Best Books for Writers

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

by Noah Lukeman

Published in 2000 by Touchstone

In The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, Noah Lukeman, president of Lukeman Literary Management Ltd., dispenses valuable advice concerning both the creative and practical challenges of writing. From how to strengthen the foundational elements of a narrative or sentence, to how to avoid common, but at times overlooked, mistakes that sink a manuscript into slush-pile oblivion, this is a comprehensive guide and reference for crafting a book that aims to rise to the top.

by Jacqueline Kolosov and Marcela Sulak, editors

Published in 2015 by Rose Metal Press

​This pioneering anthology provides a thorough examination of eight different hybrid genres in contemporary literature: epistolary, flash fiction, ​lyric essay, performative, pictures made of words, poetic memoir, prose poetry, and short-form nonfiction. Readers and writers new to or experienced with hybrid forms will appreciate the exploratory scope of craft essays and exemplary work by forty-three authors including Jenny Boully, Terrance Hayes, Takashi Hiraide, Etgar Keret, and Maggie Nelson.

by Brian Kiteley

Published in 2005 by Writer's Digest Books

​In this compendium of writing prompts Brian Kiteley, former director of the University of Denver's creative writing program, shares over two hundred exercises to explore the craft of fiction, find new avenues of inspiration, and be more productive. Kiteley encourages an approach to writing that imposes creative restrictions while ultimately invigorating and liberating the imagination.

by William Stafford

by University of Michigan Press

In this classic 1978 book of essays in the University of Michigan Press's Poets on Poetry series, William Stafford explores the craft of writing as a process of discovery, and encourages writers to think deeply and to keep an open mind. Readers will be inspired by Stafford's clear and direct approach to being patient and welcoming of new ideas and creative modes.

by C. D. Wright

Published in 2016 by Copper Canyon Press

In this blend of prose poem and lyric essay, the late poet C. D. Wright engages with a range of subjects including Jean Valentine, Robert Creeley, the world within words, and Walmart. The book is a chance to experience one of our most unique poetic thinkers in action, arguing on behalf of poetry’s persistence while enacting her own gifts passage by passage.

by Sean Prentiss and Joe Wilkins, editors

Published in 2014 by Michigan State University Press

For this collection of more than a dozen essays on creative nonfiction, editors Sean Prentiss and Joe Wilkins requested a wide range of contributing writers, including Joy Castro, Brenda Miller, and Dinty W. Moore, to explore their own questions about the definitions and boundaries of the genre. Beginning and experienced writers, as well as those simply curious to learn more about these writers' perspectives, will find inspiring new ways to challenge and deepen their understanding of the art of personal essay and memoir.

by Rod Judkins

Published in 2016 by TarcherPerigee

In short sections filled with lively anecdotes, examples, and quotes, Rod Judkins cites the common misconceptions and detours that surround creativity. The book explores the habits and insights of artists including Miles Davis, Yo-Yo Ma, Georgia O'Keeffe, Oscar Wilde, and Frank Lloyd Wright, to demonstrate the variety of ways in which creative thinkers can mold their lives to suit their work.

by Natalie Goldberg

Published in 2016 by Shambhala

From the author of the quintessential writers handbook Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within—a thirtieth-anniversary edition of which was also published by Shambhala in February—comes a collection of twenty-two essays about what it takes to have a long writing life. The "great spring" of the title refers to "the great rush of energy that arrives when you think no life will ever come again." Drawing from decades of writing, teaching, and practicing Zen, Goldberg shares the experiences through which she found herself and her voice.

by Christopher Castellani

Published in 2016 by Graywolf Press

"There is no more important decision the writer makes than who tells the story because, whoever that narrator is, he will compel us to tell it his way..." writes Christopher Castellani in the newest book in Graywolf's "Art of" series. The award-winning novelist and artistic director of GrubStreet examines and analyzes the ways in which writers such as E. M. Forster, Zoë Heller, Mustafa Sa'eed, and Virginia Woolf have effectively used and manipulated narrative point of view in their stories.

by Glyn Maxwell

Published in 2013 by Harvard University Press

Less a digest on technique, form, or reading, poet Glyn Maxwell’s On Poetry is an extended, lyrical meditation on what makes poetry tick from within—think more organism than machine. As funny as it is surprising, the book moves through chapters with titles like “Pulse,” “Chime,” and “Space,” striking with simplicity and clarity at some of the fundamental elements of poetry’s greatness.