The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Though this classic addresses artists and artists-to-be of all stripes, its method is founded on the daily practice of free-writing. Generations of productive creators have used it to incorporate writing into their lives—it’s a great tool for becoming unstuck.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Reading this book is like talking to a great friend you’ve known forever—a friend who just happens to be the smartest writer you’ve ever met. Anne Lamott combines a poet’s sensibility with a memoirist’s self-awareness, and her much-beloved book stands up to countless re-readings.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
We have read thousands of manuscripts by aspiring writers, and one of the things that distinguishes them from professionals is their inability, to correctly use the simple butt crucial tools, of spelling and grammar. This book is not only a funny, dry, and tongue-in-cheek read, it also hammers home how tiny things like commas, apostrophes and colons can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Panda eats shoots and leaves. Panda eats, shoots and leaves.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
For half a century, students and writers have turned to this book to figure out which end is up. Although The Elements of Style is a detailed manual on language, form and style, it is also a poignant and effective reminder that precision, brevity and clarity are the very heart and soul of great writing.
Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
Betsy Lerner has a lot to say—she has been a writer and a poet, a big-time editor at a major New York publishing house and a very successful book agent. Her enjoyable book is a unique collection of insider publishing information and writers’ do’s and don’ts.
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
The wise Brenda Ueland convincingly illustrates how a good sense of humor can overcome fear and anxiety. This book has been around for over 25 years, and it continues to speak to writers everywhere. The reason is simple: Show us a writer who doesn’t suffer from fear and/or anxiety, and we will show you a leprechaun riding a unicorn holding a goose that lays golden eggs.
Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See
Critic, teacher, and novelist Carolyn See is quite simply a class act—riotously funny, unsparingly honest (especially when it comes to writerly activities like snacking and procrastination) and just downright deep. Particularly for fiction writers and memoirists, she offers an irresistible mix of anecdote and advice: “Sneak up on your material. Don’t go crashing after it through the forest with a machete.”
The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante
Weighing in at 667 pages, this is the hard-hitting textbook of the bunch, a truly comprehensive, encouraging and practical guide for fiction writers that both edifies and inspires. With tons of examples from master writers.
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
A gonzo form of book writing has taken America by storm. Every year, during National Novel Writing Month, tens of thousands of otherwise apparently sane writers decide to write an entire novel in one month. How? The answer is contained in the title of this book: No plot, no problem. This is your guide to the wildly liberating exercise of churning out 50,000 words in 30 days. Even more intriguing? Many published novels have come out of its madness.
Poemcrazy by Susan Wooldridge
A glorious meditation on finding inspiration everywhere around us. Playful, deep, wise and insightful, this book will help anyone who’s interested in conveying information, emotion, thoughts or feelings through words. It reminds us how art and language are all around us. We just have to pay attention.
On Writing by Stephen King
Several people we’ve recommended this book to seemed surprised by the notion that Stephen King, master of commercial fiction, could write a smart, wise, useful book about writing. Those people need to wise up. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write a book where the pages actually seem to be turning themselves?
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
This book has been a writer’s best friend for over two decades. Beautifully written in an easy-to-read colloquial style, it combines metaphysics, philosophy and practical tips that help unleash creativity.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
A brilliant writer brilliantly writing about how to write brilliantly. At 128 pages, it may be pound for pound the best value on this list. Here’s one tiny example: Annie Dillard tells writers to envision an audience of terminal patients, urging them to consider what they could say that “would not enrage by its triviality.”
Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington
With examples from great writers like Alice Walker and Frank Conroy, this practical guide shows writers how to navigate the stormy seas of the memoir. Balancing emotional honesty with artistic skill and commercial savvy with the discipline of a craftsman, this book addresses the ins and outs of what has become an extremely popular category.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
A collection of essays from a great master, Zen includes a potpourri of information, inspiration, philosophical musing, poetry, and a play adaptation of Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451. If you’re serious about writing, there is much to be learned here.