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Best Books for Creative Writers

Updated on January 9, 2013

One of the most crucial exercises for a writer's life is to read. Read books that inspire you, thrill you, sadden you, and move you. It might also help to read books that sharpen you, your craft, and your pencil.

The following five books are ones that I've read personally and couldn't imagine not having on my shelf. I reach for them almost daily, looking within their pages for nuggets of inspiration and help. Two of them are philosophical and the other three are practical. Together they make up my "Bible" of writing.

I realize there are hundreds of books on writing- many of which I haven't yet experienced. This list isn't meant to be comprehensive.

My current writing "Bible" compilation.
My current writing "Bible" compilation. | Source

THE WRITING LIFE

The first thing I noticed about this book- it's simplicity.

I love books that spell out profound truths using 5 word sentences and simple prose. Annie Dillard does this perfectly. A great combination of inspiration and practical truth, she weaves her anecdotes throughout the book and you are mesmerized by what she says and how she writes it.

She teaches you her method by writing beautifully.

It's the kind of book you inhale. It doesn't have a table of contents or chapter titles. It's mainly philosophical and abstract. I tend towards the "practical" type of books, but I recognize the need to immerse myself in writing that is vastly different from my own.

The Writing Life lives and breathes writing in a way that will leave you touched.

SPUNK AND BITE

The title immediately draws you in. Author Arthur Plotnik takes the reader on an exploration of surprise and unpredictability. His book too is a strange combination of philosophy and exercise.

He includes quirky side blurbs that entice the reader to participate in his spunky choice of words. He talks about creating words, using fragments, surprise, extreme expression, and other grammar rabbit trails that color your writing.

At the end of the book he includes 10 pages of writing exercises. Here is an example to tantalize your taste buds for his book.

Go for a surprise. Write two sentences that end a series of grand items with an unexpected, trivial item. For example, "I ask for peace, prosperity, and a toasted bagel."

A WRITER'S BOOK OF DAYS

This is a practical day to day book for writers who crave some order and routine in their day. It is divided up month by month so you can follow along with the lessons throughout the year. Each chapter is about 30 pages and covers about 11 different topics.

Sprinkled throughout the chapters are 365 writing prompts- one for each day of the year. Quotes and excerpts from famous writers are also included.

It doesn't have the same romantic prose as the above books, but that is okay. As a daily companion, it works marvelously to keep me on track and in my notebook.

WRITING DOWN TO THE BONES

The first time I picked up this book, I cried. Natalie cut through all the insecurity, all the self-doubt, and all the critical editorializing and grabbed me by the soul.

She writes so simply you cannot imagine how she made it sound so...poetic. The chapters are short, but full of advice, comfort, support, exercises, and wisdom. Even if you aren't a writer, reading her book may make you want to become one.

This book is conceptual yes, but I read it every day. Just a chapter a day. It is like she is in the room with you, nudging you to carry on and not write harder, but deeper.

THE EMOTION THESAURUS

This is the last book I've included in my Bible of writing. It is not a "how-to" book. It is not an abstract writing life book. It is a reference book.

For experienced writers, they may not see a need to have an emotion thesaurus. But I find it so helpful and inspirational.

The book is divided up by emotions. Listed in alphabetical order, you can search through the book for the emotion you are trying to describe. For example, adoration.

On the page, authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi give you the definition of the word, a list of physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues that lead to more extreme emotion (with cross-referenced page numbers) and a tip.

This book is perfect for the writer who is trying to avoid cliche, repetition, or just needs a little help with dialogue and description.

What have I learned from these books?

  1. Writers need a daily dose of inspiration.
  2. Writers need a daily kick in the pants.
  3. Writers need structure.
  4. Writers need freedom.
  5. Writers need to break free from their comfort zone and explore the unknown.
  6. Writers need to write with pen and paper too.

If you haven't read these five books yet, I suggest you do!

I would love to continue this discussion...

Are you a writer? If so, what books do you have in your writing library that you cannot live without? Please let me know in the comments!

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    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      Julie, Thank you for this list, I will click on Amazon through you to check up on your list! "Writing down to the Bones" piqued my interest.

    • Amanda108 profile image

      Amanda 3 years ago from Michigan, United States

      Very helpful list! Sometimes I need to pick up a book on writing not to *learn* but simply to be inspired.

    • HEARTS-and-BONES profile image

      Susan Norman 4 years ago from Greenfield, MA

      This is a GREAT list. Thank you. I've read "Writing Down The Bones" a few times over the years, but not recently. After reading your hub...I'm going to scrounge around in my many boxes of books and find it. "Spunk and Bite" sounds promising, too. P.S. One of my favorite authors once said in an interview in Rolling Stone Magazine...."Writers read." I'm just sayin'...

