On My Bookshelf: Essential books for writers

On My Bookshelf: Essential books for writers

Feeling meta? Most of my free reading time is spent on high-quality newspapers, magazines, novels, and comics, all of which can be absorbing and transformative.

But when the very best writers write about writing, it’s another experience altogether. These books have all earned a permanent place in my personal library.


“Several Short Sentences About Writing,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg

A revealing prose poem that deeply challenged some of my ideas about writing.


“The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life,” by Twyla Tharp

Brilliant advice about cultivating creativity habitually.


“The Writer’s Image: Literary Portraits,” by Jill Krementz

Literary portraits, some of which reappear in the more recent (and easier to find) “The Writer’s Desk.”

Stephen King

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write.” — Stephen King, “On Writing.”

“Writing Down the Bones,” by Natalie Goldberg

Short meditations on writing as a ritual practice.


“The Art and Craft of Feature Writing: Based on the Wall Street Journal Guide,” by William E. Blundell

Master class in long-form narrative.


“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” by Anne Lamott

Vivid, funny, and practical wisdom from an author in the trenches.


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

The shortest book on my list has been on my bookshelf since the ninth grade.


“Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer,” by Roy Peter Clark

If you apply even just the first of these 50 suggestions to all your sentences, your money and time will be well spent.


“The Synonym Finder,” by J.I. Rodale

Thesaurus of choice.


A good paper dictionary

Look up the definition of the same word in several dictionaries to find your favorite.