7 Great Books for Writers ...


7 Great Books for Writers ...
7 Great Books for Writers ...

I’ve been a professional Starving Writer for nearly 20 years, and while I’m proud of my craft, I know I’m a long way from being perfect. When I first started out as a writer, I read everything about writing I could get my hands on, hoping to learn some secret formula to being a best-selling author. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve learned a lot, and continue to learn, from only a handful of books, and if you’re interested in writing, even if it’s just the occasional English paper, you ought to read them, too. Here are 7 great books for writers.

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“the Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White

“the Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White Price: $12.41 at amazon.com
When this book was released in 1958, it was an instant classic, a primer for anyone who wanted to write well. It simplifies the rules of grammar and makes an extraordinarily handy reference tool. Any writer worth his salt, regardless of what type of writing he does, has read, and loves, this book.


“on Writing” by Stephen King

“on Writing” by Stephen King Price: $8.06 at amazon.com
I was thrilled when this book came out because, like so many of Stephen King’s fans, I always wanted to know his back-story, what inspires him, and how on earth he comes up with his story ideas. I wasn’t disappointed, and in fact, I’m even more delighted with this book than I thought I would be. It’s part history, but mostly helpful writing tips and right-on handy advice. If you’re an aspiring reader, this is a must-have.


“Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss

“Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss Price: $13.52 at amazon.com
Have you ever noticed how only tiny punctuation mark can change the meaning of an entire sentence? Take the title for example. Is she talking about a panda, or a hit man? This book delivers exactly what it promises, a tutorial on punctuation do’s and don’ts.


Webster's New World Thesaurus

Webster's New World Thesaurus Price: $13.68 at amazon.com
Sometimes the perfect word is right there, dangling just out of reach, frustrating you as you stammer and try to grab for it. Problem solved! Thumb through this handy, easy-to-use thesaurus and grasp that word firmly in your fingers.


Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition Price: $16.77 at amazon.com
Granted, most word processing software comes with a dictionary built in, but what if you prefer to write long hand? Then you’ll need an old-school paper dictionary for looking up how to spell those pesky words, or to make sure the word you’re using is the right one. You certainly wouldn’t want to call someone “promiscuous” instead of “prolific,” would you?


“the Professor and the Madman” by Simon Winchester

“the Professor and the Madman” by Simon Winchester Price: $10.07 at amazon.com
Speaking of old-school dictionaries, have you ever wondered how the first real dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, came to be? This book tells the story of that ground-breaking first book, containing more than 414,000 words, many of which were submitted and defined by Dr. W.C. Minor, an American ex-pat serving a life sentence in an insane asylum after committing a brutal murder. It’s a fantastic read for anyone who’s interested in words, and what they’ve come to mean to all of us. If you enjoy this book, also read Winchester’s follow-up, “The Meaning of Everything.”


“on Writing Well” by William Zinsser

“on Writing Well” by William Zinsser Price: $9.73 at amazon.com
In this book, William Zinsser proclaims that most adverbs and adjectives are wasteful, and I tend to agree. He promotes a simple, powerful, stripped-down writing style, one that will leave readers satisfied but not confused, or worse, bored. I read this once every five or six years, so I don’t forget his sage advice.

Of the dozens of books about writing I’ve read, these are the ones I can say honestly help me hone my work, and make it more enjoyable to write, and (hopefully) easier to read. Are you an aspiring writer? Which of these books have you read? Have you found them to be helpful too? Why or why not?

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I've read the first three and I think they're amazing, especially the one by Stephen King. I've always taken away the rule, 'write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.'

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