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The Top 10: The Greatest Books of All Time by The Top 10 (Book)

The Top 10 book chosen by 125 top writers from the book "The Top 10" edited by J. Peder Zane.

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endu...

2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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For daring to peer into the heart of an adulteress and enumerate its contents with profound dispassion, the author of Madame Bovary was tried for "offenses against morality and religion." What shoc...

3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

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Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of fi...

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age". Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roar...

5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and se...

6. Middlemarch by George Eliot

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Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, later Marian Evans. It is her seventh novel, begun in 1869 and then put aside during the final i...

7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Revered by all of the town's children and dreaded by all of its mothers, Huckleberry Finn is indisputably the most appealing child-hero in American literature. Unlike the tall-tale, idyllic worl...

8. The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov

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Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian short-story writer, playwright and physician, considered to be one of the greatest short-story writers in the history of world literature. His career as a dram...

9. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

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Swann's Way, the first part of A la recherche de temps perdu, Marcel Proust's seven-part cycle, was published in 1913. In it, Proust introduces the themes that run through the entire work. The narr...

10. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601. The play, set in Denmark, recounts how Pri...

11. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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First published in 1851, Melville's masterpiece is, in Elizabeth Hardwick's words, "the greatest novel in American literature." The saga of Captain Ahab and his monomaniacal pursuit of the white wh...

12. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

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Alonso Quixano, a retired country gentleman in his fifties, lives in an unnamed section of La Mancha with his niece and a housekeeper. He has become obsessed with books of chivalry, and believes th...

13. Ulysses by James Joyce

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Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904. The title parallels and alludes to Odysseus (Latinised into Ulysses), the hero of Homer's Odyss...

14. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations is written in the genre of "bildungsroman" or the style of book that follows the story of a man or woman in their quest for maturity, usually starting from childhood and ending i...

15. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning car...

16. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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It is a murder story, told from a murder;s point of view, that implicates even the most innocent reader in its enormities. It is a cat-and-mouse game between a tormented young killer and a cheerful...

17. King Lear by William Shakespeare

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King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1603 and 1606. It is considered one of his greatest works. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a...

18. The Odyssey by Homer

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The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the m...

19. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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A landmark novel of high modernism, the text, centering on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920, skillfully manipulates temporality and psycholog...

20. Dubliners by James Joyce

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Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. The fifteen stories were meant to be a naturalistic depiction of the Irish middle class life in and around Dub...

21. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor by Flannery O'Connor

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The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do n...

22. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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The book is narrated in free indirect speech following the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with matters of upbringing, marriage, moral rightness and education in her aristocratic socie...

23. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Dostoevsky's last and greatest novel, The Karamazov Brothers, is both a brilliantly told crime story and a passionate philosophical debate. The dissolute landowner Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is mur...

24. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

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The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The novel centers on the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their fa...

25. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

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Absalom, Absalom! is a Southern Gothic novel by the American author William Faulkner, first published in 1936. It is a story about three families of the American South, taking place before, during,...

26. Emma by Jane Austen

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Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."[1] In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, ...

27. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

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Belonging in the immortal company of the great works of literature, Dante Alighieri's poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is a moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the ...

28. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Jane Eyre is a first-person narrative of the title character, a small, plain-faced, intelligent and honest English orphan. The novel goes through five distinct stages: Jane's childhood at Gateshead...

29. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

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As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything simply, that he must make expla...

30. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister", the novel's story is of Clarissa's preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess. Wit...

31. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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The narrative is non-linear, involving several flashbacks, and two primary narrators: Mr. Lockwood and Ellen "Nelly" Dean. The novel opens in 1801, with Mr. Lockwood arriving at Thrushcross Grange,...

32. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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The novel addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans in the early twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marx...

33. The Bible by Christian Church

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The Authorized King James Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible begun in 1604 and completed in 1611 by the Church of England. Printed by the King's Printer, Robert Barker, the fi...

34. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

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The novel is presented as a poem titled "Pale Fire" with commentary by a friend of the poet's. Together these elements form two story lines in which both authors are central characters. The int...

35. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses is...

36. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in twenty monthly instalments between March 1852 and September 1853. It is held to be one of Dickens's finest novels, containing one of ...

37. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a ...

38. The Trial by Franz Kafka

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Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and mu...

39. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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With their astonishing diversity of tone and subject matter, The Canterbury Tales have become one of the touchstones of medieval literature. Translated here into modern English, these tales of a mo...

40. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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The story details an incident when Marlow, an Englishman, took a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Although Conrad does not specify the name of th...

41. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

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The story centres on Isabel Archer, an attractive American whom circumstances have brought to Europe. Isabel refuses the offer of marriage to an English peer and to a bulldog-like New Englander, to...

42. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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The Tragedy of Macbeth, commonly just Macbeth, is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometim...

43. Persuasion by Jane Austen

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Of all Jane Austen’s great and delightful novels, Persuasion is widely regarded as the most moving. It is the story of a second chance. Anne Elliot, daughter of the snobbish, spendthrift Sir Walte...

44. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

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Ford Madox Ford wrote The Good Soldier, the book on which his reputation most surely rests, in deliberate emulation of the nineteenth-century French novels he so admired. In this way he was able to...

45. Beloved by Toni Morrison

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Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison...

46. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

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Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 Western novel by American author Cormac McCarthy. It was McCarthy's fifth book, and was published by Random House. The narrative foll...

47. Oresteia by Aeschylus

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The Oresteia is a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus which concerns the end of the curse on the House of Atreus. When originally performed it was accompanied by Proteus, a satyr play t...

48. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, first serialized in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915 and published in book form in 1916. It depicts the formativ...

49. The Stranger by Albert Camus

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Since it was first published in English, in 1946, Albert Camus's extraordinary first novel, The Stranger (L'Etranger), has had a profound impact on millions of American readers. Through this story ...

50. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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The Catcher in the Rye is a 1945 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, the novel has become a common part of high school and college curricula throughout the English-speaking wo...

51. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

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All the King's Men portrays the dramatic political ascent and governorship of Willie Stark, a driven, cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s.

52. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

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Rabbit, Run depicts five months in the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life.

52. Rabbit Redux by John Updike

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Rabbit Redux finds the former high-school basketball star, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, working a dead-end job and approaching middle age in the downtrodden and fictional city of Brewer, Pennsylvania, ...

52. Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike

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Rabbit Is Rich is a 1981 novel by John Updike. It is the third novel of the four-part series which begins with Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux, and concludes with Rabbit At Rest. There is also a relat...

52. Rabbit at Rest by John Updike

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In John Updike's fourth and final novel about ex-basketball player Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, the hero has acquired heart trouble, a Florida condo, and a second grandchild. His son, Nelson, is behavi...

53. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

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A slender novel but far from flimsy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie enrolls the reader at Edinburgh's fictional Marcia Blaine School for Girls under the tutelage of one Jean Brodie, a magnetic, unco...

54. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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The novel explores the lives and values of the so-called "Lost Generation," chronicling the experiences of Jake Barnes and several acquaintances on their pilgrimage to Pamplona for the annual San F...

55. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Hester Prynne is a beautiful young woman. She is also an outcast. In the eyes of her neighbors she has committed an unforgivable sin. Everyone knows that her little daughter, Pearl, is the product ...

56. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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In 1862 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy Oxford mathematician with a stammer, created a story about a little girl tumbling down a rabbit hole. Thus began the immortal adventures of Alice, perhaps th...

57. The Iliad by Homer

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The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set in the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of Ilium by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and e...

58. One Thousand and One Nights by India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt

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One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. It is often known in English as the Arabian Ni...

59. The Red and the Black by Stendhal

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Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black), subtitled Chronique du XIXe siécle ("Chronicle of the 19th century"), is an historical psychological novel in two volumes by Stendhal, published in 1830...

60. The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel by Isaac Babel

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Babel was best known for his mastery of the short story form-in which he ranks alongside Kafka and Hemingway-but his career was tragically cut short when he was murdered by Stalin's secret police. ...

61. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The story is that of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychoanalyst and his wife, Nicole, who is also one of his patients. It would be Fitzgerald's first novel in nine years, and ...

62. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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Catch-22 is a satirical, historical novel by the American author Joseph Heller, first published in 1961. The novel, set during the later stages of World War II from 1943 onwards, is frequently cite...

63. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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An anti-war science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim.

64. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

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The book is told in stream of consciousness writing style by 15 different narrators in 59 chapters. It is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family's quest—noble or selfish—to honor he...

65. Paradise Lost by John Milton

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Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books. A second edition followed in 1674, redivided into twelve...

66. The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

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The Stories of John Cheever is a 1978 short story collection by American author John Cheever. It contains some of his most famous stories, including "The Enormous Radio," "Goodbye, My Brother," "Th...

67. The Aeneid by Virgil

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The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem written by Virgil in the late 1st century BC (29–19 BC) that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who traveled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the...

68. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

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Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, Russian writer, was first published in 1842, and is one of the most prominent works of 19th-century Russian literature. Gogol himself saw it as an "epic poem in prose",...

69. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

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It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a communist guerilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is ...

70. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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Leaves of Grass (1855) is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman. Among the poems in the collection are "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Roc...

71. The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka by Franz Kafka

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The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka is a compilation of all Kafka's short stories. With the exception of Kafka's three novels (The Trial, The Castle and Amerika), this collection includes all of Ka...

72. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

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The Magic Mountain is a novel by Thomas Mann, first published in November 1924. It is widely considered to be one of the most influential works of 20th century German literature.

73. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

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Before Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who, with Winesburg, Ohio, charted a new direction in American fiction — evoking with lyrical simplicity quiet mo...

74. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty

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Stories are as good in themselves and as influential on the aspirations of others as any since Hemingway's. The breadth of Welty's offering is finally most visible not in the variety of types--farc...

75. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

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Our Mutual Friend (written in the years 1864–65) is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is in many ways one of his most sophisticated works, combining deep psychological insight with ri...

76. The Hamlet by William Faulkner

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The Hamlet, the first novel of Faulkner's Snopes trilogy, is both an ironic take on classical tragedy and a mordant commentary on the grand pretensions of the antebellum South and the depths of its...

77. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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The Master and Margarita (Russian: Ма́стер и Маргари́та) is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, woven around the premise of a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consi...

78. The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

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The Transit of Venus tells the story of two orphan sisters, Caroline and Grace Bell, as they leave Australia to start a new life in post-war England. What happens to these young women — seduction a...

79. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

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On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Awa...

