Best Books for Writers

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

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.

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.