Seven Books Every Writer Should Read

I talk to people all the time who want to be writers. Usually, the conversation goes something like this.

Them: What do you do for a living?
Me: I’m a writer
Them: Oh wow, I’ve always dreamed of writing a book someday.
Me: You should do it!
Them: Oh, no. I could never… I don’t have time… I’m not that good…
Me: You should still do it. Writing is incredibly healing. Writing is cheap therapy. Writing is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. .

With that in mind, here are seven books every writer should read.

And when I say “writer”, know that I don’t mean every person who has already written a book or published a book or who has been trained as a writer (although these books might be interesting to them as well).

I don’t mean every person who believes he or she has what it takes to be a “real” writer someday.

I mean you. I mean me. I mean everyone who has ever considered writing because you know about the benefits it brings, because you want more of it, because it’s healing.

These are the seven books every writer should read.

They have helped me as a writer. I hope they help you, too.

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron

This book has helped me overcome the blockages getting in the way of unique voice as a writer. It’s the perfect mixture of practical and creative—with easy-to-understand assignments, but also the permission you need to just write. Cameron has helped me, and continues to help me, unlock the creative potential already inside of me. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Some of my favorite writing advice—and life advice—comes from this book. If you’re familiar with Anne Lamott, you may have already read this book, but even if you have, it’s worth reading again. Buy it. Give it away. Keep it close by. Use it to remind you to start where you are, take one step at a time, and be willing to write a shitty first draft.

Thinking Write by Kelly L. Stone

The premise of this book is this: our subconscious mind is really our best writer; and if we find a way stir that subconscious mind, to wake it up, to care for it, give it grace, we will uncover and cultivate the beautifully creative voice inside of us. Stone gives practical tips for caring for our creative selves and also provides guided meditations to help your inner writer.

Why We Write edited by Meredith Maran

This book includes advice from twenty of America’s bestselling authors about the process and motivations for writing, and not one single person says, “I set out to be a famous author,” or “what draws me back to the page everyday is the idea I can sell a million of copies.” What I learn from these authors is what I know to be true from my own experience: I write because I have to, because I can’t not. I write because it’s healing.

The Story Within by Laura Oliver

This book teaches voice and story and writing the only way I know how teach it—not by teaching it, necessarily, but by teaching you to teach yourself. Oliver includes stories and antidotes, suggestions, inspirations and guided practice so you can walk yourself through the process of discovering the story inside of you—the story which has always been.

Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

It’s easy to think, “if only I could achieve outward success as a writer, then I would feel okay. I would feel like I had ‘made it’ and like everything was going to be okay.” It’s encouraging to hear from a man who achieved more outward success with his writing than he ever dreamed, writing has always been a struggle. It always will be. And that’s okay.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Every Writer by Mignon Fogarty

So many writers (especially those who are scared to call themselves “writers”) get hung up on grammar. Meanwhile, I want to say, “I have two degrees in writing, and I still forget things, have to re-learn things, and even find grammar rules I don’t know.” This book is not only an easy to read, it’s also a great resource for any writer who needs a refresher on comma rules or sentence structure or the use of adverbs.

5 comments on “Seven Books Every Writer Should Read

  1. Allison,

    I could not agree more that writing is therapy. I have been writing 3,000-4,000 words a week since March and I need to do it now like exercise. Thank you for the list of resources. I have read some, but the others are now on my list. Looking forward to your video course when it comes out.

    Steve

  2. On Writing by Stephen King
    War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
    Now I am not all that surprised that On Writing is not on the list because it’s Stephen King. But it would be on mine. However, I am surprised War of Art is not on the list.
    I will be putting a few from your list on my reading list. Thanks!

  3. I just have to add another one to the list. It gave me such insights and is a lovely read besides. It is Anne Pachett’s book called The Story of Happy Marriage – a compilation of essays she wrote over the years, many of which are about her life as a writer and the advice she has for others about writing.

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