80. Selected Stories of Alice Munro by Alice Munro

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Selected Stories is a volume of short stories by Alice Munro, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1996. It collects stories previously published in her eight previous books.

81. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal

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Balzac considered it the most important French novel of his time. André Gide later deemed it the greatest of all French novels, and Henry James judged it to be a masterpiece. Now, in a major litera...

82. Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

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In the early summer of the year 1348, as a terrible plague ravages the city, ten charming young Florentines take refuge in country villas to tell each other stories — a hundred stories of love, adv...

83. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

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The novel tells the story of a highly dysfunctional family, the Pollits. The story centers on the family's impoverishment, the failure of the father Sam to provide for them, the parents' marital ba...

84. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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The Possessed is an 1872 novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Though titled The Possessed in the initial English translation, Dostoevsky scholars and later translations favour the titles The Devils or Demon...

85. Independent People by Halldor Laxness

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Independent People is an epic novel by Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, published in 1946. It deals with the struggle of poor Icelandic farmers in the early 20th century, only freed from debt bondag...

86. My Antonia by Willa Cather

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In Willa Cather's own estimation, My Antonia, first published in 1918, was "the best thing I've ever done." An enduring paperback bestseller on Houghton Mifflin's literary list, this hauntingly elo...

87. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

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In creating his acclaimed masterpiece Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford "wanted the Novelist in fact to appear in his really proud position as historian of his own time . . . The 'subject' was the worl...

88. Stories of Ernest Hemingway by Ernest Hemingway

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Before he gained wide fame as a novelist, Ernest Hemingway established his literary reputation with his short stories. This collection, The Short Stories, originally published in 1938, is definitiv...

89. Collected Stories by Raymond Chandler

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A complete collection of short fiction by the creator of Philip Marlowe includes stories such as "Blackmailers Don't Shoot," "The Pencil," and "English Summer."

90. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

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Violated by one man, forsaken by another, Tess Durbeyfield is the magnificent and spirited heroine of Thomas Hardy’s immortal work. Of all the great English novelists, no one writes more eloquently...

91. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

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No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her senti...

92. Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac

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La Cousine Bette (English: Cousin Betty or Cousin Bette) is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of an unmarried middle-aged woman who ...

93. Don Juan: A Poem by Lord Byron

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Don Juan (JEW-ən; see below) is a satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womaniser but as someone easily seduced by women. It is...

94. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Notes from Underground is a study of a single character, and a revelation of Dostoyevsky's own deepest beliefs. In this work we follow the unnamed narrator of the story, who, disillusioned by the o...

95. The Stand by Stephen King

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The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. It re-works the scenario in his earlier short story, Night Surf. The novel was originally published in 1978 and...

96. The Tempest by William Shakespeare

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The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, estimated to have been written in 1610–11, (although some researchers have argued for an earlier dating). The play's protagonist is the banished sorcer...

97. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby...

98. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

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A Passage to India is set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. The story revolves around four characters: Dr. Aziz, his British friend Cyril Fi...

99. Candide by Voltaire

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Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire written in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. Candide is characterized by its sarcastic tone and its erratic, fantastical, an...

100. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

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It tells the tragic story of a heroine whose quest for virtue is continually thwarted by her family, and is one of the longest novels in the English language.

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10 Books to Read Before Writing Your Novel

Writing a novel is an awesome undertaking, requiring time, skill, and oodles of imagination. A lot of people give lip service to the idea of writing a novel, usually confidently citing the amazing ideas they have along with a deep disdain for the novels that are getting published without their involvement, but not everyone has what it takes to write a novel—much less a good one that others will want to read. If you’re thinking of writing a book, whether in a fevered NaNoWiMo dash or a more stately approach, here are ten books you should read in order to prepare yourself. They won’t necessarily make writing a novel easier, but they will certainly clarify for you what it takes to go from 0 to 60,000 words.

I Should Be Writing: A Writer's Workshop

I Should Be Writing: A Writer's Workshop

Paperback $16.99

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Mur Lafferty

I Should be Writing , by Mur Lafferty The Six Wakes author has also been hosting the I Should be Writing podcast for years now, and the essence of that essential listening has been distilled into this phenomenal book. It’s billed as “A Writer’s Workshop,” and that’s exactly what it is, complete with exercises, examples, and stimulating and encouraging lessons. If you’ve never tried to write a novel before, this is the book that will help you get over the hump whether you work in the speculative genres like Lafferty or not.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (10th Anniversary Edition)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (10th Anniversary Edition)

Paperback $14.99 $17.00

Stephen King

On Writing , by Stephen King This is the ultimate writing memoir from one of the most prolific writers of all time. King is in his 70s now and going as strong as ever, publishing some of the most highly regarded books of his career. If you’ve never tried your hand at writing and need to wrap your head around how it’s done, this is probably the perfect book. The combination of King’s homey style, experience and talent, and eagerness to get into the specifics of his craft and process make this a must-read for every aspiring novelist.

Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen in the Art of Writing

NOOK Book $9.99

Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing , by Ray Bradbury Bradbury’s essay collection isn’t so much for craft and business stuff—instead, it takes a more philosophical approach to writing in general and writing novels specifically. Bradbury was a True Believer, someone for whom books were sacred, and stories a religion. If you’ve tried writing before and found yourself losing the thread over and over again, your excitement ebbing away as the difficulty mounted, Bradbury’s collected wisdom will keep your inspiration levels high.

Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016, with A Journal of a Writer's Week

Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016, with A Journal of a Writer's Week

Hardcover $24.00

Ursula K. Le Guin

Words are My Matter , by Ursula K. Le Guin Le Guin was more than just a great writer. She was a great thinker and a passionate advocate for authors and writing in general. The essays in this book run the gamut from thoughtful craft-oriented think pieces to intelligent assessments of other writers’ work, showing exactly how smart, critical reading can inform your own writing. There’s no better glimpse of what it takes, mentally, to write well over the course of decades, and if you’re contemplating a life of the keyboard you need to read it. Le Guin pulled no punches on her opinions, and you may not agree with everything she writes—but you’ll be better off for having read it.

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience

Paperback $17.99

Chuck Wendig

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The Kick-Ass Writer , by Chuck Wendig Wendig’s muscular style of writing advice is ideal for the 21st-century gig economy world we find ourselves in. He’s funny, honest, and successful—and he frames his advice on writing craft and getting published in a funny, fast-paced writing style that’s as fun as it is educational. That latter part is important; a lot of writing books are happy to help you write a novel, but few offer a ton of clear advice on getting that book published. If that’s your goal—and it isn’t everyone’s—then Wendig’s eminently readable book is a key step to laying your plans for literary world domination.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird , by Anne Lamott At some point every writer is advised to read Lamott’s classic reflection on the process of writing, and that advice is and always will be good advice. Beginning with the central anecdote about her brother, struggling to write a book report on birds, being advised to just take it “bird by bird,” the book is filled with practical and inspiring advice that demystifies the mechanics of the creative process. Even better, Lamott stresses that writing is in itself a reward, and pushes you to write for the satisfaction of having created something rather than the material rewards of publishing, which is by far the healthiest way to approach writing a novel even if publication is your ultimate goal.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Paperback $13.95 $14.95

Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist , by Austin Kleon One of the main things stopping people from writing novels is a lack of faith in their own ideas and creativity. Kleon’s new classic is a primer on how to harness your creativity and trust your instincts—as well as a necessary corrective to the idea that your ideas have to be rigidly, perfectly “original.” Kleon lays it out clearly—every artist steals, and every creative endeavor is built on the work that came before it. If you’re hesitating about your novel writing ambitions because you’re worried your ideas aren’t original enough, read this book.

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

Paperback $16.99 $19.00

The Anatomy of Story , by John Truby You’ve probably heard different theories on story and plot, from the Hero’s Journey to the Three-Act Structure and everything in between. The necessity and usefulness of these concepts varies from writer to writer, but knowing something about them is probably a good idea. While you can read plenty of books about plenty of theories on story, Truby’s is an excellent combination of modern thinking in terms of organic story generation combined with specific steps and plot points. His book will get you thinking about the shape of your story before you start writing, and that will make for a tighter novel that gets written faster.

Penguin Classics Aspects Of The Novel

Penguin Classics Aspects Of The Novel

Paperback $22.00

E. M. Forster , Frank Kermode , O Stallybrass

Aspects of the Novel , by E.M. Forster Forster, author of classic novels such as A Passage to India and Howard’s End , was also a lecturer at Trinity College. His series of lectures on the novel at that school in 1927 are collected in this book, and remain powerful explorations of the different aspects of the novel. Using classic works as examples, Forster brings his remarkable intelligence to bear on the question of what makes a novel, and how to apply those lessons in your own writing—where he uses examples from his own not-too-shabby writing career.

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit

Paperback $13.00

Lawrence Block

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit , by Lawrence Block Block, one of the most successful mystery writers of all time, wrote a lot of articles for Writer’s Digest back in the day in which he offered brass tacks writing advice and a glimpse into what the business was like for a successful published author. Those essays are collected here, and offer a still-applicable set of lessons on everything from getting past writer’s block to simply starting —which might be precisely what you need to read before you make your first, or five hundredth, attempt to write your own novel.

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The Creative Life

Coaching for creatives

Ten of the Best Books for Writers

Writers love to read – and write –about writing. Here are my favourites.

Best books for writers

1. Stephen King: On Writing

Now I happen to think that Stephen King is one of the best storytellers alive. No matter how absurd his initial premise – A car is alive! A clown in the drains! Phones turn you into zombies! – he does it with such conviction and imagination that you suspend all disbelief.

But no matter what you think of his work, this memoir/instruction manual is simply the best book on writing, full of inspiration, practical advice from one of the world’s most successful and prolific masters of the art.

If you ask any writer for their top ten, this will usually be in there somewhere. My much-loved and much-used copy is full of highlights, notes, underlining, bookmarks and folded-down corners. Start here!

2. Elizabeth Gilbert: Big Magic

Beautifully written, this is a magical mix of practical advice and mystical belief about the power of art, and how stories find us when we open ourselves to them. The chapter headings give you some idea: Courage; Enchantment; Permission; Persistence; Trust; Divinity.

This is one all creatives can learn from, not just writers. Especially if you’ve lost touch with your muse, you can’t get into flow, and you’ve lost faith that inspiration will come. We all have those dark moments. This book is a light, guiding the way back to your path.

If you find it too wu-wu and weird, stick with it. You’re probably the one who needs it most, right now.

