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Ten Must-Have Books On Writing

Updated on October 8, 2014

Best Books On Writing

It seems like every day someone recommends a new book on writing to me. I started to write for fun when I was in kindergarten. I loved telling stories and putting those stories down on paper was the next step for me. Over the years, I wanted to learn more about how the best authors wrote their books and how I could improve my own skills. I read every book on writing I could get my hands on, from books on how to write the first chapter of your novel to grammar manuals.

If I tried to read every book about writing that someone suggested to me, I'd never have the time to sit down and write! So I'm here to share with you my list of the books on writing that I love. My copies are well worn and highlighted, and I turn to them when I need a little inspiration and motivation. I hope you enjoy them too!

Image © NoahGolan -

My Top Ten Books on Writing - The books I've highlighted and dog-eared the most over the years...

At the moment, this top ten list is in order, beginning with my favorite book. However, which book on writing I love the most changes over time! But I recommend all of these books because they are funny, smart, creative, and inspire me to write.

Keep reading for a mini review of each of my favorite books on writing. Check out why I love each one of them and you just might find the perfect book to help you improve yourself as a writer.

  1. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  2. Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  3. On Writing by Stephen King
  4. Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg
  5. No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
  6. Will Write For Food by Dianne Jacob
  7. How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
  8. Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz
  9. Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
  10. Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

What makes a book on writing worth reading?

How did these books make the top ten list?

Ask any group of writers if they think that writing can be taught, and the answers will be as diverse as the genres they contribute to. Some, like Poemcrazy, are all about free association of words while others, like Steering the Craft have more formal lessons and cover topics like POV and tense beautifully.

For me, what defines a book on writing as one of the best is it's ability to inspire me. When the deadly "Writer's Block" sets in, I can browse through one of these favorites and find something new to think about. I love books on writing that include exercises or questions to provoke creativity!

With most of these books, I would suggest picking up a simple spiral notebook to record the activities and exercises.

Honorable mentions go to "On Writing Well" by William K. Zinsser and "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. I'd suggest that everyone who wants to improve as a writer get copies of these, along with a good dictionary. While my favorite books on writing tend to be more content and inspiration driven, there is definitely a need for good style references!

Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

My favorite part of this book is the subtitle. It's amazing how every piece of advice given on writing really can be applied to life. Lamott writes from her heart, and connects with the reader beautifully!

One part of Bird by Bird that stuck with me was the emphasis on writing lousy first drafts. This has become one of my favorite books on writing because it reminds me that ALL writers go through the same process I do, and that I am not alone in feeling like my work is garbage when it first goes down on the page.


On Writing

Escaping into the Open

No Plot? No Problem!

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days
No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? The challenge of that competition is to write a 50,000 word (or more) novel in 30 days. In this book, the founder recounts some of the best strategies to try this crazy experiement on your own, or in November with the rest of us!

I participate in NaNo most years, and whether I win or lose, I always learn something about myself. Having a book on writing that focuses on strategies for completing a first draft quickly is great for improving your speed and controlling your inner editor.


More on NaNoWriMo?

Interested in getting a draft of your novel down on paper and becoming part of a large writing community? Check out NaNoWriMo! Whether you are serious about your novel idea or just want to practice getting that many words down on paper, there is a place there for you.

Learn more now!

This one, or that one? - If you could only keep one of these two books, which would it be?

Which one do you prefer?

See results

Will Write for Food

Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More (Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Blogs,)
Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More (Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Blogs,)

This book covers many of the basics of food writing, from writing clear recipes to researching to working with editors. A must have for writers who have a passion for all things edible!

Not every writer wants to be a novelist. Personally, I write web content and am an avid food writer. My knowledge of writing about delicious things partially came from Will Write for Food. I recently became the ice cream & frozen desserts topic writer at, which has been incredibly rewarding. Subject-specific writing guides are helpful if you know what you love to write about.


Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life


Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words

Wooldridge has an amazing take on words. One of the things I love best about this book is the exercises and assignments that force you to look at language differently.

Most of the other books on this list focused on fiction, with a little nonfiction thrown in. One review suggests that Poemcrazy is the poetic equivalent of Bird by Bird, so it was no surprise that I fell in love with it.


Steering the Craft

Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew
Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

This is another book where the author's credentials prompted me to pick it up off the shelves. When you are choosing a book on writing, it is important to look for ones by authors who actually have success as writers. While the old saying may be "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach," there is no reason why you shouldn't be taught by someone who has had success doing the thing first!

Le Guin did not disappoint me! With her wit and wonderful examples from other talented authors, she shares her opinions on a variety of concerns. Steering the Craft is much more focused on the technical aspects of writing than the other books which have been featured on this list.


