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I'm often asked for book recommendations from my website users.
I decided to create this resource so that I have somewhere to send people when they ask me to suggest the best books for writers to spend their hard earned cash upon.
While researching this topic, I’ve looked at lots of 'best books for writers' lists (usually with a number from 6 to 11 at the front of the title - I believe there are more than 11 useful books about writing, so I'm not going to limit this resource with a number) and none of them include the dictionary. I found that kind of weird.
I also found that books by famous authors like Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway and Roald Dahl were often absent from these resources.
So, I thought I'd build a more comprehensive list in the hope that it will give writers what they’re looking for.
The list below includes links to the books on Amazon, so you can learn more about/buy them easily, should you wish to.
There are currently 20 books on the list.
They are listed alphabetically.
Dorothea Brande's book is listed here because it was advocated by Ray Bradbury, a highly successful short story author who's own writing advice book is featured further down this list.
Becoming a Writer is positive, inspiring and still relevant today, even though it was first published way back in 1934. Dorothea felt that anyone could write and that a passion for writing should be nurtured and encouraged.
In the book she discusses how to develop good habits, advises on how to read critically and overcome obstacles, referencing other famous writers of her era such as Wolfe, Forster and Wharton.
The Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook provides details and practical tips on how to write and illustrate for kids and young adults.
As well as listing contact details for thousands of agents, publishers and other industry professionals, the book contains many articles to help advise and guide authors writing for the children’s market.
This book provides a full course in creative writing. If you're happy working alone, this is a great way to teach yourself and saves you investing lots of money in a traditional online course or attending college. It's a fully comprehensive course that covers the complete journey, from writing to publication.
The Complete Creative Writing Course is written by Chris Sykes who is a highly experienced creative writing tutor. He was once the Deputy Chair of The Writers' Guild of Great Britain and currently works at Sussex University as the Director of International Summer School. I mention this here as it gives you some idea of Chris's experience and why he was qualified to write the book.
Ernest Hemingway was an American nobel prize winning novelist, short story writer and journalist.
Drawing on decades of experience, this book contains Hemingway’s views on what it is to be a writer, including specific advice and tips on the writing craft, developing good working habits and discipline. The book is witty, humorous, insightful and a joy to read.
Written by Christopher Fielden, a short story author who runs this damned fine website and is shameless in promoting his own books...
There is more to it than that, honest.
If you're looking for short story writing books that use lots of real-life examples, this is the book for you. In the book I use my own published short stories as case-studies, so you can clearly see how the tips in the book were used in practice to achieve publishing success. I also set very realistic expectations about how much money you can expect to make from writing short stories.
I'm actually listing my book because it's been an Amazon best seller. Below are a couple of screenshots. Both are for the Kindle version of the book:
Amazon Best Seller - Kindle Publishing & Books Category UK
Amazon Best Seller - Kindle Writing Reference Books Category UK
There are plenty of independent reviews about the book on Amazon, so please check them out.
You can also order a free sample of the opening 12,000 words of the book in PDF format to see if you like it before buying the whole thing.
On Writing is part biography/part writing advice book. I've read it and found it both interesting and helpful. I've also heard lots of other writers talk about it positively at events I've attended.
Even if you're not a fan of Stephen King's writing, or the horror genre, you can learn a lot from this book. Stephen's biography (or CV, as he calls it) is very frank and honest, demonstrating how much work he put in to get where he is today. And the writing advice and tips in the book are candid and useful.
The reviews on Amazon speak for themselves - on the .com site there are thousands of them, the vast majority of which are positive.
As with anything creative, some people do speak negatively about the book, but that's usually because they haven't researched it prior to reading it and the autobiographical section surprises them.
I know we have Google and online dictionaries now, but if you're like me and enjoy writing in remote areas with a view and no internet connection, or away from distractions that being online can cause, a dictionary can come in very handy.
Compiled by Oxford Dictionaries, this is the go to book for spellings of words in the English language.
Roald Dahl is one of the world's most revered authors. He is famous for imaginative short stories, like his Tales of the Unexpected, and highly successful children's books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant peach and The BFG.
While Roald Dahl hasn't written a book on writing, he was interviewed in 1988 by Todd McCormack and talked extensively about writing. I thought I would share the interviews here because in them, Roald discusses his books, writing habits and many writing tips.
You can listen to the interviews here.
If you scroll down the page the link above takes you to, you will also find a list of writing tips by Roald Dahl.
Peter Mark Roget was a British physician and theologian who published his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases in 1852. Since then it has been revised many times but remains the most famous thesaurus available on the market.
Like a dictionary, it's a 'must have' for any writer. I always keep a copy close at hand when I write without internet access. The book lists synonyms for those moments when the right word refuses to come to mind.
This book was recommended for inclusion on the list by Sandra Unerman, a writer of fantasy and a member of the London Clockhouse Writers' Group.
Here is why Sandra thinks this book should be included on this resource:
The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, published by Vintage in 1991 (first published 1984). Gardner wrote, amongst other things, Grendel, a brilliant novel about the monster from 'Beowulf'. This book is more about content than style, with some complex but thought provoking analysis, for example, on the dangers of writing about what you know and the way plot changes character.
This book was first written by William Strunk Jr and published in 1920. It was updated by EB White in the late 1950s. You can learn a full history of how the book has developed over time in numerous editions on Wikipedia.