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Thank you for sharing your personal "library" of must-have books for writers. I haven't heard of any of them, so now I have something to check out!

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      You make these books sounds great Julie! I am going to have to check them out!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very inspiring hub. I had never heard about these books before reading this hub. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up! ~Prasetio

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      Thanks Rose!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I am always on the lookout for new writing resources and really appreciate this list! Bookmarking.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      You've just added 5 more books to the list of books I must check out! Thanks!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Love the spoof on Strunk and White. Looks like a fun read. You are so correct about what a writer needs.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 4 years ago

      I value your advice and suggestions. Voted up useful and awesome.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Julie for your recommendations. One of my favorite writing books is "East, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynn Tungit. A funny book about modern grammar and punctuation.. i also loved "The Transitive Vampire."

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for this list. I am sure gonna have a look through a few of them. Voted up , useful and sharing!

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 4 years ago from India

      Informative article, well written. Thanks for sharing the above interesting read. Voted UP :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Thanks for sharing this gem Janine and I now look forward to reading many more by you juliedeen.

      I vote up,across and share all around.

      Have a wonderful day.

      Eddy.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Oh wow, I didn't know books like this existed. Oops. Think it's time I started reading more on this. I'll see what I can order online out of your list...will be hard to choose, they all sound awesome! :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for your valued recommendations.

    • lindalou1963 profile image

      Linda 4 years ago from Texas

      Just wanted to say that Amazon has all of these book at great prices. Ebay has 4 of the 5 at higher prices. Happy Shopping!! :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for sharing your best list of books for creative writers! I'll be checking them out and checking back here to read incoming comments.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      Cool- thank you!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      I'm going to have to get "On Writing".

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Great topic for a hub and very inspiring to writers. I am going to get at least one of these to start and maybe move on to more. Thanks for the great recommendations!

    • lindalou1963 profile image

      Linda 4 years ago from Texas

      Julie, Thanks for sharing ... I'm going to ebay ASAP to see if I can find them there. A good writing book I would recommend is "Imaginative Writing, the Element of Craft" by Janet Burroway. It has taught me a lot! Thanks again for sharing this information!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      "Writing Down the Bones" is one of my favorites. It has been on my bookshelf since college. I also love "On Writing" by Stephen King. I learned a lot from both. Voted up.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Seriously, thank you for sharing books and all sounds very interesting and huge helps for writers in general. I definitely pinned and really want to look into the last one with all the different emotions and descriptions. Also voted, shared and tweeted!!

    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 4 years ago

      Yes, "On Writing" by Stephen King

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      I'm going to write those down. Thanks!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 4 years ago from Iowa

      Some of my favorites are "Bird by Bird," which Melovy mentioned, "On Writing," by Stephen King, and "Reading Like a Writer," by Francine Prose. (What a great name for a writer!)

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      @billybuc - to each his own!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      I think I've heard the same advice - to be a writer, you must write. But I've also heard in tandem that writers must read too. It would be like a musician never listening to a music or an artist never going to see art in a museum. All I meant by structured freedom is that a writer needs both the freedom to write and the structure of regular routine and of course- the ability to self-critique during the editing process.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm honestly not trying to be contrary, but I don't have any writing books that I can't live without. Every few months I'll go to the library and pick up some writing periodical and look at new trends or tips, but that's about it. Sorry I can't help with this discussion. Great list of books I'm sure.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      My favorite author once said, "Writers Write". I don't understand "structured freedom", but hey, whatever works is great!

      I've never even heard of these books. Thanks for a list of something to look forward to reading.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      OOh I'll have to check that one out!

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 4 years ago from UK

      I'm one-up on Deborah since I've read (and love) "Writing Down the Bones!" :-) I will keep a look out for the others, particularly "Spunk and Bite" sounds interesting.

      Besides "Writing Down the Bones" my favourite book on writing is Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. I read both books over and over. Another of Lamott's books, "Operating Instructions" was particularly useful to me after I'd had my second daughter far too early and was struggling to write - it's about writing and life after her son's birth.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image
      Author

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      I know there are tons- that's why I wanted to write a bit more in depth about the ones that are my favorite? Which ones in your library are yours?

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 4 years ago from Iowa

      I have a huge collection of books on writing but, surprisingly, none of these. Thanks for the recommendations. I'll add them to my Amazon wish list.