Good writers are readers; it’s a maxim for a reason. And that’s why reading books by experienced authors is important — even necessary — for the aspiring writer. But along with novels and biographies and memoirs, consider reading books about writing, in which authors pull back the curtain on the writing process and life as a person of words.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these books are on my personal short list for writers. Here are 5 books to read this fall if you want to grow in the craft of writing:
“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott
In typical Anne Lamott fashion, this book (no, it’s not actually about birds) is cheeky and gritty and packed with punchy stories about writing and life. You can read a chapter at a time or devour the entire book in one sitting. Especially freeing for perfectionistic writers is her chapter on penning horrible first drafts.
“Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies” by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
“Loving language means cherishing it for its beauty, precision, power to enhance understanding, power to name, power to heal. And it means using words as instruments of love” (p. 23). Through lovely prose and a deeply thoughtful commentary on culture, McEntyre invites readers to steward language and the inherent power that words carry.
“The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White
Grammar, style, and wit. This book is a classic for a reason. Keep it handy when you’re struggling to wrestle the English language into prose.
“The Situation and The Story” by Vivian Gornick
“Every work of literature has both a situation and a story. The situation is the context or circumstance, sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer, the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say” (p. 13). Gornick deftly weaves through her own thoughts and the writings of others in order to reveal the difference between the external story and the internal one—and how we must share both if we are to write meaningfully.
“The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard
With fluid and almost dream-like prose, Dillard offers heavy-hitting truths about writing and life through unexpected stories and winding analogies. Readers who are writers will appreciate Dillard’s honesty about the difficulties and rewards of writing.
What books would you add to this list?
Images via Lydia & Emilie