will remind all of its readers why they are, indeed, still writing.
100 Must-Read, Best Books On Writing And The Writer’s Life
If you’re a working or aspiring writer, y ou already likely know about the classic best books on writing–King’s On Writing, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style–but for a craft as varied and personal as writing, you’ll always benefit from learning from more voices, with more techniques.
That’s why this list is full of writers not only talking about the bare-bones craft of writing (and there’s plenty of fantastic advice there), but also how becoming a writer changed their lives and what role they believe writers play in an ever-changing world. From craft to writer’s lives, get ready to dig into 100 of the must-read, best books on writing for improving your own work.
1. A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros
“Written with her trademark lyricism, in these signature pieces the acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street shares her transformative memories and reveals her artistic and intellectual influences. Poignant, honest, and deeply moving, A House of My Own is an exuberant celebration of a life lived to the fullest, from one of our most beloved writers.”
“Brilliantly synthesizes Hass’s formidable gifts as both a poet and a critic and reflects his profound education in the art of poetry. Starting with the exploration of a single line as the basic gesture of a poem, and moving into an examination of the essential expressive gestures that exist inside forms, Hass goes beyond approaching form as a set of traditional rules that precede composition, and instead offers penetrating insight into the true openness and instinctiveness of formal creation.”
“After almost a half a century of scrupulous devotion to his art, Jorge Luis Borges personally compiled this anthology of his work—short stories, essays, poems, and brief mordant ‘sketches,’ which, in Borges’s hands, take on the dimensions of a genre unique in modern letters. In this anthology, the author has put together those pieces on which he would like his reputation to rest; they are not arranged chronologically, but with an eye to their ‘sympathies and differences.’”
“Virginia Woolf imagines that Shakespeare had a sister—a sister equal to Shakespeare in talent, and equal in genius, but whose legacy is radically different. In this classic essay, she takes on the establishment, using her gift of language to dissect the world around her and give voice to those who are without. Her message is a simple one: women must have a fixed income and a room of their own in order to have the freedom to create.”
5. About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews by Samuel R. Delany
“Taking up specifics (When do flashbacks work, and when should you avoid them? How do you make characters both vivid and sympathetic?) and generalities (How are novels structured? How do writers establish serious literary reputations today?), Delany also examines the condition of the contemporary creative writer and how it differs from that of the writer in the years of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the high Modernists. Like a private writing tutorial, About Writing treats each topic with clarity and insight.”
“Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.”
“Explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. The book’s co-authors, David Bayles and Ted Orland, are themselves both working artists, grappling daily with the problems of making art in the real world. Their insights and observations, drawn from personal experience, provide an incisive view into the world of art as it is experienced by artmakers themselves.”
“Gardner’s lessons, exemplified with detailed excerpts from classic works of literature, sweep across a complete range of topics—from the nature of aesthetics to the shape of a refined sentence. Written with passion, precision, and a deep respect for the art of writing, Gardner’s book serves by turns as a critic, mentor, and friend. Anyone who has ever thought of taking the step from reader to writer should begin here.”