3. Julia Cameron: The Artist’s Way

I re-read this every couple of years, and I’ve given it as a gift more than any other book. Clients of mine have written novels, screenplays, got through those difficult second albums and created new artworks by using its central tools: a weekly artist’s date , and daily morning pages . I’ve done both for years now. 

They’re like a compass, gradually showing me the direction I need to take, and in the rare times I now abandon them, I quickly see the difference in terms of focus and inspiration.

Experienced writers sometimes struggle with the idea of freewriting, because they hold themselves to higher standards. My tip? Do it without any grammar at all – I use dashes and little else – and don’t go back to edit, correct spellings or anything else. It works like a spring-clean for your mind, stopping thoughts playing on endlessly repeating loops by getting them down, however incoherently, onto the page.

There are plenty of other exercises and writing prompts too, with each chapter addressing a different obstacle in the creative’s path. This is another book that works for all kinds of creatives. But it’s especially brilliant for blocked, burned out or stalled writers. 

4. Steven Pressfield: The War Of Art

Subtitled  Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles,  this is one of the best books I know about what he calls Resistance: the forces stopping you just getting on and doing your creative work.

Like  The Artist’s Way,  it’s effective and inspirational whatever your creative field. But writing is Pressfield’s craft, and many of the examples he uses involve fellow writers.

Some of Pressfield’s attitudes are a little dated, but his methods are sound. See him as a wise old uncle, pushing you to just begin doing the work you dream of doing, no matter what you think is in your way. 

5. Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Diary

She’s like Marmite: you either love Woolf’s novels, or you hate them. I’m in the love camp ( To The Lighthouse  is a book I’ve read many times over), but you don’t have to agree to enjoy these extracts from her diary.

We often feel that the great writers, those whose work has endured and inspired, somehow sat down and effortlessly wrote finished drafts of their novels, stories or essays, and we measure our own clumsy first drafts and half-formed ideas against them. This is the antidote: Woolf’s diary exposes the sheer hard graft, the revisions, the self-doubt and the soul-searching that goes into producing a solid body of work. 

If you are afraid of the Woolf, search out your own favourite writers’ thoughts on the craft. Ian Rankin’s introductions to the newer editions of his Rebus novels give lots of insight into his creative process, for instance, and Philip Pullman’s essays on reading and writing are as brilliant as his fiction. 

6. Neil Gaiman: Make Good Art

This is actually a 2012 commencement address Gaiman gave in Philadelphia, and you can see him delivering it below. But graphic artist Chip Kidd had the lovely idea of making it into a beautifully illustrated book. I often open a page at random, and find just what I needed to read that day.

At its heart, all of Gaiman’s fiction is about the creation of story and of the myths that subconsciously inform us, even if we think we’ve forgotten them. I love the introductions he writes to his short story collections, and most of his collected journalism and speeches are also about the power of reading, writing and story. 

7. Anne Lamott:   Bird By Bird

Amongst many gems in this book, Lamott introduces the idea of Shitty First Drafts. These three words have pulled me out of the swamp more times than I care to remember, and the gist of them is this: on days when you can’t write well, just write badly. Get it down, then improve it later. 

“All good writers write them,” she reassures. “This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.”

There are gems in here about character, plot, dialogue, setting – and knowing when you’re done. And great exercises to try, along with brilliant paragraphs of her own writing. Leafing through it to write this, I’ve realised it’s been too long since I’ve reread this book, and it’s just moved from the shelf to my bedside table.

8. Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down The Bones

Three days after his 71st birthday, my dad complained of feeling sick, lay down on the bed for a moment, and died. He was rarely ill and hadn’t visited a doctor in 20 years, so this was beyond sudden and unexpected.

This was the book I was reading when that happened, 15 years ago. While I did all of the things I needed to do as the eldest child supporting a mum who – like most women of her generation – had never lived alone, this was also the book that kept me whole. I filled journal after journal in the following weeks and months, dipping back into these short essays whenever I needed kind, compassionate but firm guidance.

Sub-titled Freeing The Writer Within , it’s a good place to start if you have always wanted to write, or have been away from the page for a while. If you’re not sure where or how to begin, the writing prompts here are brilliant.

9. Natasha Khullar Relph: Shut Up And Write

As the title suggests, this is no-nonsense advice on getting the work done from a talented writer who managed to launch a successful international freelance career from India, then branch out into courses, content marketing, fiction – plus a really helpful and detailed series of books on making money from journalism and content marketing.

These final two writers both produce practical guides to getting paid for your work. I’ve included them here because I think it’s important to understand that artists and writers no longer need to starve. It’s perfectly possible to make real money from your writing – if that’s you want to do.

10. Joanna Penn: Successful Self-Publishing

This book is free on Kindle, inexpensive in paperback, and hugely practical if you want to publish your own writing and start earning money from it. Penn has a whole series of clear, informative books on writing and a long-running podcast about self-publishing, as well as her own successful and ever-growing series of independetly-published fantasy thrillers.

Like many older writers, I always looked down on self-publishing. I was wrong . It’s a great way of by-passing gatekeepers such as publishers and agents, getting topical work out quickly – and getting paid for your work within weeks, rather than years.

11. Antony Johnston: The Organised Writer

I’ve added this to the list as a bonus book, because I’ve just read it and it’s too useful not to share. This isn’t about  how  to write. It’s more about how to function, as a writer. How to be efficient in juggling multiple projects and organise everything from the folders on your computer to your notes.

My only criticism is that he advocates a somewhat dated system of storing old projects in A4 envelopes and file boxes. Why clutter up your workspace when you can just scan it all into an app such as Evernote and find it again far more quickly? But that’s a minor niggle about a book packed with sage advice.

I’ve been a professional writer for four decades now, and I still learned a lot from it!

There are many, many more brilliant books about writing.

Scarlett Thomas’s Monkeys With Typewriters is a great practical guide to writing and especially plotting fiction; James Wood’s How Fiction Works and Walter Mosley’s The Year You Write Your Novel are pretty self-explanatory and brilliant. Ray Bradbury’s writing advice is always pure gold, and I’ve never read any of Zadie Smith or Margaret Atwood’s thoughts on the craft without feeling smarter for it.

Really, I could go on, and on, and on. But I’m sure you have favourites of your own. Leave your recommendations below. And perhaps I’ll revisit this later, and do ten more.

Enjoy this?

If so you’ll enjoy The Creative Companion , a bi-weekly newsletter in which I share books, podcasts, videos and other useful resources to help professional creators get the success and the pay they deserve, making work they truly love. Sign up below if you’d like to get the next issue.

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Just jump over to your in-box now to confirm your email address, and you’ll get day one of the course straight away. 


All of the links on this page take you to Amazon UK, and I get a tiny payment to help with the costs of running this web site if you choose to buy there. If you prefer to support your local bookshop, more power to you!

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Reader Interactions

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13th January 2022 at 4:59 pm

Google? You can research pretty much anything you like online. But.. are you putting off writing by researching? I’d say just jump in and begin, then fact-check and adjust later..

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13th January 2022 at 7:26 am

Where are the best places for research resources for writers? For instance I’m trying to write a fantasy story that opens with child soldiers and their beginning powers but it’s been difficult to put my hands on the right things. Is there a one stop shop?

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22nd March 2021 at 9:33 pm

Find these recommendations very interesting I have the magnificent Stephen King on writing and will attempt to read your list. Currently I’m reading Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. Worth an entry on any list

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5th February 2021 at 5:50 pm

A good collection of titles.

17th January 2021 at 5:35 pm

Thanks Darlene! I’ve added that to my reading list..

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14th January 2021 at 9:42 pm

I think another great collection of essays on writing, is Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners.

5th January 2021 at 4:39 pm

The long answer to what I’m doing is here . The short one: two new books, a couple of collaborations, and lots of coaching creatives! Both The Artists Way and A Beautiful Anarchy are brilliant. Enjoy your journey, and if I can help, you know where I am now!

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5th January 2021 at 1:50 am

Hi Sheryl. Thank you for your response. I’m unsure if I should reply here in the comments section, but here goes. Well, I’ve been ruminating and procrastinating for too long and my NY was a disaster that has become a great motivator and something has switched in my thinking. So, at the moment I’m writing lists, trying to work out what ‘it’ is.

I have a creative background.I have been feeling very empty and at the moment feel unfulfilled.I do not want to start another year feeling like a cork bobbing in the ocean. So I have started to map out time each day for writing, and painting. I started The Artists Way on Sunday and I’m listening to A Beautiful Anarchy on my morning walks.

I found your fabulous site whilst searching time planning for creatives. Thank you so much. What about you? What are you planning for 2021?

3rd January 2021 at 6:04 am

Glad it was useful, Katy. What are you working on/planning to make in 2021?

3rd January 2021 at 4:42 am

Hello Sheryl. I came across your site and blog today. It’s exactly what I need right now. Notebook in hand I am devouring your posts. Neil Gaiman’s speech has particularly stirred me up. Thank you for this list and all the other great advice and articles. I feel an on line book order in the ether this evening! Oh and I see you are a fellow ‘old’ raver! All the best, Katy.

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Last updated on May 31, 2022

The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

For this post, we’ve scoured the web (so you don’t have to) and asked our community of writers for recommendations on some indispensable books about writing. We've filled this list with dozens of amazing titles, all of which are great — but this list might seem intimidating. So for starters, here are our top 10 books about writing:

But if you're ready to get into the weeds, here are 40 of our favorite writing books.

Books about becoming a writer

1. on writing by stephen king.

write 10 books

Perhaps the most-cited book on this list, On Writing is part-memoir, part-masterclass from one of America’s leading authors. Come for the vivid accounts of his childhood and youth — including his extended "lost weekend" spent on alcohol and drugs in the 1980s. Stay for the actionable advice on how to use your emotions and experiences to kickstart your writing, hone your skills, and become an author. Among the many craft-based tips are King’s expert takes on plot, story, character, and more.

From the book: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

2. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

If you haven’t checked out Wendig’s personal blog, head over there now and bookmark it. Unfiltered, profane, and almost always right, Wendig’s become a leading voice among online writing communities in the past few years. In The Kick-Ass Writer , he offers over 1,000 pearls of wisdom for authors, ranging from express writing tips to guidance on getting published. Written to be read in short bursts, we’re sure he’d agree that this is the perfect bathroom book for writers.

