Best Books for Writers

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

by Larry W. Phillips, editor

Published in 1999 by Scribner

​"All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time​." This book is a collection of Ernest Hemingway's comments on writing and reflections about his own process, gathered from his stories, essays, letters, and interviews. Hemingway's insights offer helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and the writing life.

by Dinty W. Moore

Published in 2015 by Ten Speed Press

In Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy, Dinty W. Moore answers a collection of questions about essay writing from essayists such as Roxane Gay, Phillip Lopate, David Shields, and Cheryl Strayed. Moore expands on topics ranging from larger themes of privacy to the minute particularities of the em dash with humorous and insightful advice, illustrative examples, and writing prompts.

by Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, and Max King Cap, editors

Published in 2015 by Fence Books

"This collection is founded on the idea that it's worth trying to write about race, again—in particular that something valuable happens when an individual writer reflects on race in the making of creative work." In 2011 Claudia Rankine created Open Letter, an online forum about race and the art of writing that elicited responses from a diverse group of artists and writers. In this anthology, authors such as Simone White, Francisco Aragón, Bhanu Kapil, Dawn Lundy Martin, and many others offer their responses, filled with their own experiences, questions, and convictions. The result is a vital conversation on a range of topics including depictions of social and racial identity; race, feminism, and creative spaces; and "the white imaginary."

by Lynda Barry

Published in 2008 by Drawn and Quarterly

In What It Is, Lynda Barry provides imaginative advice and playful instruction in the form of writing exercises, collages, personal anecdotes, and drawings. The book offers inspiration for both experienced writers who are searching for a new perspective on the roles of imagery and memory in creative writing, and those who are looking for accessible guidance on how to begin and maintain a regular writing practice.

by Phillip Lopate

Published in 2013 by Free Press

In this book, Phillip Lopate, director of the nonfiction graduate program at Columbia University, explores topics as diverse as "On the Ethics of Writing About Others," and "The Personal Essay in the Age of Facebook.” Lopate also examines master essayists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Baldwin, to demonstrate how concepts of nonfiction writing have been put into practice.

by Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi, editors

Published in 2001 by University of Michigan Press

"The book that you hold in your hands does not contain a set of rules but something quite different—what we might call a set of approaches." In this collection of essays, seventeen authors, including Margot Livesey, Richard Russo, Jim Shepard, and Joan Silber, dispense insightful guidance and personal anecdotes to inspire writers at all stages of their craft.

by Donald Revell

Published in 2007 by Graywolf Press

​​​"It is the intimacy of poetry that makes our art such a beautiful recourse," Donald Revell states in The Art of Attention. Drawing upon writers such as Samuel Beckett, John Cage, Ann Lauterbach, and Denise Levertov, Revell presents a case for the transcendent possibilities of poetry, and guides readers to an understanding of the links between the creative reading and creative writing processes.

by Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda B. Swanson-Davies

Published in 2006 by Writer's Digest Books

The first volume of the Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction series collects excerpts from over a hundred interviews by authors including ​​Sandra Cisneros, Jamaica Kincaid, and Tobias Wolff.​ In short passages, writers share their thoughts on topics such as plot, theme, and dialogue, all conveniently divided by chapters.

by ​Stephen Koch

Published in 2003 by Modern Library

Stephen Koch, former chair of Columbia University’s graduate creative writing program, presents indispensable advice covering all the basics of craft in this comprehensive volume. Starting from the moment of inspiration, to writing a first draft, to techniques for character development and plot, this book offers insight and guidance for writers at every stage.

by Frank Conroy

Published in 1999 by William Morrow

In this wide-ranging anthology of essays, former Iowa Writers' Workshop director Frank Conroy has compiled twenty-three pieces written by faculty about the craft of writing. Authors such as Deborah Eisenberg, Francine Prose, and Abraham Verghese share their insights and tips on the writing and revision processes.