Top Ten Best Writing Books

Recently, someone asked me for My Top 10 Best Books for Writers and so here they are with a sentence or two on why. You can click on the covers to learn more about each and perhaps give yourself an early Christmas present.

Okay let’s start with the classics:

1) Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones


Natalie’s book is where I first understood the zen of writing by enjoying the process, keeping your pen moving, “I remember”, and other great exercises. She is the woman who long ago gave me my inspiration to teach writing. Also, try her first biography, The Long Quiet Highway.

2) Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

Who among us has not appreciated Anne’s simple wisdom that all of us should, can and do want to write “shitty first drafts.” She tells the tale of a writer’s true journey and what she has learned.

3) Stephen King’s On Writing

I know that we are not supposed to be alcoholic and drug addicted just because we are writers any more, but you have to take a peek into the life of one of the most successful writers of all time and see how he redeemed himself. Even if you don’t like his genre you will appreciate his stick-with-it-ness. It turns out art can save you as well.

4) Susan Shaughnessy’s Walking on Alligators 

Little inspirations for writers which I patterned my own inspiration and exercise book after, The A to Zen of Writing. This is the kind of book you fold down the pages so you can read that one quote or passage again.

5) Strunk and White’s  The Elements of Style

A 1959 classic now in its umpteenth printing is a reference that you return to when you have to get it right. No one dares argue with Strunk and White on the matters of grammar, style and syntax. Easy examples make it a treasure. BTW, did you know that this classic guide was self published at first? Another truth in self publishing – its been around much longer than you think.

6) Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Right to Write

Interchangeably, I think we can put both Julia Cameron’s books on the list. Her break-out book The Artist’s Way stimulated a whole collection of people to write morning pages and go on artist dates. I get tired of some of the never ending exercises but I do appreciate some of what she has to say to writers in Right to Write.

7) Brooke Wharton’s The Writer Got Screwed (but didn’t have to) 

This is your legal knowledge book. Some of the info may be out of date –so make sure you get the most recent version– but for those of us who are writing screenplays or think our books would make good movie material, you want this book at your side. Besides which, I think it is one of the best titles ever.

8) Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey 

This is a look at the history of all great stories and mythology from a writer’s perspective as Vogler uses Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey to decipher how all great stories operate using archetypical characters and the repeated dilemmas and themes. He references most great movie screenplays. This to me is a must have for fiction writers or storytellers of any kind.

9) William Goldman’s Which Lie Did I Tell?

Speaking of Hollywood and screenplays … for sheer joy, entertainment and wisdom I love reading William Goldman. I already adore the man, if only because he brought us The Princess Bride as an adaptation. Both the book and the movie are on my shelves. The story of how that book and movie came about is a lie that is almost as entertaining (and fascinating) as the movie itself, and What Lie Did I Tell? is all the stories about making screenplays into movies and laughing and crying at the Hollywood machinery. It’s all about persistence people and letting go.

10) Kathrin Lake’s Writing with Cold Feet

I searched my unabashed self-promotional conscience and discovered that I have no trouble plugging my own book which has been going strong since it was published in 2013. Why I think it belongs on my writers’ book list is that it is not just written for reluctant writers but all writers. Even published authors have praised it for tackling the things that all those other books don’t want to talk about, which is mostly in the subtitle: The Secrets of How to Write When You Are Not Writing. I had to write this book simply because nobody else had and I needed to get all my years of writing coaching and the accumulated wisdom as a reluctant writer into a book. I think it rounds out this list nicely.

Other Crucial Online References:

A good baby name resource.  People used to ask me why I, a motherless woman, had baby name books on my shelf. I simply needed a way to name characters and find out what those names mean. You can get unexpected insights from finding out the meaning of the name of a character you’ve already named, and occasionally you will decide to change their name… in a way I am a mother. Try Baby Name Wizard.

I love my Word Origins book and also have a resource on the internet, but let’s face it we need a good site for Thesaurus, and Wikipedia is a blessing we can no longer live without, as well as several Quotations sites like Brainy Quotes.

PLEASE TELL US your FAVORITE WRITER BOOKS and resources and we could have a nice catalog here UNDER COMMENTS!


2 thoughts on “Top Ten Best Writing Books

  1. Lorna Boyle says:

    Glad to see you’ve included one of my favourites, Stephen King’s “On Writing”! Love it! It’s interesting to see a couple more on the list I haven’t come across yet… I’ll definitely have to take a look. Thanks!

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