From the book: “I have been writing professionally for a lucky-despite-the-number 13 years. Not once — seriously, not once ever — has anyone ever asked me where I got my writing degree… Nobody gives two ferrets fornicating in a filth-caked gym sock whether or not you have a degree… The only thing that matters is, Can you write well? ” 

3. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas

Taking advice from famous authors is not about imitation, but about finding your own voice . Take it from someone who knows: Thomas is the New York Times #1 Bestselling author of The Hate U Give , On the Come Up , and Concrete Rose . While she’s found her calling in YA literature , she has plenty of insight into finding your own voice in your genre of choice. Written in the form of a guided journal, this volume comes with step-by-step instructions, writing prompts, and exercises especially aimed at helping younger creatives develop the strength and skills to realize their vision.

From the book: “Write fearlessly. Write what is true and real to you.” 

4. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Since its publication in 2000, The Forest for the Trees has remained an essential resource for authors at various stages in their careers. As an editor, Lerner gives advice not only on producing quality content, but also on how to build your career as an author and develop a winning routine — like how writers can be more productive in their creative process, how to get published , and how to publish well . 

From the book: “The world doesn't fully make sense until the writer has secured his version of it on the page. And the act of writing is strangely more lifelike than life.”

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5. How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

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From the book: “Great writers can be inhibiting, and maybe after one has read a Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James one can’t escape imitat­ing them; but more often such writers are inspiring.”

6. Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Smith is well-known for her fiction, but she is also a prolific essay writer. In Feel Free , she has gathered several essays on recent cultural and political developments and combined them with experiences from her own life and career. In “The I Who Is Not Me”, she explores how her own lived experience comes into play in her fiction writing, and how she manages to extrapolate that to comment on contemporary social contexts, discussing race, class, and ethnicity.

From the book: “Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two.”

Books about language and style 

7. dreyer’s english by benjamin dreyer.

A staple book about writing well, Dreyer’s English serves as a one-stop guide to proper English, based on the knowledge that Dreyer — a senior copy editor at Random House — has accumulated throughout his career. From punctuation to tricky homophones, passive voice, and commas, the goal of these tools should be to facilitate effective communication of ideas and thoughts. Dreyer delivers this and then some, but not without its due dosage of humor and informative examples. 

From the book: “A good sentence, I find myself saying frequently, is one that the reader can follow from beginning to end, no matter how long it is, without having to double back in confusion because the writer misused or omitted a key piece of punctuation, chose a vague or misleading pronoun, or in some other way engaged in inadvertent misdirection.”

8. The Elements of Style (Illustrated) by William Strunk, Jr., E. B. White, and Maira Kalman

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A perfect resource for visual learners, this illustrated edition of The Elements of Style has taken the classic style manual to a new, more accessible level but kept its main tenet intact: make every word tell. The written content by Strunk and White has long been referred to as an outline of the basic principles of style. Maira Kalman’s illustrations elevate the experience and make it a feast for both the mind and the eye. 

From the book: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

9. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

If you’re looking to bring a bit of spunk into your writing, copy editor Constance Hale may hold the key . Whether you’re writing a work-related email or the next rap anthem, she has one goal: to make creative communication available to everyone by dispelling old writing myths and making every word count. Peppered with writing prompts and challenges, this book will have you itching to put pen to paper.

From the book: “Verbose is not a synonym for literary.”

10. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Combining entertainment with intellectual pursuit, Pinker, a cognitive scientist and dictionary consultant, explores and rethinks language usage in the 21st century . With illustrative examples of both great and not-so-great linguistic constructions, Pinker breaks down the art of writing and gives a gentle but firm nudge in the right direction, towards coherent yet stylish prose. This is not a polemic on the decay of the English language, nor a recitation of pet peeves, but a thoughtful, challenging, and practical take on the science of communication. 

From the book: “Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing—and why should we care?”

11. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

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From the book: “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Books about story structure

12. save the cat by blake snyder.

Best known as a screenwriting manual, Save the Cat! is just as often named by authors as one of their most influential books about writing. The title comes from the tried-and-true trope of the protagonist doing something heroic in the first act (such as saving a cat) in order to win over the audience. Yes, it might sound trite to some — but others swear by its bulletproof beat sheet. More recently, there has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel , which tailors its principles specifically to the literary crowd. (For a concise breakdown of the beat sheet, check this post out!)

From the book: “Because liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” 

13. The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

Shawn Coyne is a veteran editor with over 25 years of publishing experience, and he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t in a story — indeed, he’s pretty much got it down to a science. The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know outlines Coyne’s original “Story Grid” evaluation technique, which both writers and editors can use to appraise, revise, and ultimately improve their writing (in order to get it ready for publication). Coyne and his friend Tim Grahl also co-host the acclaimed Story Grid podcast , another great resource for aspiring writers.

From the book: “The Story Grid is a tool with many applications. It pinpoints problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer… it is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attack drawer, and it can inspire an original creation.”

14. Story Structure Architect by Victoria Schmidt

For those who find the idea of improvising utterly terrifying and prefer the security of structures, this book breaks down just about every kind of story structure you’ve ever heard of. Victoria Schmidt offers no less than fifty-five different creative paths for your story to follow — some of which are more unconventional, or outright outlandish than others. The level of detail here is pretty staggering: Schmidt goes into the various conflicts, subplots, and resolutions these different story structures entail — with plenty of concrete examples! Suffice to say that no matter what kind of story you’re writing, you’ll find a blueprint for it in Story Structure Architect .

From the book: “When you grow up in a Westernized culture, the traditional plot structure becomes so embedded in your subconscious that you may have to work hard to create a plot structure that deviates from it… Understand this and keep your mind open when reading [this book]. Just because a piece doesn’t conform to the model you are used to, does not make it bad or wrong.”

15. The Writer's Journey  by Christopher Vogler

Moving on, we hone in on the mythic structure. Vogler’s book, originally published in 1992, is now a modern classic of writing advice; though intended as a screenwriting textbook, its contents apply to any story of mythic proportions. In The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , Vogler takes a page (literally) from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces to ruminate upon the most essential narrative structures and character archetypes of the writing craft. So if you’re thinking of drawing up an epic fantasy series full of those tropes we all know and love, this guide should be right up your alley.

From the book: “The Hero’s Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design… It’s difficult to avoid the sensation that the Hero’s Journey exists somewhere, somehow, as an external reality, a Platonic ideal form, a divine model. From this model, infinite and highly varied copies can be produced, each resonating with the essential spirit of the form.”

16. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

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From the book: “We don't turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”

17. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

More than just a New York Times bestseller and the winner of the Booker Prize, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a distillation of the MFA class on Russian short stories that Saunders has been teaching. Breaking down narrative functions and why we become immersed in a story, this is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand and nurture our continued need for fiction.

From the book: “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?”

Books about overcoming obstacles as a writer

18. bird by bird by anne lamott .

Like Stephen King’s book about writing craft, this work from acclaimed novelist and nonfiction writer Anne Lamott also fuses elements of a memoir with invaluable advice on the writer’s journey. Particularly known for popularizing the concept of “shitty first drafts”, Bird by Bird was recently recommended by editor Jennifer Hartmann in her Reedsy Live webinar for its outlook take on book writing. She said, “This book does exactly what it says it will do: it teaches you to become a better writer. [Lamott] is funny and witty and very knowledgeable.”

From the book: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

19. Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker 

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From the book: “When it comes to the eternal quandary of pantsing or plotting, you can keep a foot in each camp. But if your goals will require you to write with speed and confidence, an effective outline will be your best friend.”

20. Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith 

And for those who eschew structure altogether, we’ll now refer you to this title from profile science fiction author Dean Wesley Smith . Having authored a number of official Star Trek novels, he definitely knows what he’s talking about when he encourages writers to go boldly into the unknown with an approach to writing books that doesn’t necessarily involve an elaborate plan. It might not be your action plan, but it can be a fresh perspective to get out of the occasional writer’s block .

From the book: “Imagine if every novel you picked up had a detailed outline of the entire plot… Would you read the novel after reading the outline? Chances are, no. What would be the point? You already know the journey the writer is going to take you on. So, as a writer, why do an outline and then have to spend all that time creating a book you already know?”

21. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty

If you’re procrastinating to the point where you haven’t even started your novel yet, NaNo founder Chris Baty is your guy! No Plot, No Problem is a “low-stress, high-velocity” guide to writing a novel in just 30 days (yup, it’s great prep for the NaNoWriMo challenge ). You’ll get tons of tips on how to survive this rigorous process, from taking advantage of your initial momentum to persisting through moments of doubt . Whether you’re participating in everyone’s favorite November write-a-thon or you just want to bang out a novel that’s been in your head forever, Baty will help you cross that elusive finish line.

From the book: “A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,000,001 is not such a big deal.”

22. The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

And for those who think 30 days is a bit too steam cooker-esque, there’s always Alan Watt’s more laid-back option. In The 90-Day Novel , Watt provides a unique three-part process to assist you with your writing. The first part provides assistance in developing your story’s premise, the second part helps you work through obstacles to execute it, and the third part is full of writing exercises to unlock the “primal forces” of your story — aka the energy that will invigorate your work and incite readers to devour it like popcorn at the movies.

From the book: “Why we write is as important as what we write. Grammar, punctuation, and syntax are fairly irrelevant in the first draft. Get the story down… fast. Get out of your head, so you can surprise yourself on the page.”

23. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you feel like you’re constantly in the trenches of your “inner creative battle,” The War of Art is the book for you. Pressfield emphasizes the importance of breaking down creative barriers — what he calls “Resistance” — in order to defeat your demons (i.e. procrastination, self-doubt, etc.) and fulfill your potential. Though some of his opinions are no doubt controversial (he makes repeated claims that almost anything can be procrastination, including going to the doctor), this book is the perfect remedy for prevaricating writers who need a little bit of tough love.

From the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

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Books about writing as a lifestyle and career

24. steal like an artist by austin kleon.

As Kleon notes in the first section of Steal Like an Artist , this title obviously doesn’t refer to plagiarism. Rather, it acknowledges that art cannot be created in a vacuum, and encourages writers (and all other artists) to be open and receptive to all sources of inspiration. By “stealing like an artist,” writers can construct stories that already have a baseline of familiarity for readers, but with new twists that keep them fresh and exciting .

From the book: “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

25. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison

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From the book: “A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

26. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones will help you write more skillfully and creatively. With suggestions, encouragement, and valuable advice on the many aspects of the writing craft, Goldberg doesn’t shy away from making the crucial connection between writing and adding value to your life. Covering a range of topics including taking notes of your initial thoughts, listening, overcoming doubt, choosing where to write, and the selection of your verbs, this guide has plenty to say about the minute details of writing, but excels at exploring the author life.

