Good Books


  •   The Gregg Reference Manual
    by William A. Sabin
    McGraw-Hill, 2004. 704 pages.

This book has every punctuation and usage rule known to man.  It’s oriented toward business writing.  I use mine daily since no one can be expected to remember all those zillion rules.  Super easy to access and find what you need.


·          Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art
by Stephen Nachmanovitch
Tarcher/Putnam, 1990. 224 pages.

Nachmanovitch is a musician, computer whiz, and a writer.  He’s written the best book on creativity I’ve ever found.  If the mysterious process of creativity intrigues you, this book will give you plenty to chew on.


·     If You Want to Write
by Brenda Ueland
Graywolf Press, 1997 (originally published in 1938). 179 pages.

Need encouragement?  Here’s where to get some.  This lovely lady (check out the photos of her in her 20’s and 80’s) will set you up and get you on your way.  A wonderful, easy, inspiring book.


·     The Art of Fiction
by John Gardner
Vintage Books, 1991. 240 pages.

If you’re serious about learning to write, this man will teach you.  He dismantles the process and examines the pieces.  It may take many readings to absorb his wisdom, but they’re all worth the time.  If he were still alive, I would camp out on his porch.


·     The Writing Life
by Annie Dillard
HarperPerennial, 1990. 128 pages.

Annie Dillard is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer.  She demonstrates the joy of loving words and what they can do to human beings who want to learn how to live. 


·     The Art of Creative Nonfiction
by Lee Gutkind
John Wiley & Sons, 1997. 224 pages.

 Gutkind is the go-to man for creative nonfiction.  This is his basic book and a great place to begin if creative nonfiction inspires you.


·     Writing Down the Bones
by Natalie Goldberg
Shambhala Publications, 1986. 171 pages.

What fun Natalie Goldberg gives us.  Everything here is short, but powerful.  She helps you learn and grow.  You can’t help but love writing after this book.


·     Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott
Anchor Books, 1995. 239 pages.

I think this is Lamott’s best book. She asks you to join her in the writer’s life, and it’s pure pleasure doing so. 


·     Steering the Craft
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Eighth Mountain Press, 1998. 173 pages.

Here’s a fine instructional book from a woman who has been writing best selling books for a long time.  Exercises too!


·     The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
by Julia Cameron
Tarcher/Putnam, 2002. 272 pages.

This is one of the original "you can do this!" books.  Yes, you are creative.  It’s in there.  Julia shows you how to get that creativity out and growing.  Steps, exercises, and assignments move you along.


·     Writing with Power
by Peter Elbow
Oxford University
Press, 1998. 384 pages. 

Elbow helps you write papers for class, but the man is a genius of a teacher.  Some of his notions will set you free.  The best?  Let your creative side and your judgmental side work at different times so they don’t get in each other’s way.      



18 responses to “Good Books

  1. Thanks to you, Ann, I own all of these books. I will dust them off and reread them beginning today. I’m sure doing so will inspire me to rekindle my writing habit.

  2. Ann you are absolutely right about John Gardner’s book “The Art of Fiction.” It is in another, higher category compared to most books on writing fiction. Rather than giving the student formulas, he digs in and gets to the essence of writing. I find that the book has a few faults though. The writing style is quite academic. The first chapter is a little preachy about the value of a university education in English literature. But the ideas in the rest of the book more than make up for these matters. As you remark, this is a book to read and reread.

  3. Just received my copy of Free Play. I decided to order it when it was not available at the library. What a great suggestion. Thanks.

    • I’m glad you are reading it. I once did a workshop on creativity in writing, and so had to read up on the subject. This is by far the best book on creativity I found. It is from Nachmanovitch that I learned the words “bricolage” and “galumphing”–ideas I morphed into writing exercises. Enjoy!

  4. Based on my writing and style can you recommend which books would be good for me to start with? I`d like to eventually read them all but don`t know where to start.

    If you need encouragement, I’d start with Brenda Ueland. If you want nuts and bolts delivered by an amazing writing teacher, I’d read “The Art of Fiction” by John Gardner.

  5. Thanks, Ann. This helped. I just ordered both for my kindle. I’m looking forward to reading them and improving my writing.

  6. Hey Anne,

    During the BWW, I ran to my local book store and bought Bird By Bird. One of the best, funniest and most heart-warming books I’ve read in many moons. I have everything by Natalie Goldman, and many others, including Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, forward by John Gardner. The book was published in 1934, based on her writing classes from the 1920’s. Some thoughtful folks had it reprinted. Goes into depth about creative vs critical. I believe she was the one who coined Twilight Zone.

  7. I read most of the books on your list. I really liked “The Writing Life”. I do need to get the creative non fiction book, though. I really like the idea of blending fiction with nonfiction. Writing is about telling a story, so I like the idea of using fiction techniques to tell a nonfiction story.

    I always say stuff like: “You couldn’t make this up even if you tried”. Why try indeed? I can spend forever just writing about life and real life events. I think it would make me very happy. 🙂

  8. Ugh. Mistakes abound. I am having one of those days.

    Here’s the corrected version:

    I read most of the books on your list. I really liked “The Writing Life”.

    I do need to get the creative non fiction book, though. I really like the idea of blending fiction with nonfiction. Writing is about telling a story, and I like the idea of using fiction techniques to tell a nonfiction story.

    I always say stuff like “You couldn’t make this up even if you tried.” Why try indeed. I can spend forever just writing about life–it would make me very happy.

    I do hope the grammar gods will forgive me for the mistakes. Maybe I could appease them by uniting a split infinitive. 😉

  9. A worthy goal! Thanks for the post, Liora!

  10. Ann, I said that you would see me again and here I am! I am looking forward to writing on this blog with you and probably some of my fellow students. I just finished your BWW course which ends this month and I am starting tomorrow on “Write Fiction Like a Pro” by Steve Alcorn. I will give it my best while continuing to blog with you. I don’t want to cut the cord with Ann!

  11. (P.S. As usual, I put this blog in the wrong place! Will I ever learn? I meant to put it on your home page. Please forgive me!

  12. Thanks Ann! I own most of them but it looks like I will have to find Sabin’s The Gregg Manual, Elbow’s Writing with Power and Nachmanovitch’s Free Play.

  13. Hi Ann, I own Bird by Bird and also writing down the bones.Both great choices

  14. While waiting hopefully for, “A Beginning Writers WorkBOOK,” by Ann Linquist, I’ve been reading, “Ways of Escape,” an autobiography by Graham Greene in 1980 when he was about 76 years of age. I liked the dramatic stories he related of his trips as a journalist to many of the hot spots of the world in the twentieth century, and of the work he did on the side for British Intelligence. And there are plenty of fifty dollar words ($179.22 with inflation) which I must look up in the dictionary. “Casuistical,” on page 90 is a fine example.
    Most of all I enjoyed reading his thoughts about writing. (Simon and Schuster.)
    – Any news Ann? No pressure.

  15. It’s written and in the hands of a talented graphic artist, then a person to upload it. I’m hoping to have it available by the end of November on Amazon. Thanks for asking!

    Casuistical? Definitely at $179.22 word. Gotta love it.

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