The Author's Home Pages

Here are the links to author websites for everyone who I have mentioned. If you are interested in learning more about their work (on writing or any other topic), these sites are a great place to start.

What is missing from this list?

If there was going to be an 11th book on this list, what should it be? I've looked through many of the great comments from the guestbook to select these great books on writing that could have made the list. Vote for your favorite!

Is there a book on writing you think people should read? Leave it here and let me know!

Have a recommendation I missed?

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    • kindoak profile image


      5 years ago

      I think I have read the No Plot No Problem book some years ago when I was into making movie scripts. It was a pretty good resource.

    • jnstewart profile image

      John Norman Stewart 

      5 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      Great list. I don't consider myself a pro writer, even though I've sold a few eBooks. Great lens.

    • Allison Whitehead profile image

      Allison Whitehead 

      5 years ago

      I heartily agree with Stephen King's On Writing. It's fascinating for me to read as both a fan and a writer - the perfect book!

    • Digory LM profile image

      Digory LM 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for the list. This is very helpful

    • kislanyk profile image


      5 years ago from Cyprus

      Some great books on writing here. I do know a few, but some are totally unknown. Great list.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      Back to sprinkle some angel dust and pin this to my writing board.

    • colgrym profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi, a great list (and I've now signed up to Na No Wri Mo - thanks for the info about that event). Bird by Bird is very good but my own Top 5 would have to include Your Writing Coach - From Concept to Character by Jurgen Wolff, a real inspiration when the going gets tough. Thanks again for sharing

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoyed your carefully selected books. One of my all time favorites is Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

    • MelanieMurphyMyer profile image


      6 years ago

      Great page! :)

    • MitchAllan profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a great reference list. Glad to see Orson Scott Card's How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy in your other favourites - I found that book invaluable! Great lens, thank you.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Not that I can think of - I really liked Stephen King's book, glad you included it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It's not an actual book on writing that I would suggest, but it is a book on life. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill will keep a person reading and writing and doing all of the positive things in life. Thanks for a great lens, and sharing.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great recommendation. I need to check them out.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great list! I also like "Woe Is I" and "Beyond the Writers' Workshop."

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The Elements of Style... always on my desk.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 

      6 years ago from US/TN

      I love Bird by Bird. I guess I really need to check out Writing Down the Bones, since everyone keeps recommending it.

    • jholland profile image


      6 years ago

      I love both of your top two books. Thanks for sharing your list.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image


      6 years ago

      I love a lot of the books you mentioned, but since memoir is my genre of choice, I loved Writing Your Life -- Putting your Past on Paper by Lou Willett Stanek, Ph.D. It's like sitting and having a conversation with your aunt. Bird by Bird is definitely on my favorite list as well. Thanks for the recommendations!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Sounds like an excellent reading list. I will need to seriously free up some reading time.

    • Mamaboo LM profile image

      Mamaboo LM 

      6 years ago

      This is a wonderful for those aspiring writers. There's never enough information out there on writing. Thanks for the list! Be Blessed!

    • Scotties-Rock profile image


      6 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      Great List! I will have to download one and read it.

    • avigarret profile image


      6 years ago

      Great list, you really show your expertise, this lens deserves its popularity :)

    • belinda342 profile image


      6 years ago

      My current favorite is First Draft in 30 Days. I go through it every year right before Nanowrimo to get my outline ready for the month of writing madness. The first draft it talks about is actually just an expanded outline. It works for me.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      6 years ago

      You don't miss... and the best is Natalie Goldberg's book.

      Thanks so much... I am writing in my second language so I need as much help as I can get.

    • April Wier profile image

      April Wier 

      6 years ago

      I loved Bird by Bird.

    • Willow Wood profile image

      Willow Wood 

      6 years ago

      This is a great list! It's great to see No Plot? Not Problem! on here. I think it's the only one on your list that I've managed to read from cover to cover, but the rest (like Writing Down the Bones) are certainly motivational. That's probably why I've never fully read the rest. I begin reading but soon have to put them down to continue writing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      When it comes to the revision process, "Stein on Writing" by Sol Stein is fantastic.

    • DahliaValentine profile image


      6 years ago

      These aren't exactly books that you read, but I have a nice library of descriptive word books: Roget's Super Thesaurus, The Describer's Dictionary, and Words That Sell. I like having lots of alternatives at my fingertips.

    • greg2biz2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Good luck to you in law carrier. Great lens.

    • chezchazz profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Good choices. I still think a basic grammar book is a good resource to have on hand - like the old Strunk and White's.