From the book: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

27. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

What does it take to become a great author? According to the beloved writer Ray Bradbury , it takes zest, gusto, curiosity, as well as a spirit of adventure. Sharing his wisdom and experiences as one of the most prolific writers in America, Bradbury gives plenty of practical tips and tricks on how to develop ideas, find your voice, and create your own style in this thoughtful volume. In addition to that, this is also an insight into the life and mind of this prolific writer, and a celebration of the act of writing. 

From the book: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!”

28. The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison

One of the most common dilemmas an author faces is the struggle between spontaneity and control. Literary endeavors need those unexpected light-bulb moments, but a book will never be finished if you rely solely on inspiration. In The Kite and the String , Mattison has heard your cry for help and developed a guide for balancing these elements throughout the different stages of writing a novel or a memoir. Sure, there may be language and grammar rules that govern the way you write, but letting a bit of playfulness breathe life into your writing will see it take off to a whole new level. On the other hand, your writing routine, solitude, audience, and goal-setting will act as the strings that keep you from floating too far away. 

From the book: "Don’t make yourself miserable wishing for a kind of success that you wouldn’t enjoy if you had it."

29. How to Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

This one’s for all the indie authors out there! Even if you’ve already self-published a book , you can still learn a lot from this guide by Craig Martelle , who has dozens of indie books — “over two and a half million words,” as he puts it — under his belt. With patience and expertise, Martelle walks you through everything you need to know: from developing your premise to perfecting your writing routine, to finally getting your work to the top of the Amazon charts.

From the book: “No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.”

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30. How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet 

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From the book: “Here’s the thing: authors don’t find readers; readers find books . [...] Marketing is not about selling your book to readers. It’s about getting readers to find it.”

31. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

The full title of Handley’s all-inclusive book on writing is actually Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content — which should tell you something about its broad appeal. Not only does Handley have some great ideas on how to plan and produce a great story, but she also provides tips on general content writing, which comes in handy when it’s time to build your author platform or a mailing list to promote your book. As such, Everybody Writes is nothing like your other books on novel writing — it’ll make you see writing in a whole new light.

From the book: “In our world, many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves — and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife. But I don’t believe that, and neither should you.” 

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Books on writing poetry 

32. madness, rack, and honey by mary ruefle.

With a long history of crafting and lecturing about poetry, Ruefle invites the reader of Madness, Rack, and Honey to immerse themselves into its beauty and magic. In a powerful combination of lectures and musings, she expertly explores the mind and craft of writers while excavating the magical potential of poetry. Often a struggle between giving and taking, poetry is, according to Ruefle, a unique art form that reveals the innermost workings of the human heart.

From the book: “In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again”

33. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

If you’re looking for something that explores the philosophical aspects of writing, Threads asks big questions about writing and the position of the writer in an industry that has largely excluded marginalized voices. Where does the writer exist in relation to its text and, particularly in the case of poetry, who is the “I”? Examining the common white, British, male lens, this collection of short essays will make it hard for you not to critically consider your own perceptions and how they affect your writing process.

From the book: “It is impossible to consider the lyric without fully interrogating its inherent promise of universality, its coded whiteness.”

34. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

Despite its eye-catching title, this short essay is actually a defense of poetry . Lerner begins with his own hatred of the art form, and then moves on to explore this love-hate dichotomy that actually doesn’t seem to be contradictory. Rather, such a multitude of emotions might be one of the reasons that writers and readers alike turn to it. With its ability to evoke feelings and responses through word-play and meter, poetry has often been misconceived as inaccessible and elitist; this is a call to change that perception. 

From the book: “All I ask the haters — and I, too, am one — is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies), it might come to resemble love.”

35. Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge

If you’ve ever felt that the mysterious workings of poetry are out of your reach and expressly not for you, Wooldridge is here to tell you that anyone who wants to can write poetry . An experienced workshop leader, she will help you find your inner voice and to express it through the written word. Giving you advice on how to think, use your senses, and practice your writing, Wooldrige will have you putting down rhyme schemes before you know it. 

From the book: “Writing a poem is a form of listening, helping me discover what's wrong or frightening in my world as well as what delights me.”

36. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

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From the book: “Don't be afraid to write crap — it makes the best fertilizer. The more of it you write, the better your chances are of growing something wonderful.”

Books about writing nonfiction

37. on writing well by william zinsser.

Going strong with its 30th-anniversary edition, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction is an evergreen resource for nonfiction writers which breaks down the fundamental principles of written communication. As a bonus, the insights and guidelines in this book can certainly be applied to most forms of writing, from interviewing to camp-fire storytelling. Beyond giving tips on how to stay consistent in your writing and voice, how to edit, and how to avoid common pitfalls, Zinsser can also help you grow as a professional writer, strengthening your career and taking steps in a new direction. 

From the book: “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.”

38. Essays by Lydia Davis

Ironically enough, this rather lengthy book is a celebration of brevity. As one of the leading American voices in flash-fiction and short-form writing, Davis traces her literary roots and inspirations in essays on everything, ranging from the mastodonic work of Proust to minimalism. In both her translations and her own writing, she celebrates experimental writing that stretches the boundaries of language. Playing with the contrast between what is said and what is not, this collection of essays is another tool to the writing shed to help you feel and use the power of every word you write.

From the book: “Free yourself of your device, for at least certain hours of the day — or at the very least one hour. Learn to be alone, all alone, without people, and without a device that is turned on. Learn to experience the purity of that kind of concentration. Develop focus, learn to focus intently on one thing, uninterrupted, for a long time.”

39. Essayism by Brian Dillon

In this volume, Dillon explores the often overlooked genre of essay writing and its place in literature’s past, present, and future. He argues that essays are an “experiment in attention” but also highlights how and why certain essays have directly impacted the development of the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages until the present day. At its heart, despite its many forms, subject areas, and purposes, essayism has its root in self-exploration. Dip in and out of Dillon’s short texts to find inspiration for your own nonfiction writing.

From the book: “What exactly do I mean, even, by 'style'? Perhaps it is nothing but an urge, an aspiration, a clumsy access of admiration, a crush.”

40. Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

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From the book: “Write it down. Whatever it is, write it down. Chip it into marble. Type it into Microsoft Word. Spell it out in seaweeds on the shore. We are each of us an endangered species, delicate as unicorns.”

With a few of these books in your arsenal, you’ll be penning perfect plots in no time! And if you’re interested in learning more about the editing process, check these books on editing out as well!

ZUrlocker says:

11/03/2019 – 19:46

I'm familiar with several of these books. But for new authors, I urge you caution. It is very tempting to read so many books about writing that you never get around to writing. (I did this successfully for many years!) So I will suggest paring it down to just two books: Stephen King on Writing and Blake Snyder Save the Cat. Snyder's book is mostly about screenwriting, so you could also consider Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Best of luck!

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Top 10 books writers should read

From unforgiving French sociology to Machiavelli’s manual for realpolitik , the Booker prize-winning author DBC Pierre recommends books that helped him write

W riting a novel from scratch, which is to say without training, was such an unexpected odyssey that I was prompted to recall the discoveries in my new book, Release the Bats – as much to remind myself where the power lay as to pass the keys on to others trying their luck. I didn’t read a lot before writing a novel, but I realise now that certain books helped set me up. Writing fiction means writing vibrant human characters, and luck is with us in terms of research, as we haven’t essentially changed since we came down from the trees. So the best grounding for a fiction writer must be one that explores human nature with gloves off. There’s nothing like literature from ancient Rome bemoaning consumer culture to show that nothing is new, or literature from Habsburg Italy telling how to hire nuns for sex from the mothers superior of convents to put Fifty Shades in perspective. Which is to say that if we haven’t figured ourselves out by now, there’s still time: we’re not going anywhere.

So my choice of books for writers is slanted towards those that expose our colours. For balance, I throw in a couple on writing as well.

1. To generate early inspiration and feel part of a club: Daily Rituals by Mason Currey Writing can make you feel like a weirdo if you don’t already – but feeling like a weirdo is useless psychology for the job, hence this little book. Mason Currey has carefully compiled the daily habits and personal foibles of 161 great writers, artists, scientists and thinkers, including one who stood on his head to cure creative block. By the end of this book, our carpet-glue habit looks normal.

2. To know how many rules we’re about to break: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and EB White The rules of modern writing have been around for a century, and this tiny volume is where they spent all that time. William Strunk Jr, professor of English at Cornell University, first printed the book privately for his students at the end of the first world war. Although it’s been updated, it still smells of chalk and tweed, and still inspires us to do things properly, if only via a sense that we might be shouted at if we don’t.

3. To grasp the difference between one character and another: Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu This is strictly speaking a sociology text, but don’t be put off by its density, its diagrams or its tables: it’s a gold mine. Apparently, no judgment of taste is innocent, meaning that everyone is some kind of snob. Here, Bourdieu literally maps the kinds of snob we are, from the food we serve our friends and the knick-knacks on our dressers to the way we value pregnant women and sunsets. Although it’s modelled on the French bourgeoisie, we can still see all our colleagues and neighbours – if not ourselves – inside.

4. To worship at a shrine: The Chambers Dictionary Sure, all the words are online, but the 2.37kg of this physical dictionary are a stunning daily reminder of what we’re doing and what our toolbox looks like. Thinking isn’t writing, ideas aren’t writing; only writing is writing and we should make it exist in reality, which means ultimately not on a screen. Words behave differently when they sit in fresh air, and the Chambers rounds them up on silky paper. If you’re serious about this, carry the thing around, browse it at random. It’s a living zoo for writers, and the battery life is second to none.

You might get shouted at ... EB White, co-author of The Elements of Style.

5. To skip the degree in psychology: Instant Analysis by David J Lieberman A character’s struggles in a book will always have their psychology. We don’t need a PhD in order to write them, we just see the symptoms around us and describe them as they appear. But there’s an edge to be gained from looking deeper, if only to prevailing simplifications. Lieberman’s book tackles 100 common complexes (“ Why do I do favours for people I don’t even like? ”) in a couple of pages each. Obviously we’ll also see ourselves in there, but there’s nothing like naked horror to get the day started.

6. To discover what villains are born knowing: The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli Originally an instruction manual for princes, this realpolitik masterwork teaches who should be trusted and how to destroy them if they can’t be. The scary thing about The Prince, no doubt responsible for its longevity – 500 years and counting – is how snugly it fits any level of human powerplay,, from an average Thursday night for a courting teen to that lonely, bitter man on the wheelie-bin committee.

