Best Books for Writers

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

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.

by John Gardner

Published in 1999 by W.W. Norton & Company

On Becoming a Novelist contains the wisdom accumulated during John Gardner's twenty-year career as a fiction writer and creative writing teacher. Gardner describes the life of a working novelist; warns what needs to be guarded against, both from within the writer and from without; and predicts what the writer can reasonably expect and what, in general, he or she cannot.

by Caroline Sharp

Published in 2002 by St. Martin’s Griffin

With a foreword by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, A Writer’s Workbook is a collection of thirty-two unique writing exercises that offer encouragement and guidance for generating ideas to anyone who writes.

by Priscilla Long

Published in 2010 by Wallingford Press

Suitable for both beginning and advanced writers of fiction and nonfiction, The Writer's Portable Mentor brings together 20 years of teaching and creative thought by author Priscilla Long. The book helps writers understand and incorporate the regular practices of virtuoso creators; provides a guide to structuring literary, journalistic, or fictional pieces or entire books; opens the door to the sentence strategies of the masters; provides tools for developing a poet's ear for use in prose; trains writers in the observation skills of visual artists; and guides them toward more effective approaches to getting their work into the world.

by Daniel Slager, editor

Published in 2010 by Milkweed Editions

Founded nearly four decades ago by a group of young writers, the Loft has become the nation's largest independent literary center. Views From the Loft brings together the collected wisdom of the Loft community—its authors, students, and editors—on the subject of writing and craft. Chapters are divided into sections on writing, teaching, critiquing, and publication.

by Donald Hall

Published in 2003 by Beacon Press

Distinguished poet Donald Hall reflects on the meaning of work, solitude, and love in this memoir about the writing life.

Current Issue

Cover Story 

Our Independent Publishing Issue features an in-depth interview with Graywolf Press editor Jeff Shotts; a look at the successful partnerships of eleven small-press authors and their editors; a profile of indie essayist Charles D'Ambrosio; Donald Hall recalls a golden age of American poetry; best-selling author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore on the rewards of self-promotion; advice for self-published authors; a conversation with Guernica publisher Lisa Lucas; and much more.

Finding Gems in Lost & Found

by Rebecca Bates

News and Trends

Posted 10.15.14

November/December 2014

The Center for Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City is making the ephemeral more tangible through its Lost & Found chapbook series.


Let's Just Do This: Eleven Small-Press Authors and their Publishing Partners

by Kevin Larimer

Special Section

Posted 10.15.14

November/December 2014

Eleven small-press authors and their publishing partners discuss the independent approach—and all the passion, commitment, and love that comes with it—to bringing books into the world.


Agents & Editors: Jeff Shotts

by Michael Szczerban

Special Section

Posted 10.15.14

November/December 2014

Graywolf Press executive editor Jeff Shotts discusses the power of patience in publishing, editing as an act of empathy, and why it’s an exciting time to be a poet.