    • Ahdilarum profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens.. With nice review

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 

      6 years ago from Missouri

      It's not in print anymore, but if you can get a copy of the Romance Writer's Phrase Book by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton, it's a good book to have. You know those times when you just need to figure out how to say a character is feeling a certain emotion without just saying it? This book helps for those times. Blessings!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @BlueObsidian: I've not heard of NaNoWriMo before this. A 30 day challenge sounds interesting indeed!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like your collection of books!

      Thanks for sharing, will definitely add this to my collection. Escaping into the open is my personal favorite.

    • BlueObsidian profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      @anonymous: I have tried the 30 day challenge (NaNoWriMo) several times and I'm hoping to do it again this November. I only made the target word count once, but I found it to be a very useful activity in sitting down and making yourself work. Sometimes, motivation can be my biggest challenge and getting your butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard is a big step!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      So have you tried writing a novel in 30 days? I feel hard pressed to finish a lens in a week right now, let alone a quarter of a novel. But I think that will be my first read, and then Stephen King's book. I enjoy his writing too much to be jealous.

    • troybreimon lm profile image

      troybreimon lm 

      6 years ago

      I think word power books and also learning the roots of words. books on latin and greek root meanings and germanic word meaning help a lot for english. great lens by the way

    • Diane Cass profile image

      Diane Cass 

      6 years ago from New York

      Ha, Will Write for Food sounds like a great book.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Just ordered "Writing Down The Bones" and "No Plot? No Problem" inter-library loan. I want to get into writing novels for Kindle, so this is a great lens for me. I bookmarked it so I could find it again!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I own both "Writing Down the Bones" (I love it) and "On Writing" (also love it. I noticed in the comments below someone mentioned "The Elements of Style," which is one I would have mentioned. I have that as well. I also think every writer can benefit from the use of a good Thesaurus and Dictionary, though many young writers think they don't need these today.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      "If You Want To Write" By Brenda Ueland is the best book on writing that I have read. After reading each chapter, I always wanted to grab my computer and get to writing. Truly an inspirational book, without being too touchy-feely or technical.

      Li Li

    • Northwestphotos profile image


      6 years ago

      The first book that always comes to mind whenever anyone is considering writing is Strunk and White's iconic "The Elements of Style."

    • designsbyharriet profile image


      6 years ago from Indiana

      I love writing. That is why I am here writing away on my and your lenses. It relaxes me even though it makes me think.

    • curious0927 profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm interested in many of your choices, A very hard choice to pick a favorite since I haven't read them, but your review's sold me on both!

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 

      6 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I've never taken the time to read about writing, thanks for the book ideas and taking the time to write them down :)

    • eilval profile image


      6 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      Interesting lens , thanks for sharing !

    • PearlHowie profile image


      6 years ago

      I am a huge fan of Stephen King's book - it made me understand all the things I had ever felt about writing - especially about plot!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like your selection. My favourite is Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico. I also like The Right to Write by Julia Cameron.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      I'm reading Instant Fiction right now, and I also got a lot of insight about literature from How to Read Literature like A College Professor.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't have any personal recommendations, but I just ordered "Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True". Hopefully it will help me :) Thanks for this lens, I will write down your other suggestions.

    • ifeelgod lm profile image

      ifeelgod lm 

      6 years ago

      Great lens, love the recommendations

    • suzy-t profile image


      6 years ago

      The Writer's was as entertaining as it was informative.

      Excellent lens and so appropriate for us here at Squidoo !...

    • Julia Morais profile image

      Julia Morais 

      6 years ago

      I don't know if there are books out there that can help me become a good writer. This is a great lens, though.

    • victoriuh profile image


      6 years ago

      Immediate Fiction is an excellent book! Best writing book I've read.

    • sean1980 profile image


      6 years ago

      I finally got my hands The Elements of Style (4th Edition). Just from the little bit I've read so far, I think it's really going to help me become a better writer. For most of my life I've been intimidated by writing, because I didn't think I get ever get good at it. But I've been working at it lately, and I'm doing my best to get over my fear. I really want to get better.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      book is the gate of knowledge

    • AlokaRuwanpathi profile image


      6 years ago


    • Frednun1965 profile image

      Fred Alb 

      6 years ago from Uruguay

      Books are a small tesoro.Desde taught me to appreciate and thanks to this I have learned much, much, very much.

      Very good lens!.