7. To get over the feeling that modernity is new: Satyricon by Petronius Arbiter Few things can change one’s perspective on human history like seeing how familiar and modern this work from Nero’s time is. Better yet, it’s from a decadence just like ours, brimming with risky sex, pretentious food and self-concern.

8. In case Brexit didn’t show why pure democracy should be sparingly used: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay No matter the strength of hero or the scale of glory we plan to write about, it never hurts to see how bizarre we can be en masse. Written in beautiful 19th-century prose, this book is a forensic jaunt through history’s strangest crazes.

9. For a smell of literary gasoline igniting: The Black Bo ok by Lawrence Durrell It’s one thing to hear of passion and midnight oil, another to see it spilt through a book. These were the pages where 24-year-old Lawrence Durrell found his true voice – it’s worth reading them just to see what that means. One for inspiration.

10. To see what can happen when it all comes together: Tender Is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald Of all the books I could recommend to show writing in full flight, I pick Tender because it also comes with the unlikely extra shine of an underdog. The Great Gatsby is accepted to be Fitzgerald’s greatest work, but this is secretly his best, a connoisseur’s choice. Which, according to Bourdieu, makes us snobs.

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10 Essential Books About Writing

An illustration shows a person with brown skin and brown hair with a pencil in their mouth, bookshelves with blue, purple, yellow, and pink book covers behind them, and a laptop in front of them.

Writing under a pseudonym, Italian novelist Ferrante (whose real identity is unknown) has achieved what feels impossible for the modern writer—acclaimed status and protection from the public eye. Even after four New York Times bestsellers (including The Lost Daughter, My Brilliant Friend: The Neapolitan Novels , and The Days of Abandonment ) Ferrante has achieved an elusive success as a writer while remaining cloistered and focused on her craft. 

That’s what makes this, her latest collection of essays, so compelling and unique. Candidly and beautifully, Ferrante explores her literary influences and how she was formed as a writer. She delves into the danger of “bad language” and how it obscures and excludes women’s truth; all while providing brilliant commentary and analysis of women authors such as Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Ingeborg Bachmann, and many others.

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This 1994 science-fiction novel from acclaimed Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa is a dreamlike Orwellian fable that centers the power of writing as resistance and vehicle of collective remembrance. It depicts a world—an unnamed island—in which objects are disappearing. At first, it’s simple things like hats and ribbons, birds and roses. Then the disappearances become much more expansive and frightening, even more so because the island’s inhabitants are largely oblivious to these absences. Only a few can remember the lost objects, and these few live in fear, hiding themselves from the Memory Police, whose mission it is to ensure that these things stay forgotten. 

A young woman, whose career as a novelist is fraught because of the widespread sweeping away of memory, discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police. As she hides him beneath her floorboards, they both cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

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Drawn from what Atwood wrote for the William Empson Lectures in Cambridge, this gorgeous set of essays is a reflection on writing that will sit with you for years. Atwood forgoes with the usual dimensions of the genre—offering instruction on writing or discussing her own writing as a focal point—in favor of exploring multiple contours of a writer’s life, existential awareness, and conflicts. Pulling from mythology (the essay on The Great God Pan , deity of madness and artists, is particularly engaging), critical theory, classic literature, folklore, and religion, Atwood gives readers insight into the collection’s main question: “Why write?”

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Karr’s exuberant love of memoir shines through this instructive guide on how to craft a powerful, engaging account of one’s life experiences. Author of three New York Times bestselling memoirs— The Liars’ Club , Cherry , and Lit —Karr uses her own work, anecdotes from fellow writers, an impressive canon of iconic memoirs throughout the years to show writers the essentials of the genre—what to strive for and the mistakes to avoid. For any writer considering or working on a memoir, this is an essential component to the research process. Karr not only shares powerful insight on how to translate one’s inner life to thousands of readers, but she also delves into topics that confound memoir writers daily, especially how to tell people in your life that you’re writing about them.

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Emezi’s memoir is about their life moving through this world as a creative spirit, shaping their own community, and finding transcendence in art and the ritual of writing. A collection of tender letters to various recipients, Dear Senthuran moves between spirit and the practical world, speaking frankly about the role of payment and advances in their healing journey. A portrait of a writer as a god navigating the world of writing, Dear Senthuran is a meditation on art that all writers should add to their reading list.

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The journey of any writer is one of intense searching for the self; from the moment we decide to commit ourselves to this craft, we embark on a near-spiritual journey, becoming almost devotees of ourselves, in order to capture that elusive thing called voice. New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg takes readers along her own journey to becoming the master of craft that she is today. Her memoir explores the questions of what it means to have a life as a woman moving solo through the world, devoted to art and self-assured in her skill. Her writing path—cobbled with odd jobs, self-funded book tours, global travel, rejections, and transcendent friendships—is one that many writers will see themselves in, and will have a great deal to learn from.

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This urgent guide was created to help incarcerated writers craft a literary life while in prison. Throughout history, reading and writing have given incarcerated people healing, insight, accountability, and a revolutionary arrow aimed at the heart of society’s corruption. With more than 50 contributors and featuring essays from writers such as T Kira Mahealani Madden, Ellen Bass, and Piper Kerman, The Sentences That Create Us breaks down different genres, shows readers how to build a writing community in prison, offers editing techniques, and examines the difficulty of getting one’s work published and distributed outside of prison. First-person narratives honestly discuss the emotional and physical limitations that prison places on a writer’s craft. Full of writing advice, lesson plans, and imaginative exercises, this book is an essential read for incarcerated people and their allies who aim to assist in using literature as a tool for collective uprising.

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One can be a reader without being a writer, but a writer who doesn’t read is usually not successful. Reading is perhaps the most crucial element of our practice, beyond the acts of writing, editing, pitching, or publishing. Opening up a good book is the genesis of all writers, and so the act of reading must be something we approach intentionally. With Reading Like a Writer, New York Times bestselling author Francine Prose explores the vital role of reading in the life of any writer, but especially her own. A lauded literature critic, Prose uses great writers throughout history—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf—to show how intentional reading can guide the writer in the art of “Words,” “Sentences,” “Dialogue,” “Gesture,” and “Details.”

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Adapted into a film starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, this novel follows a character named Joan Castleman reflecting on her life with her husband, Joe Castleman, after she learns he has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. They travel to Helsinki together so he can receive his award, but after 40 years of suppressing herself as a writer at the coercion of her husband, who relied upon her to support his own literary career, Joan suddenly decides to reclaim her agency. An essential story about what it means to be a female writer, The Wife is notable for its masterful undercurrent of rage throughout the narrative—and the heartbreakingly predictable situation Joan finds herself in.

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34 of the Best Books On Writing: Inspirational Reads

by Farrah Daniel | Feb 5, 2022

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What’s the number one thing you can do to improve your writing?

Read. A lot.

Read anything and everything you can find, and you’ll become a better writer.

Read your favorite genre, whether that’s historical fiction, creative nonfiction or personal essays. Read books that are similar to what you like to write. And surround yourself with writer paraphernalia , including great books on writing.

The titles below will help you with all aspects of your writing, from learning to write better to finding inspiration to figuring out where to pitch your ideas. We’ve even included some books about how to make money writing .

We explore the best books on writing in these categories:

Books on becoming a better writer, books on overcoming the struggles of writing, books on writing as an art form, books on making money writing, 1. “ on writing ” by stephen king.

Part memoir, part guidebook, this Stephen King classic will appeal even to those who avoid his renowned horror-packed tales. In this book, King discusses how he came to be the writer we know today, plus he shares the basic tools of writing every writer needs.

2. “ Bird by Bird ” by Anne Lamott

“Bird by Bird” is an essential part of any writer’s toolbox. In this work, Lamott shares herself and her craft with readers, including anecdotes that tie the pieces together into all-around great writing. If you need help finding your voice and passion, Lamott’s advice is sure to spark creativity.

3. “ Writer’s Market ” edited by Robert Lee Brewer

“Writer’s Market” helps aspiring writers become published. Its listings contain hundreds of pages of suggested markets for nonfiction writers, as well as those who want to sell short stories, including details for how to pitch your work. Because this guide is updated regularly, you’ll always have the most up-to-date information about how to publish and get paid for your writing.

4. “ On Writing Well ” by William Zinsser

Although this classic book targets nonfiction writers, Zinsser discusses many forms of writing, from interviewing and telling stories about people to writing about travel. In addition to writing tips on consistency, voice, editing and more, he also includes the fundamentals of craft that can help you grow as a writer in any genre.

5. “ The Elements of Style ” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

For years, writing teachers have assigned “The Elements of Style” to their students to teach them about grammar, structural writing rules and the principles of composition. Brushing up on the basics from time to time is critical for continually developing your skills, and this book contains simple truths that every writer needs to know.

6. “ The Associated Press Stylebook ” by the Associated Press

AP Style is known by many as the “go-to” writing style for journalists and public relations pros. The Associated Press Stylebook contains more than 3,000 entries detailing rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation and word and numeral usage to help you master news writing.

(Heads up: This stylebook is updated annually, so always be sure you purchase and study the most recent version!

7. “ How to Write Bestselling Fiction ” by Dean Koontz

While many books on this list are aimed at nonfiction writers, this one is for those who dream up their own stories to tell. If anyone is qualified to tell people how to write bestselling fiction, its prolific author Dean Koontz, who’s sold more than 450 million copies of his books. This book was written in 1981 and is out of print, so if you buy it online, you’re paying for a collector’s item. But the book has timeless, valuable insights for writers who manage to snag a copy. (Consider checking the local library!). After four decades, it’s still one of the best books on writing fiction.

8. “ Writing Down the Bones ” by Natalie Goldberg

Goldberg’s insightful book examines the craft of writing including how to start brainstorming, the importance of learning how to listen, the vital role verbs play in writing, and even how to find an inspiring place to write. No matter the stage you’re at with writing, this inspiring read will give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

9. “ Plot & Structure ” by James Scott Bell

Written for fiction writers, this book tackles everything from story structure models and methods to a variety of techniques to help you craft great stories from start to finish. You’ll even find tips on how to create plot diagrams, plus the tools to overcome various plot problems that can arise.

10. “ Writing Short Stories ” by Courttia Newland and Tania Hershman

Broken into three comprehensive parts, this book examines the craft of short stories and teaches writers how to do it successfully. It explores the nature and history of this form, provides useful tips from noteworthy short story writers and how to look deeper into your characters. Plus, if you’re struggling with writer’s block, Newland and Hershman’s book can help you there, too.

