Top 10 Books for Writers You Need to Read Now

Just a while ago, I was organizing the clutter that is my bookshelf.

Over-filled, brimming with piles and piles of books, no-space-left bookshelf.

I was clearing out books to make room for new ones. And I couldn’t help but notice a great number of writing reference books I have accumulated over the years.

Some of them I love to bits and refer to often. Some are just regrets and have to go.

This strikes me as the perfect time to make a list of my favorite top 10 books for writers. Books I believe, no aspiring writer should be without.

Ideally, read these when you haven’t really decided what sort of writer you’d like to be. Heck, you are not even sure if you want to become one, or you even can. (Skip to inspiration or memoirs section, my friend. Start with that one.)

I am also sharing some favourite passages that I have jotted down in my notepads, over the years. Enjoy.


#1 On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it.

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

#2 Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Frank & Wall

Voice has become a buzz word in discussions of modern fiction; it is what every writer wants to have and what every reader wants to enjoy.

Most writers struggle to unearth voice, not only because it is too familiar but also because it means confronting your world.

You will find your voice by speaking naturally – by being yourself and not trying to be a great writer. Your voice is your most powerful tool. Your voice is how you write when you don’t have time to be elegant.

Most writers infuse themselves in their work. When you read a good novel or a book, you leave with a sense that in addition to the characters, you have met a particular writer.

#3 Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction
by Dinty Moore

Essay is personal. The essence of essay is to explore a topic, not sitting down knowing all the answers.

Expressing yourself in simpler words requires more craftsmanship and skill than using multisyllabic and flowery language. And it almost always works better. Everyday speech, but with stammering removed and coherence turned up just a notch.

If you feel dull and unspectacular, the reader is already on your side. Maybe just being a regular sort of a guy or a gal has its advantages.


#4 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King (Also memoir)

So okay – there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.

If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.

#5 Page after Page by Heather Sellers

Nervous, scared, lazy writer? Aren’t we all?

You can write good stuff. It is the matter of sitting down and putting pen to page.

Writing – you don’t do alone. Surround yourself with books and writers of the highest quality, in as many forms as you can import into your world.

Butt in chair. You have to stay in your chair. You can’t do the laundry, you can’t clean things. You can’t take a bath, a shower or a walk.
You can’t so any healthy, necessary things you have been meaning to do: yoga, call your mother, write letters. All those holy, pure acts seem appealing. You must resist bettering yourself in those ways.
You sit in the chair whether or not you are writing.
Develop talent of the room. Talent of sitting in a room, all by yourself and getting used to that.

#6 The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” Chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

Are you paralysed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.


#7Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

We must come to a beginner’s mind every time we write. There is no security, no reassurance that we wrote something good before and we can do it again.

Writing practice is a timed exercise:
Keep your hand moving.
Don’t cross out.
Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar.
Lose control.
Don’t think.
Go for the jugular.

Sit down with the worst expectation of yourself. Say I am going to write the worst junk of the world. Give yourself a space to write without a destination.

#8 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

We as writers must stop getting in our own way. We need to sit down and write every day. Work on short assignments – take it bird by bird.

Make a connection with your readers. Write something that you care deeply about and tell the world something important. Give people a ‘yes’ when they read your work. A sense of connection.

If you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.


#9 The Elements of Style (4th Edition) by William Strunk and E. B. White


#10 The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing
by Bonnie Trenga

So, did I include any of your favourites? What would you recommend to a highly enthusiastic, budding writer? Do share in the comments below.

About the author

Marya Jan

Marya Jan is a freelance blogger and online copywriter. Her blog Writing Happiness is a proud Finalist: Top Ten Writing Blogs 2011/12 here at Write to Done. Grab her free ebook How to Write Blog Content that Works. You can also follow her on twitter @WritingH