Amongst other things, the book details rules of punctuation and grammar, principles of composition, matters of form, commonly misused words and expressions, and a list of words that are frequently misspelled.
It can help writers develop an engaging writing style as the professors explore use of active voice, how to make every word tell and advises on the deletion of unnecessary words. From this you can learn how to write and then edit your own work well.
This book was recommended for inclusion on the list by J. C. Martin, III, editor of Oval Magazine.
Here's is JC's review:
The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing surpasses hundreds of texts and grammar books on writing prose. It is well regarded and many authors of 'books on writing' aspire to it.
It was written by Thomas S. Kane, an English professor who became famous for his contributions to the literary world for his insight into the proper construction of well written prose.
The quotes contained within its pages are impressive and written by some of the greatest masters of our language. The book is easy to read. Once you begin to enjoy its explanations of many topics and its reasoning behind why various word/phrase choices are more preferable for readers, you may have a problem putting it down.
I came across this book whilst proof reading some of my own writing. I just needed a grammar book. Little did I know I was buying a book I would refer to often for years to come. My favourite paragraphs are those on sentence construction. My favourite topic is mimetic rhythm.
This book will help you write better and with more ease. And your writing style will become more enjoyable for both yourself and those who consider publishing your work.
This book was recommended by Sandra Unerman, a member of the London Clockhouse Writers' Group.
This is why Sandra recommended this book :
The Way to Write by John Fairfax and John Moat, published by Penguin in 1998 (first published 1981). The authors were cofounders of Arvon, the creative writing school. This is very much a book about basic technique - the use of precise images, the dangers of adjectives, and so on. It's short and well argued, with plenty of exercises and examples.
This book covers the entire process of publishing, from finding an agent to understanding the legal terminology in contracts to working with a publishing house. The book includes interviews with agents, publishers and buyers for large book retailers. It also sets very realisitic expectations regarding what an author can expect to earn from their writing.
The author, Harry Bingham, is a best selling writer. His books include the Fiona Griffiths crime series. He also runs a writing consultancy called The Writers' Workshop that offer editing services, advice, courses and work as talent scouts for literary agents. So Harry possesses loads of experience qualifying him to write this book.
This book was recommended for inclusion on the list by Henry O. Akberg. Here is what Henry had to say about the book, written by Kathy Steinemann:
A friend on a writers' critique site recommended this book.
I downloaded a copy to my Kindle and couldn't be happier. Some of my personal foibles, such as 'nodded', 'shook the head' and 'laughed' are covered. Rather than just word lists, which a writer might find in a thesaurus or other resources, the author provides imaginative and practical examples for alternatives.
Definitely a five-star purchase for me, and I intend to buy the print version as well.
The two writers drew on almost three decades of combined experience with teaching creative writing to put What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers together. The book contains in excess of 75 writing tasks that help the reader develop and master fiction writing.
The exercies cover everything from starter lessons to more in depth, longer writing exercises. Many writing tutors use the exercises in this book with their own students because they work so well.
This bestselling guide is fully updated every year. It’s compiled by Writers & Artists who run a community website for authors that offers lots of free writing resources and advice. The group have been operating for over 100 years.
The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook lists contact details for over 4,000 agents, editors, publishers and other professionals in the publishing world.
In addition to this, the book features useful articles written by a variety of authors. They contain tips and advice on best writing practice, copyright law, publishing, writing in specific genres and many other aspects of the writing craft.
Zoë Fairbairns is a successful author and creative writing tutor.
Write Short Stories and Get Them Published: Teach Yourself does what it says on the proverbial tin. It's broken down into short, easily degestible sections that offer plenty of exercises and examples. Each section offers a useful summary of the key points to take away and put into practice with your own writing.
Zoë is honest in her approach; realistic and encouraging. The book is written in an authorative yet humorous style.
You can read an independent review of this book on WritesOFluid.
Roy Peter Clark is one of the most highly regarded senior scholars and writing coaches in the USA.
Writing Tools contains 50 short, focussed essays that draw on Roy's 30 years' experience. Each essay deals with a different aspect of writing.
This is one of the most well regarded writing tips books in the USA. Originally written for the Poynter Institute, a global leader in journalism, the advice in this book is reported to have been downloaded by millions of readers.
This book is not currently available on amazon.com in Kindle format.
Ray Douglas Bradbury is best known for writing Fahrenheit 451. He is also widely regarded as one of the best short story authors to ever have walked the planet. He possessed a vivid imagination that has inspired readers and writers for decades. I've read some of his books and found them to be hugely inspiring. If you want somewhere to start, try Golden Apples of the Sun - it's a fabulous collection sci-fi and fantasy stories.
Zen in the Art of Writing is a collection of essays. It's about what it is to be a writer, rather than offering tips and advice on the craft. An inspiring, motivational read.
If you've read any books on writing that you think should be added to this list, please fill in the comments form below and tell me about it. They can be to do with:
I will also ask you to write a brief review of the book you put forward, explaining how/why you found it so useful. That will give my website users independent opinions on potentially useful books. The more people that are prepared to get involved with this, the better. A wider range of useful recommendations will then be available.
If you've read any of the books on this list and would like to add your thoughts, please get in touch.