11. “ I Should Be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop ” by Mur Lafferty

For writers who should be writing — erm, all of us — this book is like your personal writing workshop condensed into a flexibound journal. Lafferty shares writing exercises to help the strength of your writing blossom, plus writer’s prompts, tips on how to refine your creative process and hone your craft. Most of all, you’ll learn how to ignore your inner writing bully. 

12. “ Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors ” by Brandilyn Collins

Award-winning and best-selling novelist of 30 books Brandilyn Collins created this in-depth guide to help writers understand the psychology of your characters. That way, you’ll know how to express it in your stories and bring your characters to life. Because it draws on popular acting methods that’ve been used professionally for decades, reading this book will teach you techniques and concepts that’ll change the way you look at writing.

13. “ Self-Editing for Fiction Writers ” by Renni Browne and Dave King

When you can’t hire a professional editor to ensure your manuscript is print-ready, pick up this book to learn how to edit yourself into print. Written by two professional editors, “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” teaches editing techniques like dialogue, exposition, point of view and more so you can turn your work-in-progress into published novels and short stories.

Best Books On Writing

14. “ The Writing Life ” by Annie Dillard

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “An American Childhood”  shares words of wisdom in this handy book where she discusses the difficulties of writing. She writes about how it’s sometimes necessary to destroy paragraphs, phrases and words to reform them as something even better. She also shares advice all writers need a reminder of, like this one: Be more diligent and less self-berating. 

15. “ The Artist’s Way ” by Julia Cameron

From time to time, every writer suffers from burnout or writer’s block, and Julia Cameron understands that. Her book focuses on the craft of writing and training yourself to be even more creative.

She offers valuable techniques, like starting each morning with a free-writing exercise and exploring one subject you find fascinating per week. Her tips for gaining the self-confidence to reinvigorate your creative juices could be of help to any kind of writer.

16. “ Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer ” by Bruce Holland Rogers

“Word Work” is packed with practical advice to help you navigate core elements of the writing process. Whether you want to overcome procrastination, find happiness in writing and even conquer writer’s block, this roadmap is filled with useful exercises to help you achieve your goals. It also covers how to handle rejection and success.

17. “ A Writer’s Guide to Persistence ” by Jordan Rosenfeld

This book focuses on how to be a happy and successful writer throughout your career. It covers everything from finding joy as a writer to avoiding burnout to the all-important challenge of balancing writing with a busy life. It also discusses how to fine-tune your craft, get in touch with your creative flow, revise your work, find critiques, and learn how to be resilient.

18. “ War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles ” by Steven Pressfield

Published in 2012, this book helps writers and creators of all kinds overcome the biggest obstacle of all: our inner naysayer. The Amazon description says this book is “tough love…for yourself,” so if something inside of you keeps you from your biggest accomplishments, this is the right book to pick up.

PS: If you’re a Steven Pressfield fan, be sure to check out SelfPublishing.com’s podcast interview with the author! You’ll love it!

19. “ Steal Like an Artist ” by Austin Kleon

“Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” will help you understand that nothing is original. To discover your true artistic side and build a more creative life, read this book to be inspired by Kleon’s transformative principles about the power of embracing influence. Instead of writing what you know, this read will give you the courage to write what you want and be imaginative in your work.

20. “ The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work ” edited by Marie Arana

This book contains columns from a decade of The Washington Post’s “Writing Life” column, with contributors as diverse as Jimmy Carter, Joyce Carol Oates and Carl Sagan. Each essay is paired with biographical information about each author, which helps readers learn more about these skilled contributors and their timeless ideas on the craft of writing.

21. “ The Paris Review Interviews ”

A notable magazine, The Paris Review offers 16 in-depth interviews with some of the leading names in the literature world, from novelists to playwrights and poets. If you want insight into how superstars like Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison and more penned their esteemed works, check out this book to learn from their revelations.

22. “ Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking ” by David Bayles & Ted Orlando

This book reflects on the artistic side of being a writer. Making art is no easy feat, and Bayles and Orlando — both artists themselves — explore the challenges of making art and the various obstacles that can discourage people along the way. Originally published in 1994, “Art & Fear” is now an underground classic, dishing out relatable, valuable advice about what it means to create.

23. “ The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century ” by Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker offers a new take on some of the classic writing manuals. Inside “The Sense of Style”, he analyzes examples of modern prose, pointing out fantastic writing styles from those he considers awful. To help you improve, Pinker also provides tips to spruce up lackluster work.

24. “ Zen in the Art of Writing ” by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, author of “Fahrenheit 451 , ” put together this book of essays portraying his passion for the craft. It was published in the 90s, but this collection still offers wise advice for aspiring and practicing writers.

25. “ The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story ” by Frank O’Connor

World-renowned Irish author Frank O’Connor takes on the short story in this favorite book on writing. Short stories are challenging, but O’Connor shares tips and tactics that can help any writer begin to feel more confident about mastering the art of the short story and crafting their own works. According to many readers and writers, this is one of the best books on writing short stories.

26. “ Consider This ” by Chuck Palahniuk

In this memoir-like read, Palahniuk reflects on the art of storytelling through advice he shares about what makes writing and sharing stories powerful. In between anecdotes and decades-worth of postcards from his time on the road, you’ll find a love story to the world of fiction paired with concrete examples of strong storytelling.

27. “ The Emotional Craft of Fiction ” by Donald Maass

Readers shouldn’t just read your story; they have to feel it as well — that’s what makes strong fiction, according to “The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface.” A former literary agent, Maass breaks down story elements to show you how to write fiction that creates an emotional experience for your readers.


28. “ Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page To 10,000 Copies Sold ” by Chandler Bolt

Published. equips readers with the key to unlock the story that has been burning inside them, calling them to share their wisdom with the world. Published. turns writers into authors. Then it shows authors how to scale their impact, influence, and income from their books. Grab a copy today!

29. “ Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing ” by Helen Sedwick

Attorney and self-published author Helen Sedwick uses her 30+ years of legal experience to help aspiring self-publishers navigate the business side of writing. This first-of-its-kind guidebook covers everything from business set up to spotting scams to helping keep writers at their desks and out of court.

30. “ How to Make a Living With Your Writing ” by Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn’s “How to Make a Living With Your Writing” and her companion workbook can help any writer examine their current writing situation and make a plan for the future. Penn discusses her multiple income streams and shares the breakdown of her six-figure writing income, which includes book sales, affiliate marketing commissions, a series of courses she offers and speaking fees.

31. “ Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success ” by Kelly James-Enger

Divided into five sections James-Enger ’s book dives into critical topics, such as when it makes sense to ignore per-word rates, how to ask for more money, how to set goals and even how to fire troublesome clients. This book is a valuable read if you want to build a sustainable career as a full-time freelance writer.

32. “ Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living ” edited by Manjula Martin

In her new anthology, Martin includes a series of essays and interviews from well-known literary icons such as Roxanne Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Weiner, and Jonathan Franzen where they discuss the intersection of writing and money.

33. “ Everybody Writes ” by Ann Handley

This content-creation book, “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content , ” drives home the point that anyone with a website or social media channels is a writer.

It focuses on how to craft quality writing that boosts business and helps find and retain customers. Plus, it includes writing tips, content help, grammar rules and much more. Despite the growing world of hashtags and abbreviations, writing matters more now than ever.

34. “ The Breakout Novelist : How to Craft Novels That Stand Out and Sell” by Donald Maass

This must-have reference for novel writers provides innovative and practical information about how to turn your writing into engaging and marketable fiction that stands out. With more than 70 exercises to help you evaluate your writing and lessons from Maass’ 30+ years in publishing, you’re sure to walk away with knowledge and strategies to become an author with a successful career.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via Andrii Kobryn/  Shutterstock

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Ocean Vuong: The 10 Books I Needed to Write My Novel

On herman melville, theresa hak kyung cha, james baldwin, lê thị diễm thúy, and more.

As a culture, we often fetishize the debut writer as some sort of self-arising wunderkind, someone that comes “out of nowhere” or had “splashed onto the scene” unannounced, seemingly without a pre-history or predecessors. This is compounded for writers of color, who seem, according to this narrative, to arrive at the literary table by “transcending” their cultural, economic or racial milieu into the hegemonic literati. I want to take a moment, in light of this, to put some shine on 10 books that made my debut, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous , possible.

Some of these texts (in no particular order) are canonical, some are not—but they each had an idiosyncratic force on my education as a writer and informed and enriched On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous , and in particular, supported the novel’s metaphor-rich approach. The metaphor, heavily used in the 19th century as a means toward the ecstatic sublime, became more passé after the World Wars, when the pastoral dream was no longer feasible amidst European fields rotting with cattle corpses. I wanted to use the metaphor differently, on terms removed from a Eurocentric worldview.

Vietnamese refugees, for example, use metaphor as a coping mechanism; metaphor provides a way to talk about trauma without stating the experience outright. An abortion is described as having “papaya seeds scraped out of you,” or sexual assault as having “the doorway of your body broken into.” To die is to”“get on the road.” Likewise, when Abel Meeropol wrote the poem “Strange Fruit” about the lynching of African Americans in the South, he was not reaching for the Romantic sublime—but to render the horrific via an alternative speech act. The metaphor in the mouths of survivors became a way to innovate around pain.

These texts also helped in formulating the novel’s shape. Using Kishōtenketsu, a narrative structure used in Chinese poetry, then later developed in Japanese storytelling, I was able to write about American violence without it becoming vital to the novel’s arc. It was important to me, at least in this book, that violence remain independent from any character’s self-worth, rendering it inert, terrible, and felt—but not a means of “development.” Through Kishōtenketsu, violence becomes fact and not a vehicle towards a climax. Having been a student mainly of Western literature, it became clear to me that the most perennial protagonist is not necessarily the main character, but conflict-driven plot. In Western narratology, the plot is the dominant mode to which all characters are subordinate. But I wanted a novel to hold these characters thoroughly and, most importantly, on their own terms, free from a system of governance, even one of my own making. I could not employ the plot-heavy strategy because I needed these people to exist as they are, full of stories but not for a story.

The truth is no writer comes “out of nowhere” and wunderkinds are only as real as our aversion to a more sobering—albeit less glamorous—reality: that a writer’s growth is often a slog, the slow burn of reading and trying and failing when, finally, by some luck or mercy, the book you’re reading turns into a torch in your hands. And with it you make a sentence so new and exacting to your desire that it startles you into a new vision, a new life, one that exists through the presence of elders before you, both here and gone and some nearly forgotten but never lost.

