Best Books for Writers

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

by Ann Longknife and K. D. Sullivan

Published in 2012 by Barron's Educational Series

The new edition of this reference book for students, writers, and educators reviews the fundamentals of correct sentence structure, then presents twenty basic sentence patterns that encompass virtually every effective way in which simple, compound, and complex sentences can be structured.

by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Published in 2003 by University of Wisconsin Press

In this resource for fiction writers, short story and novelist Jesse Lee Kercheval equates structuring fiction with building a house. Kercheval offers advice on generating story ideas, developing characters, and revision. Each chapter is accompanied by writing exercises as well.

by Mason Currey, editor

Published in 2013 by Knopf

By presenting the habits and routines of various artists—including writers such as Maya Angelou, W. H. Auden, Jane Austen, Ann Beattie, Simone de Beauvoir, Patricia Highsmith, Arthur Miller, Gertrude Stein, Philip Roth, and Voltaire—Mason Currey aims to show, as he writes in his introduction, "how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one's working habits influence the work itself, and vice versa."

by Kate Sontag and David Graham, editors

Published in 2001 by Graywolf Press

In this collection of twenty-eight essays, poets such as Frank Bidart, Marilyn Chin, Billy Collins, Louise Glück, Kimiko Hahn, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Sharon Olds explore the autobiographical impulse in poetry. As Library Journal writes: "Each weighs in on a different area of the discussion, but all are evocative and engaging. One quickly discovers that the confessional poem's legacy extends further than the expected Plath, Sexton, and Lowell. Sappho, Shakespeare's elusive figures, Milton's daughters, and Mary Wordsworth are as likely to be evoked by these writers, as they demonstrate how poetic voice spans an infinite variety of combinations." 

by Susan M. Tiberghien

Published in 2007 by Da Capo Press

In this guide writer and teacher Susan M. Tiberghien provides advice and writing exercises that help beginning writers develop their voice and enrich their craft. 

by Natalie Goldberg

Published in 2013 by Atria Books

Author of the classic Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg offers another writing guide based on her forty years of teaching small, intensive workshops at a remote center in the rural Southwest. In chapters with titles such as "Why Silence?," "Meditation (Sitting)," "Seven Attitudes of Mindfulness," and "Six-Word Memoir," Goldberg shares her insights about finding truth and clarity on the way to establishing a literary life.

by James Logenbach

Published in 2013 by Graywolf Press

Written by poet and critic James Logenbach, this collection of twelve essays explores various ways that poetry at its most successful delivers meaning. Longenbach uses as examples poems by Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Keats, Dickinson, Yeats, Pound, Bishop, and Ashbery, among other greats.  

by Brian Turner, Jared Hawkley, and Susan Rich, editors

Published in 2013 by McSweeney’s Books

An anthology of essays by poets such as Kazim Ali, Elizabeth Bishop, Naomi Shihab Nye, Nick Flynn, Yusef Komunyakaa, Claudia Rankine, and Alissa Valles whose travels have informed their writing. The book also includes practical resources for finding work abroad, applying for fellowships and residencies, funding a trip, obtaining proper travel documents, and attending to other cultural considerations.

by John McNally

Published in 2013 by University of Iowa Press

In Vivid and Continuousseasoned fiction writer and teacher John McNally, who is also the author of The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide, offers solutions to the problems beginning fiction writers face. Each of the fifteen chapters includes writing exercises meant to reinforce McNally’s guidance.

by David Corbett

Published in 2013 by Penguin

New York Times notable author David Corbett offers a unique and indispensable toolkit for creating characters that come vividly to life on the page and linger in memory. Corbett delves into the human heart of characterization, showing beginning and advanced writers how to plumb the rich source materials of their own lives and the world around them to fashion credible, compelling characters.