Every writer knows she must read well to write well. Any and all books, really, but there’s something incredible about reading a well-known (or not so well-known) writer’s experience and being able to empathize with their choices, emotions, and habits. Because if you feel the way other writers feel when they’re slugging through a bout of writer’s block or dealing with the fear of being unoriginal, that makes you a writer, right?
If you’re looking for that feeling of, “Hey, I’ve been through that,” or if you just want some tips on how to polish your writing (or how to start in the first place), here are five books that will make you a better writer.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I’ve raved about this marvelous little book before, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any list that doesn’t include it, but On Writing is, in my opinion, the last word in books on writing. It is like an aspiring writer’s instruction manual (not a horror novel in disguise, rest assured), unraveling the writing process from getting started to getting published. Not only is it incredibly helpful, with manageable tips and accessible advice, it is also witty, entertaining, and relatable throughout. If you only buy one book on writing, let it be this one.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
I first encountered this book in college as a TA for a capstone class, and while we only read snippets for the course, I remember deeply relating to Lamott’s love-hate relationship with writing. Like King’s memoir, Bird by Bird is a writer’s handbook / life story hybrid, with heartfelt encouragement and kick-in-the-pants motivation sprinkled throughout. At many points in the book, I laughed out loud at her jaded humor and down-to-earth presentation of the writer’s life, but in the end felt better equipped to face my own perfectionism and flaws, as well as the daunting prospect of the publishing world. Another great read for aspiring and established writers alike.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and EB White
This is a classic grammar guide, used in high schools and English Comp. 101 classes across the country. While it faces some controversy in these modern times for being outdated and stuffy, The Elements of Style is still wonderful for grammar junkies and anyone looking to spiff up their writing during the editing phase of a project. Keep in mind, however, that even age-old writing wisdom should be taken with a grain of salt, and when in doubt over a “rule,” go with your creative gut.
One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
If you never read anything else of Welty’s, read her short, delightful, loaded autobiography about growing up in the South, her childhood home, and the events that led her to become a writer. Developed from her three Harvard lectures in 1983, One Writer’s Beginnings is a quick and charming read divided into three parts, Listening, Learning to See, and Finding a Voice, that offer insight to her mastery as a writer of human relationships and grounded setting. It is a wonderful piece, both as a journey into Welty’s life and writing and as an engaging story.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
I absolutely adore Bradbury’s quirky, lighthearted assessment of the writer’s life in this book, how he is able to drill down to the bare bones of the process and lay out practical tips for writers of every stage in his usual fearless and spirited tone. In Zen in the Art of Writing, he breaks down his lifetime of writing into short, readable essays, and while some of his advice is out of style and some of his experience difficult to relate with, the overall vibe of this little collection is encouraging and inspiring, as it all boils down to being true to yourself as a writer.
Happy reading (and writing)!
NOW TELL ME // Have you read any of these books? What is your favorite book on writing? Tell me below!
photo by: Thought Catalog