Whether you've been writing for years or are just finding your creative voice, there are 20 essential books for writers that you absolutely need on your bookshelf. These books offer seasoned advice on everything from story structure to nonfiction content writing. No matter what kind of writer you are or want to be, these books will give you new perspective on your craft.
20 Best Books on Writing for Current & Aspiring Writers
General Writing Books to Inspire
Some of the greatest authors have shared their tips for writing in general, and these are some of the best books on the writing process.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a classic writing text by Stephen King. It is perfect for both current and aspiring writers. It's ideal if you need inspiration and a real-world view of a writer's life, especially since it's written by one of the most successful writers in the world.
Bird by Bird
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is another valuable resource for writers at any stage in their careers. This beloved book by Anne Lamott has inspired more than a million current and aspiring writers.
Writing Down the Bones
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within is an all-time bestseller by Natalie Goldberg. The book offers inspiration and wisdom for writers at all levels, from beginners to those in mid-career. You'll find advice you can immediately put into practice in your work.
Wild Words: Rituals, Routines, and Rhythms for Braving the Writer's Path is a helpful book by Nicole Gulotta that offers practical advice for staying inspired and fitting your writing work into a busy schedule. It's the ultimate guide for modern writers at every career stage.
Zen in the Art of Writing
Zen in the Art of Writing by esteemed science fiction author Ray Bradbury shares inspiration, wisdom, and helpful tips in this series of essays on being a writer. It's a beloved book that is a great choice for writers of any experience level.
Best Books on Creative Writing
If you're trying to figure out how to start a novel, create a vivid and powerful poem, or make your short story truly compelling, these books on creative writing can help. You'll find everything from story structure books to inspiring prompts for your work.
The subtitle of this book says it all: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere). This is a new take on an old problem faced by creative writers, and it is a popular modern resource for your bookshelf.
Steering the Craft
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story is a short and helpful guide by beloved author Ursula K. Le Guin. It offers exercises and tips to help writers of all levels build a narrative.
How to Grow a Novel
How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them is a practical, workshop-style guide. Sol Stein offers wisdom gleaned from a lifetime of work as a bestselling author, editor, and teacher of writing workshops. It's ideal for writers of any level looking for a story structure book.
A Poetry Handbook
A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry is the book for you if you're looking for poetry writing advice. This book by famed poet Mary Oliver offers information about poetic forms and techniques, as well as wise advice for fellow writers.
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction is written by Jeff Vandermeer. This modern take on the creative writing process offers images, diagrams, activities, and more to help writers navigate the process of creating a story.
Content Writing Books and Nonfiction Writing
If you write for the internet or plan to start a content writing career, it's essential that you understand the ins and outs of search engine optimization, writing a blog post, how to capture readers' attention quickly, and how to make your audience stay on the page and keep reading. These books are full of tips to help.
Letting Go of the Words
Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works is a helpful guide by Janice (Ginny) Reddish that offers practical advice for content writers, including thinking of your writing as a conversation with the reader. It's a great guide for any level of writer.
The Content Code
The Content Code is a handy book by Mark Schaefer that outlines six content strategies writers can use when creating blog posts, social media posts, and web articles. It's a good choice for any experience level.
In Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose, authors Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee offer real-world tips from their collective experiences at companies like Mail Chimp and Vox Media. This is a great resource for writers just starting out, as well as those who have been writing web content for years.
Everybody Writes is a bestseller by Ann Handley that provides guidance aimed at beginners who want to write better web content, including ad copy, newsletters, blog posts, and articles.
Writing for the Web
Writing for the Web is a short guide by James Lowery that offers practical advice for search engine optimization. It also gives tips for writing web content humans love to read. It's great for any type of web writing and any level of experience.
Best Reference Books for Writers
In addition to the basic style guides like MLA and Chicago Manual of Style, you'll find it's handy to have a few more specific reference books on writing. From rhyming dictionaries and style guides to reference books on writing skills, these resources are perfect for writers at any point in their careers.
The Elements of Style
The Elements of Style is a classic text by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. It belongs on every writer's bookshelf, no matter what type of writing they do. Look things up every time you're unsure about usage.
The Craft of Research
The Craft of Research is a collaborative effort published by the University of Chicago Press. This research guide helps writers at all levels learn to dig deeper to find answers and ask the right questions in their work.
Write, Publish, Repeat
Write. Publish. Repeat is for writers thinking about self publishing. This reference guide by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant is indispensable. Learn about the self publishing business and how to get your work out there.
The Writer's Guide to Character Traits
The Writer's Guide to Character Traits is published by Writer's Digest. This reference by Linda Edelstein is a great resource for fiction writers who need to create characters. Use the over 400 lists of traits to craft unique characters.
The Complete Rhyming Dictionary
The Complete Rhyming Dictionary is a classic by Clement Wood. It's handy for poetry and song writers, as well as anyone else who needs to make a rhyme. You'll find an exhaustive list of possible rhyming words by syllable.
There When You Need Help
No matter what kind of writing you do, it's perfectly normal to need some help from time to time. If you get stuck for ideas, use writing prompts to break through your writer's block. If you need inspiration and advice, turn to these great books on writing.