Best Books for Writers

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

by Mark Doty

Published in 2010 by Graywolf Press

In this book-length essay, poet Mark Doty writes about the art of articulating sensory experience. Looking at poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others, Doty considers the task of saying what you see, and the challenges of rendering experience through language.

by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux

Published in 1997 by W.W. Norton & Company

Poets Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux give guidance to aspiring beginners and those who are already published in brief essays on the elements of poetry and technique. Suggested subjects for writing are followed by writing exercises.

by Ted Kooser

Published in 2005 by University of Nebraska Press

Former poet laureate of the United States Ted Kooser brings together tools, insights, and instructions on poetry and writing that poets—both aspiring and practicing—can use to hone their craft. Using examples from his own work and those from other contemporary poets, Kooser discusses the critical relationship between poet and reader.

by Joan Silber

Published in 2009 by Graywolf Press

The end point of a story determines its meaning, and one of the main tasks a writer faces is to define the duration of a plot. In this book-length essay, Joan Silber uses wide-ranging examples from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chinua Achebe, and Arundhati Roy, among others, to illustrate five key ways in which time unfolds in fiction. 

by Richard Hugo

Published in 2010 by W.W. Norton & Company

Poet and teacher Richard Hugo has brought together a series of lectures, essays, and reflections, all “directed toward helping with that silly, absurd, maddening, futile, enormously rewarding activity: writing poems.” The book includes pieces on how poets make a living and how to write “off the subject.”

by Alice LaPlante

Published in 2010 by W.W. Norton & Company

The Making of a Story is an accessible guide to the basics of creative writing—both fiction and creative nonfiction. Its hands-on approach walks writers through each stage of the creative process, from the initial triggering idea to the revision of the final manuscript.

by Dean Young

Published in 2010 by Graywolf Press

Poet Dean Young explores how recklessness can guide the poet, the artist, and the reader into art in this book-length essay.

by Annie Dillard

Published in 1990 by HarperPerennial

In The Writing Life, Pulizer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard gives insight into her own writing process and what it means to write. In a series of short, personal essays, she details the solitude and challenges faced by an individual who devotes her life to words. 

by Robert Boswell

Published in 2010 by Graywolf Press

The Half-Known World is a collection of essays by writing instructor and author Robert Boswell on craft issues facing literary writers. Boswell details how important it is for writers to give themselves over to what he calls the “half-known world” of fiction, where surprise and meaning converge.

by Alfred Corn

Published in 2008 by Copper Canyon Press

Poet and educator Alfred Corn presents a guide to the art and science of poetic meter—the very foundation of writing (and reading) poetry. In ten progressive chapters, Corn covers everything from metrical variation and phonic echo to the basics of line and stanza.