As we roll into November, it’s time again for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, the annual internet-based contest where participants ‘win’ by writing a 50,000-word novel in a month. At Biblio, we know that many book lovers are also writers who are looking for the inspiration to sit down in the chair and type. Here is a list of some of the best writing books. Add them to your cart to guide your writing, or to spark some creativity for the special writer in your life.
With humor, honesty, and the self-deprecation Lamott is known for, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life offers readers a glimpse into the writer’s life and guidance on how to create an artist’s life of their own. The title comes from her father’s sage advice to her brother years before, who was overwhelmed by a school project on birds he had procrastinated one, in which her father advised him to sit down and take “Bird by bird, buddy.”
First published in 1994 by Pantheon books, Lamott had published four novels and one non-fiction book, Operating Instructions: a Journal of My Son’s First Year (1993), before this highly successful and noted book on writing.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 2000, was the first book King published after his near-fatal accident in 1999. The book includes a post-script describing how the accident affected his life. A best-selling author for decades, Stephen King wrote this part memoir/part masterclass that has gone on to sell over a million copies and is considered one of the best books on the craft.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work offers 161 portraits of notable creative individuals, and the daily rituals they kept that allowed them to produce their work. Included are not only writers, but artists, actors, scientists, philosophers, and other great minds. Mason Currey graduated from UNC Asheville, and profiles another Asheville great in the book – Thomas Wolfe – proving, again, that Biblio’s hometown is a place of genius.
The War of Art: Break Through Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles is less a guide about the craft of writing and more a self-help book on how to overcome the ‘resistance’ most people face when trying to create a big work of art. Really, if you’ve read all the writing and style manuals and still are having trouble writing the book, this may be your ticket.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Haruki Murakami that interweaves training for the New York City Marathon and his lifetime of writing. The title was inspired by Raymond Carver’s 1981 short-story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
First published in 1938, If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit has a decidedly feminist tilt for the period it was published, and is still relevant and inspiring for women and men who wish to write today. Carl Sandburg called the book “the best book ever written about how to write.” Ueland was born in 1891, the daughter of a prominent suffragist. She was a journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher, sharing her philosophies on writing and life. She published If You Want to Write, and a memoir Me, during her lifetime. In 1983 the Schubert Club reprinted a hardback edition of If You Want to Write, and in 1987 Graywolf Press began reprinting the paperback edition. Ueland died in 1985 at the age of 93.
First published in 1992, and now in the third edition, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler was inspired by mythologist Joseph Campbell and his writings about the ‘Hero’s Journey.’ Vogler, a Hollywood executive and screenwriter, details how most successful stories and films follow the structure of the Hero’s Journey, and how to implement that into your writing, whether it be fiction or for the screen.
First published in 2000 by Penguin, The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner offers advice for writers in every step of the publishing process. Lerner has worked as an editor at many large publishing houses including Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster, and Doubleday. Comprised of two parts, it covers Writing (the creative process, or the forest) and Publishing (the technical process of getting published, or the trees). This book was revised and updated in 2010 to cover the many changes that happened in publishing during the decade since it was first published.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is a pep-talk from best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert about being brave and living with purpose. An honest discussion about the creative process from the best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love, this guide for living a creative life was an instant hit.
The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus “For the Writer in Everyone” includes more than 300,000 synonyms and 10,000 antonyms. It also includes over 200 literary and humorous quotations and notable usages of words. Contributing editors for this Thesaurus include Francine Prose, Zadie Smith, and David Foster Wallace.
Regarded by many to be the quintessential resource for writers, Strunk wrote The Elements of Style in 1918 and privately published it, in 1919, for in-house use at Cornell University, where he was a professor of English. This first edition was 43 pages. Harcourt, Brace, and Company published the first trade edition (52 pages) one year later in 1920. In 1935 an edition revised with Edward A Tenney was published by Harcourt and Brace titled The Elements and Practice of Composition, it was 60 pages plus 47 ‘practice-leaves.’
E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, was one of Strunk’s first students and greatest admirers. William Strunk died in 1946, and after his death, White updated and revised The Elements of Style. The revised edition, Published in 1957, was 105-pages and included an introduction, chapter on style, and a glossary and index.
The book has gone on to be published in multiple editions – the Second Edition (1972) published by MacMillan, the 3rd edition (1988) also by MacMillan, and the most recent 4th edition (1999) published by Longman. There was also an illustrated edition (2005) published by Penguin (paperback 2008), and a 50th-anniversary edition (2009) published by Pearson Longman.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.