Best Books for Writers

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

by Sarah Lewis

Published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster

In Sarah Lewis's own words, The Rise "is about the advantages that come from the improbable ground of creative failure." In her "biography of an idea," Lewis riddles out the gift of failure using narratives of historical figures ranging from writers to entrepreneurs. Lewis writes about the creative failures of Frederick Douglass, Samuel F. B. Morse, and J. K. Rowling, along with those of choreographer Paul Taylor, Nobel Prize–winning physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, Arctic explorer Ben Saunders, and psychology professor Angela Duckworth.

by Laura Deutsch

Published in 2014 by Shambhala Publications

Writer, editor, and teacher Laura Deutsch offers techniques, exercises, prompts, and examples that focus on honing in on our senses during the writing process to enrich our storytelling skills.

by Michael Wiegers

Published in 2003 by Copper Canyon Press

In more than one hundred poems, sixty poets from around the world, including Hayden Carruth, W. S. Merwin, Pablo Neruda, Carolyn Kizer, and Jim Harrison, explore the nature and function of poetry.

by Stephen Corey and Warren Slesinger

Published in 2001 by The Bench Press

The editors of twenty literary magazines discuss the philosophy and practice of selecting poems.

by John Hollander

Published in 2001 by Yale University Press

Poet and critic John Hollander surveys the schemes, patterns, and forms of English verse, illustrating each variation with an original and witty, self-descriptive example.

by Betsy Lerner

Published in 2010 by Riverhead Books

Originally published in 2000, this updated guide includes information about electronic etiquette, book promotion via social media platforms, and the current publishing economy. Lerner, who began her career as an editor, is a partner in the Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Agency in New York City.

by Wallace Stegner

Published in 2002 by Penguin

Editor Lynn Stegner brings together eight of Wallace Stegner's previously uncollected essays on writing fiction and teaching creative writing. Stegner addresses every aspect of fiction writing, from the writer's vision to his or her audience, from the use of symbolism to swear words, from the mystery of the creative process to the recognizable truth it seeks finally to reveal.

by Robert Pinsky

Published in 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art," Robert Pinsky declares in The Sounds of Poetry. "The medium of poetry is the human body: the column of air inside the chest, shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is as physical or bodily an art as dancing." In this book, the former poet laureate explains how poets use the "technology" of poetry (its sounds) to create works of art that are "performed" in us when we read them aloud.

by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Published in 2007 by Plume

The country’s most prominent journalists and nonfiction authors gather each year at Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Telling True Stories presents their best advice on everything from finding a good topic, to structuring narrative stories, to writing and selling your first book.

by The Editors of Writer's Digest

Published in 2012 by Writer's Digest Books

Advice and instruction from writers such as Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Sims, Hallie Ephron, N. M. Kelby, Heather Sellers, and Donald Maass, with a foreword by James Scott Bell.