Best Books for Writers

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

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.

by Daniel Halpern, editor

Published in 2000 by Penguin

Editor of The Art of the Tale, Daniel Halpern has assembled the next generation of short-story writers—those born after 1937—to create a companion volume, The Art of the Story. The collection includes seventy-eight contributors from thirty-five countries. The Art of the Story combines works of established masters as well as new voices of writers whose work have seldom been translated into English.

by Jack Hart

Published in 2011 by University of Chicago Press

Jack Hart, former managing editor of the Oregonian, has created a guide to the methods and mechanics of crafting narrative nonfiction. Hart covers what writers in this genre need to know, from understanding story theory and structure, to mastering point of view and such basic elements as scene, action, and character, to drafting, revising, and editing work for publication. 

by Stanley Plumly

Published in 2003 by Handsel Books

In this collection of essays, poet Stanley Plumly meditates on poetry and art, especially the impulses, occasions, and places out of which art arises and the forms by which imagination gives it shape.

by John McNally

Published in 2010 by University of Iowa Press

Novelist and essayist John McNally writes comprehensively about living the life of the writer. With chapters on writing degrees and graduate programs, the nuts and bolts of agents and query letters, and book signings, McNally covers a wide range of writerly topics for aspiring writers and teachers of writing.

by R.V. Cassill

Published in 1975 by Prentice-Hall

In Writing Fiction, R.V. Cassill,the original editor of The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, provides an instructional text on fiction that covers mechanics, revision, the writing process, and general advice about craft.

by Christian Wiman

Published in 2007 by Copper Canyon Press

Ambition and Survival is a collection of personal essays and critical prose by Christian Wiman, the editor of Poetry magazine. Wiman recounts his path to becoming a poet, his struggle with a rare form of incurable cancer, and how mortality reignited his religious passions.

by Daniel Alarcon, editor

Published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Drawing back the curtain on the process of writing novels, The Secret Miracle brings together well-known practitioners of the craft to discuss how they write. Paul Auster, Mario Vargas Llosa, Susan Minot, Rick Moody, Haruki Murakami, George Pelecanos, Gary Shteyngart, and others take readers step by step through the alchemy of writing fiction, answering everything from nuts-and-bolts queries—“Do you outline?”—to questions posed by writers and readers alike: “What makes a character compelling?”

by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

Published in 2010 by Longman

Novelists Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French and essayist Ned Stuckey-French provide a guide for the novice story writer from first inspiration to final revision by providing practical writing techniques and concrete examples. The text also includes exercises to spur writing and creativity.