These authors and their books found me. They helped realize my thinking. Hopefully they will do the same, however large or small, for you.

write 10 books

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee

This book is one of the most radical approaches to the novel that I’ve read, one where time-honored narrative decrees for cohesion, fluidity, character development, plot and arc, are refused in order to privilege a necessary, orchestrated sense of disorientation as a method of enacting displacement, trauma, and national and private grief. The novel gave me courage to stop seeing historical trauma as something that has to be refurbished in order to achieve “fine art,” and more so that fracture, even incomprehensibility, can be a powerful conscious mode of storytelling, one that interrogates colonialist gauges of successful art-making without forsaking its central thrust: to tend and hold close the bodies expelled by canonical narratives.

Because Cha was also a visual artist, the book can be read as an exhibit, both in the curatorial sense (images and calligraphy often interrupt the text) as well as a judicial one—where documents and family albums are scanned as evidence of erased histories.

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Toni Morrison, Beloved

There is not more I can say about Beloved that has not been said much more concisely and eloquently. When I first came to the book, I discovered something I did not expect coming in: that, along with the myriad things that Beloved is and does, it is also a refugee narrative. The novel positions survival as an act of creation, particularly how mothers who witnessed a generation of a horrific trauma acquire the power of protection through love—even if it means committing the ultimate act of rescue: death. It is a treatise wherein literary violence can—and is at times obligated to—match that of history, that nothing is “too much” or “indulgent” if it is true. I saw in Morrison’s characters the thinking and innovation of women in my family.

Although Morrison’s characters inhabit a completely different historical sequence, incomparable to anything else, the novel taught me to see Vietnamese refugees as survivors with agency, like Sethe, who must now furnish a future within incomprehensible aftermaths. It gave me the confidence and determination to see Vietnamese American life as worthy and exceedingly beautiful in the project of literature.

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Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

This hybrid book (a novel in verse) taught me what can happen when a fictive story is contextualized through other texts, where it can collaborate, argue with, and celebrate the original while also gaining its own life. In Carson’s case, it was the recasting and expansion of the classical myth of Geryon. But what’s more, it uses Geryon’s anecdotal life in a larger male-dominated narrative as an epicenter, thereby decentralizing the Greek original into Carson’s contemporary vision of rural queer life, the isolation of art making and the brutal repercussions of favoring interiority in a patriarchal system.

But perhaps what’s most inspiring to me about this book is Carson’s refusal to enact her protagonist’s development via a false and forced inhabitation of heteronormative ideals. Geyron, a quiet, small, artistic mama’s boy, does not become a masculinist hero in order to “solve” his outcast position. Instead, he bravely embodies his otherness, or “monstrosity,” as Carson writes, through emotionally-informed aesthetic vision. It’s a book that insists on the necessity of alterity as agency instead of succumbing to the readily assimilative.

Moby Dick Herman Melville first edition cover

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

I have always felt that Melville was the writer who enacted Whitman’s decree for American multiplicity in ways far richer and complex than Whitman did himself. A book that simply refuses to compromise, that employs the autobiographical gaze to suggest radical modes of queerness, polytheism as progressive self-knowledge, expansive meditations on whiteness, both in regards to the whale’s purity and to race, Moby-Dick forges the allegory of the hunt as a doomed American quest for self-knowledge. Reading it, I thought, What would happen if a queer Asian American decided, in Melville’s vein, to also not compromise? What would happen if all modes of voices, themes, threads, systems of knowledge and influence were potent in equal measure within the novel’s temporal investigation?

Because I knew I did not want to write a 600-page tome, the epistolary mode allowed me the quick detours and returns, while still retaining the vital urgency and vulnerability of a direct address. In this way, the voice, the letter itself, became the main plot, the digressions in memory, cultural investigations, and vignettes its tributaries. And the whale, ever fleeting, out of reach, and finally impossible, is the mother’s readership of the letter.

Go Tell It on the Mountain James Baldwin

James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

The novel that Baldwin claims he “had to write if [he were] ever to write anything else” is a masterclass on how potent and vital an autobiographical text can be for a writer of color. In a literary culture that often casts the debut as arriving out of serendipitous phenomenon, the autobiographical novel, as evidenced by Baldwin, serves as a map of one’s journey towards art. It says, essentially, that a writer of color does not arrive at the literary table, as is often believed, in spite their geographical and cultural roots, but because of them, that those origins, complex and rich with joy and challenges, were foundations within their praxis—not shackles that denied them an imagination.

The Germans would call such a book a künstlerroman —an artist novel. In Baldwin’s hands, Go Tell It becomes more than that, it becomes a map of passage wherein a gay black writer garners self-knowledge through the careful, thorough, and luminous rendering of his elders, which includes their flaws, triumphs, and the near-obliterating effect of American racism on their minds and bodies.

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lê thị diễm thúy, The Gangster We Are All Looking For

A truly innovative book that centralizes oscillation and destabilization as a mode of inquiry and storytelling. Moving through multiple points of view, voices and non-linear time, thúy builds a narrative that feels, at times, more like landscape art than writing—all to a tremendous embodied effect. This book was so important to my education as a novelist because it shows how easily writers of color can be relegated incomprehensible if they choose to enlist unconventional, non-canonical models to work from.

thúy not only breaks the rules of traditional Western narrative; she insists that such rules can be consciously rejected because their rubrics were made without considering the bodies her book holds—even at this risk of rendering it, in the eyes of critics trained to recognize and celebrate hegemonic styles, as nonsensical or wrong. The result is a bold and empowering refusal of conformity in search of other ways of speaking and being.

To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf first edition cover

Virginia Woolf , To the Lighthouse

This book still feels anachronistically bold in its total recalibration of conventional plot-making as a means of privileging characters, people and ideas over “story,” all of it a treatise for a woman’s interior life as a central motif for fiction. It’s subtly subversive but also starkly innovative in action—or inaction (the entire narrative can be summed up—with a touch of, but not much, hyperbole—as five people crossing a lawn while a woman tries to finish her painting). What’s so illuminating to me is Woolf’s insistence on the extended metaphor (near Homeric at times) as a means of destabilizing the temporal function of plot. What is real when the metaphor becomes just as felt, if not more so, than the narrated life, when it becomes a portal?

And Woolf did this at a time where overly metaphorical writing, a style that once represented the pinnacle of masculine achievement in the 19th century (James, Melville, Dickens, Whitman), was feminized via epithets like purple, florid, flowery, and unrestrained so to be rendered defunct or passé. In other words, a set of tools can be considered useless only once it has been retroactively prescribed to women. Using that “florid” style in a novel that negotiates a woman’s inner life within the restrictions of patriarchy while also laying bare the arbitrary gendering of style, was and is incredibly radical to me.

write 10 books

David Wojnarowicz , Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration

If a personal queer bible could be such a thing, this would be mine. The potent beauty in this collection of essays is evident in its wide swath of styles and range of diction and modes. Wojnarowicz oscillates between essayistic rages against the Reagan administration to deeply lyrical mediations on queer loneliness, illness, artmaking and the mourning of lovers and friends lost to the AIDS epidemic.

It feels at times as if Wojnarowicz’s sentences are attempts at laying ground within a community disintegrating before his eyes and voice. What remains in this collection that spans nearly his entire life is a testament to queer innovation and survival—but also the residue of a boy’s coming of age in broken homes in New Jersey to an equally blighted yet life-savingly vibrant New York. This book shines as one of the most vital prehistories of how queer art is possible today and its impact is still felt all around you, even if you’ve never read it. I will forever be indebted, not only to this book but also David’s life and work.

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Scott McClanahan, Crapalachia: A Biography of Place

Scott McClanahan is one of those rare writers who achieves Kafka’s credo that a book should be the axe that shatters the icy soul of our interior. Crapalachia , with its tongue-in-cheek title, is anything but refuse and detritus. In fact, it’s a broken and half-sung ode to place and people and history, a personal reclamation of falsehoods cast on rural communities in West Virginia. It shows that just because the place you live in has been written about by others ad infinitum, does not mean it was written with you or your folks in mind. This book gave me the courage and power to write about Hartford, a city both haunted and adored by the specters of literary giants like Wallace Steven, Mark Twain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

But what’s most indelible about this book is its commitment to wonder and awe. It looks at a region that is deemed blighted beyond repair by outsiders and insists that the sublime, under the writer’s honest and unflinching gaze, is made as true and palpable within the text as it is for those who live, dance, and die there.

Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation (2014)

Jenny Offill , Dept of Speculation

A modern testament to the power of the vignette as a narrative strategy. This book collapses Sherwood Anderson’s story cycle novel into Marguerite Duras’s elliptical, episodic style to fashion something entirely its own. What ensues is a refreshed demand for the reader to participate in the novel’s arc, each gap, like stanza breaks in a poem, both asks and allows us to feel the emotional pressures made resonant through associative leaps. This strategy is incredibly difficult to pull off as it demands charged and complicated emotive renderings to carry into white space without thorough bridges and narrative connections.

In other words, it operates using a continuous stream of thematic ricochets that compound as the vignettes increase. It takes a master to wield a book like this without it disintegrating into arbitrary “entries.” As such, reading it is a masterclass in the power and ramification of space and distance. An inexhaustible classic.


On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong’s  On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is out now from Penguin Press.

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The 10 Best Books About Writing

The 10 Best Books About Writing

Writing is hard. Not for everyone, mind you, but there are some people that land triple axels or swallow swords, and we don’t consider this the norm. Thankfully, these gifted writers have shared their secrets—often the same secret, that their best words weren’t a gift at all, but the fruits of frustrating, wearisome work. We treasure these following tomes, not because they necessarily reveal the tricks to making writing easier, but because they assure us that just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we should give up. If you write, we’re assuming you’re already armed with style guides like the enduring Strunk & White classic, The Elements of Style , along with your AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style . And that you have examples of great writing like Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker . We also skipped books that were specific to a certain genre, like Mary Oliver’s excellent Poetry Handbook . Instead, the following are 10 books about the craft of writing. We polled Paste writers, editors and interns to share their favorites and received scores of suggestions from Twitter and Facebook . We even asked Neil Gaiman about his “favorite book on writing and why?”

Gaiman’s response? “Stephen King’s On Writing . Because of the title.” Oh, writers.

Here are our 10 favorite books about writing:


anne lamott

Annie dillard, bill bryson, ray bradbury, stephen king.


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