    • tyrosine profile image


      6 years ago

      wow great but I might not have the time to read them :(

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I will defintely look into these books. Thank you for the lens! I really like "The No-Experience-Necessary Writer's Course" by Scott Edelstein. There is a lot of great information for beginner writers. The writing exercises were most helpful in learning to be more creative with my writing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting list of books. I just saw your lens featured on the front page of Squidoo and thought I's see what you recommend, so thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have to say that 'On Writing' by Stephen King is one of my favourite books on writing. I also like Ray Bradbury's 'Zen in the Art of Writing'. Excellent lens - than k you.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I recommend "How to Write a Damn Good Novel" by James N. Frey. It contains essential information for people who are writing a novel.

    • Richardryder profile image

      Risteard O'Marcahain 

      6 years ago from Wales

      great lens

    • BrandonJames926 profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a very simple, but well put together lens. Nice work. I read you're bio & I'm also a 20-something who's clueless with what my future holds. A degree in Economics & Entrepreneurship leaves me wanting to write and longing to quit my job.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

      6 years ago from Jersey Shore

      You covered this very well - I have a friend who tried the NaNoWriMo challenge, it's a tough one! :>)

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      The First Five Pages is another great writing book. Love your top 4 picks the best!

    • mjtaylor lm profile image

      mjtaylor lm 

      6 years ago

      You got my favorite: writing down the bones!

    • adriangood lm profile image

      adriangood lm 

      6 years ago

      i really love to write, but when i write something in english, uhhh im really stuck its because my english is so so...

    • makeupbrush profile image


      6 years ago

      I have gathered so many books already - more than I have time for. Here are more wonderful choices I am really tempted for. Great lens!

    • Violin-Student profile image


      6 years ago

      Good information. Thanks for this page.

      --Art Haule

    • RosemaryB profile image


      6 years ago

      How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! by John Locke.

      And, thanks for visiting my HoroscopeCompatibilityTips :)

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image


      6 years ago

      I want that Snoopy book! You have some really good suggestions here. Thanks!

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 

      6 years ago

      A great list! I am a fan of Stephen King and missed this one, definitely want to check it out thank you!

    • kathysart profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't have any of these books... I think I need at least one! Blessed lens.

    • BetsyGorman profile image


      6 years ago

      Must be a sign! Just today I deleted an email that referenced Natalie Goldberg, did not pay much attention. Nust get her book, thanks!

    • Scriber1 LM profile image

      Scriber1 LM 

      6 years ago

      Great lens, thank you for sharing. When I read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones it changed how I thought about writing and has continued to be an inspiration to me.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      6 years ago

      thank you for sharing this lens about writing. i wanted to study journalism before but circumstances prevented me to pursue my dreams. well, i write lenses here @ squidoo. i guess this is also an accomplishment.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: That's ok.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter!! I give it a zillion starts!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens..lov it

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      6 years ago

      I do like the Stephen King. My list would also include Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, most likely, though some would question whether it's strictly a book on writing. Also, it's more than a bit self-conscious and certainly has been over-hyped by the Get Things Done crowd. All that aside, when I start doing housework instead of writing, a few pages of The War of Art tend to snap me right back to the keyboard. So that counts, right? :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens! I've bookmarked it and will return. I plan to read "On Writing."

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you. I have filed away this list until I read them all

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My husband read the Stephen King book, and wouldn't stop talking about it for days!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great list, I have several of these. One that I really like that isn't on your list is The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long.

    • norma-holt profile image


      6 years ago

      Great ideas and resources on this important subject. Blessed

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like your list and I don't have any on top of my mind! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good books are so encouraging, I will have to take a look at this list, quite an interesting list of topics you have covered.

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 

      6 years ago

      Books encourage many a style; columnists suggest guile;

      The elite benignly smile; it is all so confusing after a while.

      Writing must be, of the inner self, an unrestrained expression;

      A joyful procession of a multitude of moods in succession;

      All that is cascaded so from the deepest recesses of the heart

      Will be reckoned among the most beautiful pieces of art.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I can't think of any books to add at the moment.

      Looks like a good list you have. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoyed On Writing by: Stephen King

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      For younger writers Spilling Ink is a great selection. My daughter loved it. I will have to try some of your recommendations, though they seem a bit mature. Great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • LisaDH profile image


      6 years ago

      I majored in journalism, so the AP Stylebook was the writing book I used the most often. Not useful for creative writing, but it was good for grammar and style.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good stuff to know! Thanks for sharing!

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 

      6 years ago from Virginia

      No suggestion, just thanks for the suggestions. Keep up the good work!

    • queenofduvetcover profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the great info! =)

    • ShazTapp profile image


      6 years ago

      Your lens has answered many questions for me, thanks.


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