Best Books for Writers

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

by Edward Hirsch

Published in 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Award-winning poet Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary examines the poetic traditions of the world while providing definitions for important poetic vocabulary, including forms, devices, movements, and rhetorical terms.

by Austin Kleon

Published in 2012 by Workman Publishing Company

Sparked by a speech he gave to a group of college students in upstate New York, writer and illustrator Austin Kleon shares the ten things he wishes some told him when he was young through illustrations, exercises, and examples.

by Celia Blue Johnson

Published in 2013 by Perigee

In Odd Type Writers, Celia Blue Johnson explores the quirky writing habits of authors such as Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, and Virginia Woolf—who liked to use purple ink and, in her twenties, preferred to write while standing up.

by John Casey

Published in 2014 by W. W. Norton

Award-winning novelist John Casey's Beyond the First Draft is a collection of essays that address various topics of concern to fiction writers, including comedy, point of view, structure, and scene-setting. For example, in "Dogma and Anti-Dogma," Casey examines the advice of authors—like J.D. Salinger's "Write for yourself"—and offers ways to interpret their reccomendations.

by Meredith Maran

Published in 2013 by Plume

Why We Write is a collection of tips, tricks, and secrets from twenty acclaimed American authors on how to lead a successful writing life. The book was compiled and edited by Meredith Maran, and includes contributions from authors such as Ann Patchett, Jodi Picoult, and Jennifer Egan.

by Henry Miller

by New Directions Publishing

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. In this state of god-like awareness one sings; in this realm the world exists as a poem." A collection of stories and essays by Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart offers musings on philosophy and writing.

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.

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.

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.

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.