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12 Best Books on Writing

Best Books on Writing

The quest for best books on writing started when Pallavi Prakash Kumar ( a member of our Facebook group - Let's Talk Writing ) asked in the group- What are your favorite books on writing ?

What followed was an interesting discussion on some of the best books on writing where different members of the group shared their own personal favourites adding their own experiences of reading it and why do they think that book deserves to be in this list of best books on writing.

In this list of tops books on writing you will find some favourites and perhaps some new titles to be added to your reading list!). As it known, apart from writing daily, one of the most important tips given to authors is to read - a lot. Read the type of books you want to write, read the type of books you want to get inspired from and of course, read books on writing. Reading books on writing is as good as having a conversation with the author (of the book!) who is confiding in you with their experiences on writing. They share tips, tricks and if you are lucky, then perhaps some secrets as well.

So, here are some recommended best books on writing, by writers for writers. Some of these will help you better your art, some might help you in understanding writing better while a few will guide you in finding inspiration, dealing with writer's block or simply fall in love with writing, again.

1. Stephen King on Writing

This book was shared by Pallavi Prakash along with her question, where she stated,

” I am very curious about Stephen King’s “On Writing : A Memoir of the Craft” Considering his record of constantly putting out books of great demand many of which went on to become major blockbusters.”

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.

In the words of Vineetha Mokkil, yet another group member,

Stephen King’s On Writing is an excellent book. Has lots of handy tips for writers, both beginners and established. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is one of my favourites. It’s not a technical handbook about plot and character, etc but it offers a lot of advice and support to sustain you as a writer and creative being. .

2. Kissing the Demon by Amrita Kumar

Recommended by none other than Chetan Mahajan (Co-founder, Himalayan Writing Retreat), this book is a masterpiece. 

Another masterpiece – and this one by an Indian author – is Kissing the demon by Amrita kumar. It is easily a fantastic book to help anyone in Indian write their long pending Novel.

Do you have a great story to tell but don't know where to begin or how to give it shape? Whether you're an aspiring writer or a seasoned one, a writer of fiction or narrative non-fiction, Kissing the Demon will help you navigate the maze of plot construction, narrative viewpoint, character development, dialogue creation and description even while allowing your imagination to flow. Written by an editor and publisher who has for over four decades nurtured some of India's finest writers, it also tackles the insular world of publishers, agents, contracts and editors.

3. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Recommended by Vineetha Mokkil, this is not a technical book on writing.

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is one of my favourites. It’s not a technical handbook about plot and character, etc but it offers a lot of advice and support to sustain you as a writer and creative being.

From Alicia Keys to Elizabeth Gilbert, Patricia Cornwell to Pete Townshend and Russell Brand, The Artist's Way has helped thousands of people around the world to discover their inner artist. Whatever your artistic leanings, this book will give you the tools you need to enable you to fulfil your dreams.

4. Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark

Pallavi Prakash recommends this book while asking for more book recommendations.

I use this one also for writing improvement!

Organized into four sections, "Nuts and Bolts," "Special Effects," "Blueprints for Stories," and "Useful Habits," Writing Tools is infused with more than 200 examples from journalism and literature.

5. Ernest Hemingway on Writing

Ravishankar Nadyam, another group member, believes this book is a one that he enjoyed reading a lot.

Throughout Hemingway’s career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing—that it takes off “whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk’s feathers if you show it or talk about it.” Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do

6. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ravishankar Nadyam discovered this book during the travel writing course he did with Matador and found it to be amazing for travel writing or writing in general.

Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. A Moveable Feast brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and enthusiasm that Hemingway himself experienced.

7. Bird by Bird - Some instructions on life and writing by Anne Lamott

Published author and group member, Kamalani Natesan recommends this book strongly and calls it 'Beautiful'.

Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom passed down from Anne's father-also a writer-in the iconic passage that gives the book its title:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, Buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

8. On Writing Well-The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Chetan adds one more to the list with this book and shares his own experiences of not only reading this book but also interacting with the author.

For non-fiction, I am a huge fan of “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. I mentioned it in the acknowledgements page of my book, and wrote to him after it was published, and duly got a reply. I think it has many bits that help fiction writers as well.

9. Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg

This one is a personal recommendation and it stems from the fact that the writer shares personal experiences with tips on free writing. The core focus is on writing and making it into a practice so that gradually you can see the finer nuances and work on improving them. 

As the blurb says, 'Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives.'

10. Charles Bukoswi on Writing

Yet another personal recommendation of a book I swear by. Many reasons to say so - for starters the book is a collection of letters, a form of writing I personally love a lot. Secondly, Charles Bukoswi's style of writing is honest, straight to the point and quite often, hilarious. His witty observations and quirky one-liners, make this book a perfectly enjoyable read every time I feel the ghosts of Writer's Block threatening my writing.

11. One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers by Gail Sher

This interesting book recommendation is by our group member Rashma N Kalsie. It is a book introducing a method of discipline that applies specific Zen practices to enhance and clarify creative work. Based on the Zen philosophy that we learn more from our failures than from our successes, One Continuous Mistake teaches a refreshing new method for writing as spiritual practice.

12. How to get published in India by Meghna Pant

Last but not the least is this unique book written by Meghna Pant.  Something that I recommend personally for every aspiring writer in India, this book might not be exactly on writing but includes a lot of tips and information about publishing in India.

Author Meghna Pant is a short story writer with many a bestsellers to her credit. In this book she brings together her experiences of navigating through this industry and also has a lot of experts share their own insights on their specializations. 

The  best thing is, it also has many resources and information about things which can be very hard to find. That includes cover designers, editors and so on. It also talks about specific genres such as poetry / short story etc.

So, how many of these have you read? Did we miss your favourites? Let us know in comments below and we will add them to this list.

Here's sending some writer-ly magic your way and wishing you never run out of stories to tell.

Happy Reading!

P.S: This curated list was collated on the recommendations of some of the group members from our Facebook group – Let’s Talk Writing. Special note of mention to: Shubra Prakash, Pallavi Prakash Kumar, Ravishankar Nadyam, Kamalini Reena and Rashma N Kalsie. If you are a writer, do join our group – we promise loads of discussions, some great reading materials, feedback on writing from peers and tons of such wonderful book recommendations.

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3 Responses

  1. Loved reading this blog. It reminded me of my school send off, when I was upset that I won’t be meeting my English Teacher. Yes, she was beautiful, but she would refer to some quotes from the books she had read. That day I asked her, “can you give me a list of books that I should read”. And she gave me a list with at least 30 odd books right from PG to Gandhiji, and Leo to Cook. I must admit I have not read even one-fourth of those, but the list above has motivated me to read the rest of them; besides adding 12 more books to it. 🙂

    Thank you for this 🙂

  2. You could add:
    1. ‘Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing’ by Margaret Atwood
    2. ‘Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story’ by Ursula K. Le Guin
    3. ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’ by Ray Bradbury
    4. ‘Writer’s Way: Realize Your Creative Potential and Become a Successful Author’ by Sara Maitland
    Each one offers valuable perspectives.

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