The Best Books on Writing - The Classics
The books on writing are my favorite and are classics
Scratch a writer and you'll find a best book on writing lurking somewhere under their skin. Writers, by their very nature, are readers. Readers, by their nature, tend to devour books on topics that pique their interest or feed their passions.William Zinsser's On Writing Well was on its way to becoming a classic when I began to gather the best books on writing. Today it's Stephen King's On Writing that inspires so many. Over the years my collection of books on writing well, on how to write, and on writers on writing grew to where it now fills nearly half of the 18 bookcases studding my walls.
Do I have a best book on writing? Well, let's just say I have several for various reasons. Here are a few books that I consider to be classic books on writing worthy to occupy any writer's bookshelf.
The Lively Art of Writing
While the book is written more for the student who has to write a paper or thesis, there are three or four chapters that are more than worth the price of the book. The chapter containing her detailed explanation of passive voice is gold. I had never read a better explanation. Best, she actually provides examples of when passive voice works. That is rare.
The Elements of Style
My first writing instructor insisted we purchase this book and memorize it. Her editing always referenced the rules with notations straight from the Strunk and White rule in question. The rules remain as valid today as when they were first published. Yes, writers break rules all the time, but the good writers learn "the rules" so they understand how to break them successfully.
Strunk and White, is it still relevant today?
Why do you use Strunk and White? Do you recommend it?
Do you hate commas? - Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Talk about an instant sensation, this book achieved more press and higher sales than anyone could have imagined. The perfect book for a grammar-starved people.
An instant classic, this is a must-have for every writer and a necessity for anyone comma-phobic.
Writing With Power:
Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process
New writers learning how to start writing and mature writers searching for inspiration will find Elbow's approach appealing. His advice on freewriting is well worth the time and money spent on this book. Freewriting has remained one of the best tools in my writer's toolbox and it's well worth exploring this technique for all its worth.
Writing for Story:
Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction
While the book's audience is clearly nonfiction writers, it would be a shame if fiction writers turned away without glancing through the pages. He is a master of fiction techniques. If you're a fiction writer who is having trouble with flashback sequences, you really need to read this book. Franklin gives the only thorough explanation of the dynamics of a flashback: how it works, why it works, when and where it fails. For that reason alone, this book belongs on every writer's bookshelf.
The Chicago Manual of Style:
The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers
You wouldn't think there'd be a lot of difference in style and grammar books, but there is. News organizations have their style bible, book publishers have theirs. College papers demand another one. Each has slight variations. The reason for these style books is mainly to achieve overall consistency within all the writing put out by that publishing venue. So if you plan to self-publish, choosing a style guide like the Chicago Manual of Style can help you produce consistent, clear writing. And they're great to have on hand to answer that niggling comma question that plagues every writer.
On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition:
The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
Simplicity reigns supreme here, too. A proponent of the read-your-work-aloud school and if you haven't tried it, do. Zinsser deals with a wide swatch of writing and helps the writer stitch everything together in a readable, concise manner. Maybe you've dedicated your life to fiction. You can still learn a lot from William Zinsser. The book is worth pulling off the shelf.
10th Anniversary Edition:
A Memoir of the Craft
It's an autobiography. No, it's a book on how to write. Not exactly, it's Stephen King's highly praised book on writing that tops the gotta-have lists of most writers. If you want to get into the heart and mind of a writer, then this memoir is for you. Stephen King lets you peer into the workings of his mind as he discusses his writing life, his craft, and his books. Where does he get his ideas? Read this book to find out.
Everything has been written before.
More on Writing Well - E.B. White, Stephen King, and William Zinsser
- Putting the White Back in Strunk and White
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- The Art of Good Writing
Strunk & White, as the combined work came to be known, was issued in 1959 and went on to become a defining American statement of what constituted good writing, with 10m copies sold, and counting. Its final rule summoned the whole: "Prefer the sta
- George Orwell on Politics and the English Language
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language - so the argument
- Writers on Writing: E.B. White
"A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull" Read more on what E.B. White says to a young aspiring writer including "Everything has been written before."
- Zinsser on Friday
A weekly posting about writing, the arts, and popular culture by William Zinsser.
- Stephen King's National Book Awards Acceptance Speech
Stephen King was awarded the National Book Foundation's Medal for DISTINGUISHED CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN LETTERS AWARD, 2003