Books About Writing
I figured that it would be useful to have a page on the blog dedicated to books about writing. This initial list was created taking into consideration the books that our writers reviewed or recommended in the past. We plan to update it regularly as well. If you have a suggestion just write a comment below and we might add it.
The links to Amazon are affiliate ones, so yeah if you end up purchasing the book we will earn a dollar or two. That money will be spent purchasing new books though.
The Elements of Style: Originating as a classroom study aid prepared by Cornell English Professor William Strunk in 1918, this widely-used desk reference of English usage, form, and style continues to influence writers after a hundred years. A must have.Click here to get more details or buy.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves: First published in April of 2004, Eats, Shoots and Leaves stayed 25 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and by October of that year it had already sold one million copies. At a bit more than 200 pages including the bibliography, this little book describes the rules that govern the use of: apostrophe, comma, colon, semi-colon, dash, hyphen and period. Click here to get more details or buy.
The Dictionary of Concise Writing: A must have book for anyone who wants to write better. It brings over 10,000 alternatives you can use to free your text from wordy constructions and unnecessary phrases. Click here to get more details or buy.
Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus: Another book worth investing in, as you will be able to use it over and over again. It comes with synonyms, antonyms, sample sentences and cross references to let you pick the most precise word for each occasion. Click here to get more details or buy.
Concise Oxford English Dictionary: If you are looking for a solid dictionary and don’t want to spend a fortune on it, this is a good choice. Click here to get more details or buy.
On Writing: One of the best books about writing and being a writer. Stephen King is probably the most popular horror writer ever, and in this book he shares how he started, the basic writing rules and the fiction writing process. Click here to get more details or buy.
The Screenwriter’s Bible: If want to start writing scripts, this book could help. David Trottier is a writer, producer and script consultant, and he shares tips on all the stages you will go through, from getting started to formatting and selling your script. Click here to get more details or buy.
Plot & Structure: This book is part of a series called “Write Great Fiction.” As the name implies, it will assist you while creating the plot for your stories. It comes with techniques, tips and even exercises you can use to practice what you will learn. Click here to get more details or buy.
Rules for Writers: A book aimed at college students (regardless of the course). Diane Hacker, the author, has been teaching at the Prince George’s Community College for over 35 years, and this book is the result of what she learned from her students over that time. Click here to get more details or buy.
On Writing Well: The subtitle says it all: “The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.” The book covers many aspects of writing, from removing unnecessary words and phrases to identifying your audience and editing your pieces. Click here to get more details or buy.
The Associated Press Stylebook: One of the most popular style guides among professional writers and journalists. The 2009 edition has been revised and contains over 3,000 new entries. Click here to get more details or buy.
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17 Responses to “Books About Writing”
Make Your Words Work by Gary Provost is a must read for any aspiring writer.
John Maxwell Browne
Some great books listed here. I’d like to recommend ‘The Courage to Write’ by Ralph Keyes. It is in my personal top five writing books.
Maybe a touch obscure for some, but I found Ezra Pound’s ‘ABC of Reading’ to be worth the while. It is geared for poets but it’s also useful for anyone who works with words. He rants at times — lively bordering on the cantankerous — but throughout he explores some interesting core elements of language, reading and writing.
James Woods’ How Fiction Works was the most helpful of the writing books I have read thus far. If I recall correctly, he is an editor for the New Yorker. He gives quotes from writing that exemplify the points he makes.
Dorothea Brand’s inspirational work, which Shirley mentions, got me going for a while. I passed it on to a friend that is on to her second novel now. She has had encouraging words from agents on her first novel, but is still unpublished. She says, it got her into the habit of writing.
Another one that I really enjoyed was a collection of Hemingway’s thoughts on writing. I can’t remember who edited it or the name. It might have been On Writing. It consisted of quotes from correspondence, a lot of it with Fitzgerald.
I’ll get Foster’s; thanks for the tip Shirley.
btw: I loved Eats, Shoots and Leaves — very amusing and I got a good dusting down on my punctuation.
Is “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” really that good? I’ve had two copies sitting on my bookself for some time – to be honest I don’t really know where either of them came from – but can’t bring myself to read a book about commas!
I’ll add one that I read every year: “Style: 10 Lessons in Clarity and Grace” by Joseph Williams. A writing professor recommended it to me many years ago. Not only do I re-read this one every year but also I re-work the problems and do the exercises.
The book is a bit pricey, but it’s worth the cost. I have a link to it at the bottom of this page: http://hostileediting.com.
My second pick is “Line by Line” published by the Modern Language Association–very dense information, but presented well and thoroughly. This book is also linked at the URL above.
I would add “Common Errors in English Usage” by Paul Brians.
It covers commonly misused words that sometimes trip up the best writers. Completely indispensable.
“When Bad Grammar Happens to Good People” is one that I happen to like. It’s a bit more user friendly, IMO, than “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.”
Great post – I hope to see more like this one. Quite useful.
Great idea! For the ‘Business writing’ category, I’d like to recommend these titles by Don Watson:
“Watsons Dictionary Of Weasel Words” and “Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language”.
Another one, just about to be published, is titled “Bendable Learnings: The Wisdom Of Modern Management”.
Travel Writers Exchange
Thanks, always looking for a good read that potentially could enhance my writing.
Shirley, in Berkeley
Oops! It’s “Howards End,” no apostrophe.
Shirley, in Berkeley
“Becoming A Writer,” by Dorothea Brand, an extremely useful guide, elegantly written and full of practical advice.
“Aspects of the Novel,” a series of lectures given by E.M. Forster, (author of “A Passage to India,” “A Room With A View,” and “Howard’s End”).
These may seem a bit archaic, but they are excellent books, and as well as being a pleasure to read, they will provide a good balance to Steven King’s rock ’em, sock ’em prose style.
I recommend Bill Bryson’s ‘Troublesome Words’ to my students as an indispensable handbook. And it’s quite an entertaining read, too!
I am so glad to see Elements of Style at the top of your list. I like it not only for the guidance it provides, but for the style of writing. It’s just fun to read.
The authors also follow their own advice on brevity. I remember being surprised at how small the book is, for being such a classic.
Good list. Thanks!
Thanks Daniel. You just made my amazon wish list that much longer. Good stuff though!
This is a very useful list. I’ll have some of it included in my book-to-buy list. Thanks
@Clare, thanks for the suggestions, I will check them out and try to add them to the list as soon as possible.
I really like Brewer’s Phrase and Fable; and also The Creative Writing Coursebook by John Singleton and Mary Luckhouse; and Alan Ayckbourn’s The Crafty Art of Playmaking.