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The Best Books on Writing

Writing is, as a general rule, hard. Defining yourself as a writer can be even harder. Sure, there are other difficult practices like law and medicine out there, but a person becomes a lawyer or a doctor when he or she passes a series of exams and graduates from a certain school. Writing doesn’t always work that way. There aren’t tests to study for and facts to memorize. Where are we supposed to learn how to write?

From grammar rules to publishing advice to personal narratives, these books on writing reveal in intimate detail the ins and outs of what it means to call yourself a writer. Sometimes harsh, sometimes funny, but always honest, they can be thought of as a kind of syllabus for writing. Whether you’re an aspiring artist working on your first drafts or a seasoned veteran in the publishing world, these are some of the best books on writing with insight and wisdom that can support you at all stages of your writing process.

  1. 1
    Dreyer's English Book Cover Picture
    Dreyer's English Book Cover Picture

    Dreyer’s English

    by Benjamin Dreyer

    As Random House’s copy chief, Dreyer has upheld the standards of the legendary publisher for more than two decades. He is beloved by authors and editors alike—not to mention his followers on social media—for deconstructing the English language with playful erudition. Now he distills everything he has learned from the myriad books he has copyedited and overseen into a useful guide not just for writers but for everyone who wants to put their best prose foot forward.
    Dreyer's English Book Cover Picture
    Dreyer's English Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated) Book Cover Picture
    The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated) Book Cover Picture

    The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated)

    by Betsy Lerner

    For both established and prospective authors alike, the publishing house can seem like a jungle. Luckily, Betsy Lerner is here to lead a safari, citing her vast collection of experiences as an editor as her field guide. The Forest for the Trees motivates writers by helping them get over their fear of the unknown. It’s less about taming the wilderness and more about facing the demons of self-doubt and sloth that live in every person’s own mind.
    The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated) Book Cover Picture
    The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated) Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    The Elements of Style Illustrated Book Cover Picture
    The Elements of Style Illustrated Book Cover Picture

    The Elements of Style Illustrated

    by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White

    William Strunk and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style is so widely known that we’re sure you already have a copy, but of course we had to mention it. The only style guide to ever appear on a bestseller list, this book should be your go-to if your writing is in need of an infusion of clarity. Plus, this particular edition is illustrated by Maira Kalman, adding a visual element of style to the classic.
    The Elements of Style Illustrated Book Cover Picture
    The Elements of Style Illustrated Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    Naked, Drunk, and Writing Book Cover Picture
    Naked, Drunk, and Writing Book Cover Picture

    Naked, Drunk, and Writing

    by Adair Lara

    Adair Lara’s Naked, Drunk, and Writing is a must-read for any memoirist or personal essayist. With experience as a teacher, editor, and, of course, writer, Lara’s know-how will help readers through problems like how to face your family after they’ve read your work and how to find an agent who will fight for you. The perfect mix of tough love, comic relief, and passion, Lara’s book is invaluable for anyone who needs a little help telling their story.
    Naked, Drunk, and Writing Book Cover Picture
    Naked, Drunk, and Writing Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture

    Bird by Bird

    by Anne Lamott

    Anne Lamott knows from writing. She’s the author of seven novels (with one on the way) and nine works of nonfiction — many of them bestsellers. In Bird by Bird, her 1994-published book on the craft of writing, Lamott addresses how to get started, accepting the shittiness of a first draft, writing groups, writer’s block, how to know when you’re done and more. Her words, advice, insight are priceless.
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture
    Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    Poemcrazy Book Cover Picture
    Poemcrazy Book Cover Picture

    Poemcrazy

    by Susan G. Wooldridge

    Though some may be able to simply sit back and pull a poem from thin air, that’s not the case for most. Writing workshop leader Susan G. Wooldridge taps into her own experience writing and helping others write to share this compilation of prompts, ideas, and more. Poemcrazy is a guide that any budding poet will find valuable.
    Poemcrazy Book Cover Picture
    Poemcrazy Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    Walking on Water Book Cover Picture
    Walking on Water Book Cover Picture

    Walking on Water

    by Madeleine L’Engle

    Madeleine L’Engle has mastered the art of weaving faith into fiction. In Walking on Water, the late author explores what it means to be a Christian artist, and touches on the influence of science on her writerly life. This is, truly, a book that will hold appeal for writers and readers alike, as it sheds light upon the mind of one of this last century’s most talented writers.
    Walking on Water Book Cover Picture
    Walking on Water Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    Story Genius Book Cover Picture
    Story Genius Book Cover Picture

    Story Genius

    by Lisa Cron

    So much of writing is creativity. But let’s not forget about the scientific piece of the puzzle. In her new book, Story Genius, story coach Lisa Cron addresses just that, examining the role that cognitive storytelling strategies can play in writing — and how you can put them to work for yourself.
    Story Genius Book Cover Picture
    Story Genius Book Cover Picture

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