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Books on writing for writers – Armchair BEA

This entry is part 10 of 17 in the series Armchair BEA 2013 - 2014

Books on writing is one genre that we didn’t cover during this week’s Armchair BEA. When I think of books for writers I include books by writers about craft, books about writers, and books written by writers on writing. There isn’t any one best book for writing because writers are so diverse in nature. There are, however, books on writing that have stood the test of time.

The best books on writing stand the test of time.

Use the right word, not its second cousin. – Mark Twain

Best books on writing for writers

The following books by writers on writing that inspire and motivate writers are written by some well-known bestselling writers like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, as well as writers beloved by the writing community. With these writers you don’t simply read the books for what they say but also for how they say it.

On Writing by Stephen King

When it comes to books on writing, Stephen King’s now classic book on writing, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, pretty much tops every writer’s list as a must-have. It has been out for more than a decade and a 10th anniversary edition is now available. You cannot go wrong reading this book.

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. – Stephen King

Bird by Bird by Annie Lamont

Annie Lamont’s classic book on writing, Bird by Bird, swept the writing world when it was first released and rose to the top of every writer’s favorite books on writing list. She is most known and most quoted for her embrace “of the shittyfirst draft.”

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. – Annie Lamont

Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

The very act of reading anything by Ray Bradbury will inspire a writer. His words have force and energy and movement. Among my many books on writing, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity is my favorite. The book may be thin in its physicality but it is wide in its breadth. His essay The Joy of Writing should be imprinted on every writer’s heart.

When was the last time you dared release a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like a lightning bolt? – Ray Bradbury

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg


Another near-instant classic upon release, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, has been a huge favorite among writers for decades. Suddenly writers, armed with their pens and notebooks, were crowding cafes and outdoor restaurants and putting their pens to pages.

Goldberg’s book remains a favorite when it comes to practical yet inspirational books on writing. Her timed freewriting exercises became as famous as her instruction to “keep your hand moving.”

It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice. – Natalie Goldberg

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard


Annie Dillard’s classic, The Writing Life, inspired a generation of writers. Her description of the stunt pilot and her application of what she saw to writing has stayed with me from the moment her words exploded in my brain. For inspiration, Dillard’s book remains in the top tier of books on writing.

Like any fine artist, he controlled the tension of the audience’s longing. You desired, unwittingly, a certain kind of roll or climb, or a return to a certain portion of the air, and he fulfilled your hope slantingly, like a poet, or evaded it until you thought you would burst, and then fulfilled it surprisingly, so you gasped and cried out. – Annie Dillard

Any of these books will provide hours of inspiration and read daily will provide the motivation to get any writer’s butt in the chair and their hand moving. I hope you’ll share your favorite books on writing in the comment section below. If you’re an Armchair BEA visitor, do say hello. 

Note: Here’s more new books on writing, as well as more classic books on writing. Read Shitty First Drafts by Annie Lamont and The Stunt Pilot by Annie Dillard.

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  • Malissa Thomas

    It’s a good thing my bookshelf is virtual and limitless! I loved On Writing! I’ll have to get the rest. Donald Maass has a few practical books on the craft, Fire in Fiction and Writing the Breakout Novel

  • http://unconventionalbookviews.com/ Lexxie

    Great topic! I actually have some books about writing, because both for classes and long essays, and just to improve how I write on my blog, I find them very helpful.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    The Breakout and Fire in Fiction books are terrific. I highly recommend them. Thanks for stopping by, Malissa.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    I’m writer-geeky enough to enjoy reading any book on writing whether it’s on craft or inspiration. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting, too.

  • Andi @ Estella’s Revenge

    Good stuff! I used to teach from Bird By Bird when I was in grad school. Students were especially fond of the “shitty first drafts” chapter.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    Yeah, the “shitty first drafts” grabbed everyone’s attention. That alone, though word of mouth, moved her book up the list toward bestsellerdom. She struck a real chord with writers and I think she still does.

  • Krazzyme@ Young Reader

    I didn’t know Stephen King had written a memoir . Will definitely check it out :)

    Krazyyme @ Young Readers

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com/ Vikk Simmons

    He did! Do check it out. It is a great book.