Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 9, 2010

Books Every Writer Should Read

This list was sent to me from Online from an article, titled, “75 Books Every Writer Should Read.”  I have shared a few of the categories with you below:

Writing Basics

These books address things like structure, plot, descriptions and other basic elements of any story.

  1. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers: You can improve the quality of your writing by adding a mythical quality to them with advice and insight from this book.
  2. Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler: Whether you agree with the ideas in this book or not, you’ll find it a useful and informative read for writing.
  3. Word Painting: A Guide to Write More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan: Get some pointers that will help you make your settings and characters come alive from this book.
  4. Simple & Direct by Jacques Barzun: Barzun says that his purpose in writing this book was to “resensitize the mind to words” and he does this through a variety of helpful lessons on grammar, word usage and writing that are sure to make your writing better, or at least more thoughtful.
  5. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell: This book will help you create plots that will draw readers in and make your work more powerful.
  6. Elements of Writing Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card: Check out this engaging book for a little guidance on creating more believable and fully developed characters.
  7. Between the Lines by Jessica Morrell: In this book you’ll learn how to craft a cohesive and layered story through the use of suspense, transitions and more.

Improving Your Writing

Use the information in these books to hone your writing skills.

  1. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg: This easy-to-read book will offer you some tips on writing as well as often entertaining comparisons and insights on the craft.
  2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott: Check out this instructional book to get help creating your work from the first drafts to the final publication.
  3. The 10% Solution by Ken Rand: This book helps guide writers through many of the areas of writing that cause them trouble and keep them frustrated.
  4. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Ned Stuckey-French: Burroway’s book is one of the most widely read and respected books on writing fiction, and in it writers will find tips on everything from creativity to tone.
  5. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell: There are few things more helpful to improving writing than good editing, and this book is full of tips to help you tackle scaling back and refining your own work.
  6. Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine: Are your stories lacking that certain something? Get some tips on finding the missing ingredient from this book.
  7. Edit Yourself : A Manual for Everyone Who Works With Words by Bruce Clifford Ross-Larson: No matter what kind of writing you do, you’ll find tips on trimming the fat in this book.
  8. Keys to Great Writing by Stephen Wilbers: This basic guide will help you improve all aspects of your writing with lessons writers at any level can use.
  9. The Classic Guide to Better Writing: Step-by-Step Techniques and Exercises to Write Simply, Clearly and Correctly by Rudolf Franz Flesch: This guidebook will help you work on organization, grammar, spelling, voice and more.

Writing as a Career

If you’re looking to make a career out of writing, these books can be a big help in getting you there.

  1. Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block: This book offers plenty of advice for those who want to write better and get their work published.
  2. Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See: Read this book to learn how to look at writing not only as a job, but as a lifestyle.
  3. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass: Get some advice from this literary agent on how to create a novel that will help you stand out from the crowd.
  4. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner: Learn what editors are looking for when it comes to actually getting your work read and possibly even published from this book.
  5. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman: Thousands of novels are submitted to publishers each year, but the vast majority of these will not be published. Learn how you can tweak your writing to give it a fighting chance in this book from literary agent Noah Lukeman.
  6. The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass: Learn what makes published authors’ stories so “hot” and what you may be doing that’s making yours, well, not.
  7. Dare to be a Great Writer: 329 Keys to Powerful Fiction by Leonard Bishop: This book will teach you to write fiction that’s not just good but also sellable.
  8. Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks: Check out this book from author Terry Brooks to get insight into the publishing industry and the process of writing.
  9. The Marshall Plan Workbook: Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish by Evan Marshall: If you need a little push to get yourself into the swing of writing your novel, then this workbook could be a great motivational tool.
  10. How To Grow A Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them by Sol Stein: This book will guide you through the process and the necessary elements of creating an engaging novel.
  11. How To Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis: If you’re not quite ready to make the commitment to a literary agent, you can still ensure you don’t get swindled by reading this book.
  12. The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowerman: Those hoping to work as freelancers can get advice on finding work and making freelancing a steady paying gig in this book.

You can view the whole list at:

Hope this helps you choose your next book to improve your writing skills.



  1. Wow! I want them all!
    I believe in the power of knowledge and I love reading and learning anything and everything, but I have a special interest in writing children’s fiction. Your list is amazing and should keep me busy for a long time to come.
    Thank you for sharing.


  2. Great list Kathy.
    I’m happy to see that I’ve read a few. The Power of Myth is an amazing book that I’ve gone back to several times—thanks for reminding me about it! Timing is a mysterious thing . . . love Natalie Goldberg’s books (I think I’ve read them all) and Anne Lamott has something in one of her books about a writer not being able to be the most popular person, socially I mean, and I love that. I’m always looking for affirmations when it comes to ignoring social obligations in order to stay home to write!


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