Best Books for Writers

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

by Laura Oliver

Published in 2011 by Alpha Books

Author and longtime writing instructor Laura Oliver offers a guide to aspiring writers on how to access and bring to life personal stories. The Story Within employs memoir to advise readers on craft, writing principles, cultivating the creative spirit, publication, and more.

by Francine Prose

Published in 2006 by HarperCollins

Best-selling author Francine Prose meditates on how quality reading informs great writing in this literary guide to craft. Taking lessons from writers such as Dostoyevsky, Austen, Woolf, Joyce, and Roth, Prose draws attention to the nuts and bolts of writing by close-reading masters of the written word.

by Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn, editors

Published in 2005 by Longman

Poets Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn present pieces of short fiction from fifty-two classic, contemporary and new voices alongside material to place the stories in historical, biographical, and critical context. A section called "Critical Approaches to Literature" explains how to take an informed, critical stance when reading literature, and a glossary of literary terms further enhances the experience of reading the works.

by Anne Lamott

Published in 1995 by Anchor Books

Anne Lamott, best-selling author of seven novels and five books of nonfiction, offers witty step-by-step instructions on writing and how to manage a writer’s life—including challenges such as writer’s block, jealousy, and unsatisfactory drafts—in this classic guide.

by Melissa Kwasny, editor

Published in 2004 by Wesleyan University Press

Poet and novelist Melissa Kwasny brings together prose pieces—essays, letters, declarations, defenses, manifestos, and apologia—by many influential European and American poets. The anthology pieces follows changing notions of what a poem is, what a poet is, why we read a poem, and the development of stylistic and ideological strategies in verse.

by Floyd Skloot

Published in 2011 by Bison Books

At forty-one, novelist and poet Floyd Skoot suffered from a brain disease that damaged his memory. The Wink of the Zenith is a memoir about how his unique circumstances made him develop as a writer. The book explores fundamental questions about how life shapes the creative spirit.

by David Orr

Published in 2011 by HarperCollins

Award-winning poetry critic David Orr provides a tour and guide to contemporary poetry and the ways in which to appreciate it. Beautiful & Pointless examines what poets and poetry readers talk about when they discuss poetry, such as why poetry seems especially personal and what it means to write "in form."

by Adrienne Rich

Published in 2009 by W.W. Norton & Company

American poet and essayist Adrienne Rich examines a diverse section of writings and their place in past and present social disorders and transformations. Beyond literary theories, she explores from many angles how the art of language has acted on and been shaped by their creators’ worlds.

by Sol Stein

Published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Sol Stein—novelist, editor, and publisher—offers a handy reference on a wide variety of writing-related questions and concerns. Readers will find explanations of publishing terms, information about craft, advice on constructive writing habits, and more.

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Published in 1993 by W.W. Norton & Company

Drawn by some sympathetic note in one of his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of responses to a young would-be poet, on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. An accompanying chronicle of Rilke's life shows what he was experiencing in his own relationship to life and work when he wrote these letters.