Best Books for Writers and Authors

Best Books for Writers and Authors

Best books for writers
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

What are the best books for writers and authors? I’ve been reading a lot of books – as usual – and in particular, books to help me with my writing.

Here is my list of best books for writers and authors. I’ll add more as I read them. Plus some will be expanded into their own blog post.

My criteria

To make my list of best books for writers and authors I created three simple rules:

  • Was it useful? – Can I apply this to what I’m writing? While I write non-fiction books, I’m working hard to build up my storytelling skills.
  • Can I practice this? – I’m a big fan of habits and deliberate practise to improve my skills.
  • Was it Insightful? – Did it change the way I approach my writing? This might be big or small. It can’t be more of the same old same old…

Roy Peter Clark: Help! For Writers

Roy Peter Clark - Help for Writers210 solutions to the problems every writer faces

This is a cleverly simple book.

It’s like a manual for your car. It highlights what could go wrong with your writing and gives you a number of solutions to apply. In fact, as the sub-title proclaims it offers “210 solutions to the problems every writer faces”.

That’s a big call – and this book delivers.

Help! For Writers is clever because it works. And, it’s simple in its clear structure. The book comprises seven core steps, each of these has three core strategies and each of these has ten practical tactics. That’s 7 x 3 x 10 = 210 solutions. I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you here – I did!

This is an entertaining and highly practical guidebook to keep on your shelf for your next and inevitable writing breakdown.

Roy Peter Clark is often one of America’s most influential writing coaches. He’s a vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute – one of the most prestigious schools for journalists in the world. He has school children and all the way to Pulitzer Price winners.

Roy Peter Clark: How to Write Short

Roy Peter Clark - How to Write ShortWord craft for fast times

I absolutely love this book! My only complaint is that it didn’t find me years earlier… One of the things I have practised over the years with over 60 Book Rapper issues is writing short, sharp and concise content. For me, a book summary cries out to be written in this way. So I practised and practised to improve my craft. This book would have been the perfect shortcut. And I still have plenty to learn!

How to Write Short is effectively a DIY course. There are 35 chapters filled with sparkling examples and ‘grace notes’ that are really your action plan for improving your short writing. All you need is to do the work.

Roy Peter Clark – Yep! This is his second book on this list. (And I’m reading a third from him at the moment!)

Read the full review of How to Write Short here

Randy Olsen: Houston, We Have a Narrative

Randy Olsen - Houston, We Have a NarrativeYou’ve probably read all about Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey as the map for writing stories? It’s good. And it’s probably been overdone and often badly.

The good news is there are alternatives and this book shines on the light on several – including one from the creators of South Park! So refreshing!

In particular, I love the AND-BUT-THEREFORE. I used this as a key framing tool for writing my recent book Done.

Randy Olsen is a former scientist with a PhD from Harvard and a tenured professor in marine biology. He gave all that up to become a storytelling filmmaker – partly out of his own frustration at the way scientists were sharing their work.

Whilst this book is pitched at scientists, it’s a perfect guide for any speaker or leader wanting to gain engagement for any real-world issue.

Lisa Cron: Wired for Story

Lisa Cron - Wired for StoryAnother cleverly simple book… It comprises twelve chapters with a ‘cognitive secret’ and ‘story secret’ in each chapter. That’s it!

That’s a simple structure. And, the clever part is to connect the latest neuroscience to what it means for writers and authors creating stories. This puts a neat new spin on familiar territory such as conflict, protagonists, emotions and more…

Further, each chapter is filled with examples and a little myth-busting for bonus points. And at the end of each chapter is a neat set of clear questions for you to address to implement the key point. I wish all books were this clear, simple and effective!

Lisa Cron is a writing instructor at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. She has worked in publishing, as a publishing agent and has been a story consultant with Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow.

Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield - Do the Work, Turning Pro and The War of Art

Steven Pressfield is an author of multiple books and screenplays – mostly military and historical fiction. And, he has written a couple of must-read books for writers:

  1. Do the Work,
  2. Turning Pro
  3. The War of Art

I’ve read each of these shortish books multiple times. And I’m not really sure which one of these is my favourite. They’re a much-needed kick in the butt for when you’re getting started or feeling sorry for yourself.

Pressfield is blunt, direct and honest about the hard-won lessons of his writing journey. It makes for inspiring reading. Or else, it’ll turn you off writing for good and onto something you’ll more likely enjoy and require less effort.

Steven Pressfield website

Stephen King, On Writing

Stephen King - On WritingUntil this book, I hadn’t read anything by Stephen King. That might be a little surprising given he is one of the biggest best selling authors on the planet. Ironically I had seen at least four of his movies. I guess I just don’t read fiction…

Anyway, this book is an interesting mix of two things. Mostly it’s his story of growing up and becoming a writer. That’s interesting in itself to observe the time and effort he put in over many years to develop his writing craft and ultimately catch his big break.

Plus, even more interesting is the chance to so to observe how he writes. And that is the real point of this book – read an artist at work!

The number one gem from this book is: to be a great writer you have to read great writers.

Read the full review of Stephen King – On Writing


Why We Write by Meredith MaranMeredith Maran (Editor) – Why We Write

We all need our go-to guides for being inspired and this book fits that purpose beautifully. Find out why 20 acclaimed authors write so you can put fire in your belly with some inspiring reasons for writing too.

Read the full review of Why We Write here. 

Mary Kate Mackey - Write Better RIght NowMary Kate Mackey – Write Better Right Now

Need a practical guide for writing and editing? This could be it.

Read the full review of Write Better Right Now


More Best Books for Writers and Authors

What would you add to this list of best books for writers and authors?

Stay tuned, I’ll be updating this list as I read more gems.

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