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Best Books on the Art of Storytelling

There’s something thrilling about the way certain writers can take readers behind the curtain of how stories are told. Some authors bring the same verve and deftness to their accounts of the process as they do with their acclaimed fiction and nonfiction; others turn the building blocks of stories into something unpredictable, leading readers to view the telling of stories in a whole new light. Here’s a look at ten distinct takes on the art of storytelling, from writers with a vast array of experience. Some focus on the craft of fiction, while others grapple with personal stories or the process of turning grand ideas into compelling narratives. Whether you’re looking for advice on your own work-in-progress or simply seeking a greater understanding of literary craft, there’s plenty to ponder in these works.

  1. 1
    Daemon Voices Book Cover Picture
    Daemon Voices Book Cover Picture

    Daemon Voices

    by Philip Pullman

    Philip Pullman’s fiction has been beloved by readers of all ages; his bibliography encompasses a wide range of genres, tones, and settings, and he’s adept at weaving together historical and philosophical elements into compelling stories. In his book Daemon Voices, he explores his own experience with storytelling alongside lessons from literary history, reaching profound conclusions about the nature of narrative.
    Daemon Voices Book Cover Picture
    Daemon Voices Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    Nobody Knows My Name Book Cover Picture
    Nobody Knows My Name Book Cover Picture

    Nobody Knows My Name

    by James Baldwin

    We’re in the midst of a welcome resurgence of interest in the works of James Baldwin right now–and whether it’s his fiction or nonfiction, there are plenty of gems for readers to discover and revisit. Baldwin was also an astute literary critic, and in works like Nobody Knows My Name, those looking for insightful takes on the art of storytelling will find plenty to mull over.
    Nobody Knows My Name Book Cover Picture
    Nobody Knows My Name Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture

    Bird by Bird

    by Anne Lamott

    For some writers, the art of telling stories and putting narratives on paper is inherently wrapped up in the greater part of one’s everyday life: in other words, the quotidian and the creative are inseparable. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is an invaluable guide to navigating those spaces, and discovering how your own larger life can impact the stories you tell.
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    Big Magic Book Cover Picture
    Big Magic Book Cover Picture

    Big Magic

    by Elizabeth Gilbert

    Elizabeth Gilbert’s writings include acclaimed memoirs and richly textured fiction; her ability to shift between the two is indicative of her range as an author. In her book Big Magic, she delves into her own experience as an artist to offer up the hard-earned lessons necessary for making creative work, inspiring readers along the way.
    Big Magic Book Cover Picture
    Big Magic Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs Book Cover Picture
    My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs Book Cover Picture

    My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs

    by Kazuo Ishiguro

    Kazuo Ishiguro received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature; this was the lecture he gave upon receiving this award. In My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs, Ishiguro explores how his own personal history fueled his wildly disparate series of books, and offers a unique perspective on the art of storytelling.
    My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs Book Cover Picture
    My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Book Cover Picture
    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Book Cover Picture

    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

    by Haruki Murakami

    For some writers, the craft of telling stories is about sitting in front of a keyboard or notebook and putting words to paper. For others, there’s a more physical element present. In his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami explores the connection between storytelling and physical exertion, and how these two seemingly disparate concepts can be unified.
    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Book Cover Picture
    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    Let It Bleed Book Cover Picture
    Let It Bleed Book Cover Picture

    Let It Bleed

    by Pamela Des Barres

    Pamela Des Barres may be best-known for her stories of her own life—particularly the memoir I’m With the Band. For her book Let It Bleed, Des Barres has drawn upon her own experience as a teacher, focusing on the craft of memoirs and the art of turning one’s own life into a compelling story. It’s a subject she knows well, and there’s plenty to discover in this book.
    Let It Bleed Book Cover Picture
    Let It Bleed Book Cover Picture

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