Top 25 Books for Writers and Writing-related Topics

by Meryl Evans | Category: Books, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 33 comments

Thank you to all that nominated and voted for the top 25 books for writers on writing. The list is in order beginning with the book that received the most votes. It’s a great list as I’ve read or heard great things about many of the books.

  1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B.White: “Though I’ve read two other great books on writing, this one really got me rolling down my writing journey, so it stands out in my mind. I also give it points for being so concise and as a result not very intimidating. For those starting out on their writing path, this is a good bet. It’s basic and effective.” – Bamboo Forest
  2. On Writing by Stephen King: “Simply the best.” – Craig Cardimon
  3. On Writing Well by William Zinsser: “I’ve re-read William Zinsser’s On Writing Well every year since I first read it in high school. Excellent book.” – Will Sansbury
  4. Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: “Wonderfully sincere, funny and helpful. Just made so much sense to me – loved it!” – Amy Palko
  5. Chicago Manual of Style: “It’s huge, thorough, honest, authoritative, entertaining, and always there to refer to. Knocks Strunk and White into a cocked hat.” – Katy Evans-Bush.
  6. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: “The one I gift the most to writers.” – Mike Sansone
  7. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: “For a different kind of direction, certainly. And it is early yet in my focused writing.” – Karen Hohman Almeida
  8. Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose: “It has given me the ability to break down why a piece of writing is good, and there’s no better way to learn.” – MeiLin Miranda
  9. If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland: “Great for inspiration.” – Joanne aka soulsprite
  10. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
  11. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
  12. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
  13. Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande: “For inspirational and ‘pull-your-socks-up.'” – Katy Evans-Bush
  14. The Renegade Writer by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell: “…because I’m always one for breaking the rules!” – Mary
  15. The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters that Rock by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  16. 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing (Mentor) by Gary Provost
  17. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams
  18. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass: “One of the best I’ve read.” – Dawn Herring
  19. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
  20. Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell – “The knowledge that Morrell imparts is educational and constructive.” – Meryl
  21. Between the Lines: The Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing by Jessica Page Morrell
  22. The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman
  23. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
  24. The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law by Norm Goldstein
  25. The Art and Craft of Feature Writing: Based on The Wall Street Journal Guide by William E. Blundell

I’m going to try to always be reading at least one book on writing at any given time. (I have two or three books I read at a time.) This list will make it easier to decide which one to read next as I own some that I haven’t read.

What books have you read? What did you like most about them or what did you learn?

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  • Posted by Dean J. Baker on February 8th, 2010, 9:57 AM

    interesting to see this…. thanks

  • Posted by Susan on February 8th, 2010, 9:59 AM

    What a great list – I will be adding a few to my Kindle today. The Elements of Style has been in my desk drawer for years (decades?) but I have been searching for inspiration lately when writing my blog. Thank you!

  • Posted by Jevon Bolden on February 8th, 2010, 10:26 AM

    I am abolustely hooked on Chicago Manual of Style. I’m a book editor. I’d love to see them on Twitter. Another one that I am just reading (it’s an oldie) is Editors on Editing (3rd edition), edited by Gerald Gross. It still has some timeless thoughts and advice for writers and editors alike.
    .-= Jevon Bolden’s blog …Follow Up to’s Feature About My Unconventional Marriage =-.

  • Posted by Dawn Herring on February 8th, 2010, 8:03 PM

    Great list, Meryl. I’ll bookmark it for future reference. A lot of my favorites are on this list.
    Thanks for the link. I appreciate it.

    Dawn Herring

  • Posted by e.lee on February 9th, 2010, 2:16 AM

    Donald Maas’ “Writing The Breakout Novel” was very helpful when it came to working through my manuscript

  • Posted by Kelly on February 9th, 2010, 6:56 AM

    Great list! I just reread Bird by Bird and loved it just as much as the first time.

    .-= Kelly’s blog …Review: Bird by Bird =-.

  • Posted by Karen Hohman Almeida on February 9th, 2010, 1:16 PM

    It really ended up being a wonderful list. Very powerful. Thank you for putting it together, Meryl. Just an immensely wonderful personal resource. xox

  • Posted by 02/08: Link Round Up and Summary From Across the Web « Leslie A. Joy on February 9th, 2010, 3:10 PM

    […] Top 25 Books for Writers and Writing Related Topics: […]

  • Posted by Meryl on February 10th, 2010, 10:36 AM

    To all — thanks for the great feedback and votes. It’s because of readers that the list came out strong and on target. Of course, we all have faves that may not have made it. Christina Katz’ Get Known Before the Book Deal is an invaluable resource on building platforms (you don’t need to be planning to write a book to glean lots from it).

  • Posted by mcr on February 11th, 2010, 4:06 PM

    Do you want to become an excellent writer? Read the best books you can. One or two of these may help, but unless you’re going to write about being a better writer, reading words in action will serve you much more greatly.

    “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading,
    in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make
    one book.” Dr. Samuel Johnson

  • Posted by JYHASh on February 11th, 2010, 5:46 PM

    Don’t forget “Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics” by Alan Moore if you’re at all interested in Sequential Art. Brilliant book!

  • Posted by Dave Felton on February 15th, 2010, 10:21 AM

    Interesting list.

    I have (and love) “Becoming a Writer”, “On Writing” and Strunk and White, plus a few others but these three are really good.

  • Posted by Gargantua on February 15th, 2010, 12:39 PM

    Thanks for this list. There are several here I am not familiar with, and will make a point to investigate in the near future. I do agree with a previous commenter, though. The best writing help you can get is by reading really great writing. It is one thing to have someone tell you how to do it, it is something else entirely to see it in action.
    .-= Gargantua’s blog …Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007) =-.

  • Posted by Meryl on February 16th, 2010, 9:16 AM

    @mcr, Fantastic advice. What are some of the books that you recommend?

    @jyhash, Thanks for adding your two dollars (inflation).

    @Dave, I haven’t read “Becoming” — but read the other two. “On Writing” made a difference to my writing.

    @Gargantua, I agree. I’d love to hear everyone’s suggestions on the best books to read for a taste of great writing in action.

  • Posted by mcr on February 16th, 2010, 9:31 AM

    I guess it depends on what you are writing about. I’m a novelist, so that’s where I spend most of my time. Here is a list of a few really good books by some great writers.
    .-= mcr’s blog …Faith, the Bible and God-Part 1 =-.

  • Posted by Meryl on February 16th, 2010, 10:11 AM

    @mcr, excellent point. I read a lot of nonfiction — which happens to be my genre. Thanks for sharing the list.

  • Posted by Gargantua on February 16th, 2010, 5:13 PM

    I’ll put a couple of suggestions of moving prose out there…

    I must say that Terry Pratchet and Robert Aspirin might not write “high prose”, but I really love how they tell stories!
    .-= Gargantua’s blog …Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007) =-.

  • Posted by Meryl on February 16th, 2010, 5:34 PM

    @Gargantua, my husband is a big fan of Robert Aspirin and has read some to our older kids. Not all great books have to be fancy or lyrical prose.

  • Posted by william yarberry on February 19th, 2010, 11:32 PM

    If you are a money grub — someone who writes strictly for money — an obscure book by (I think now dead) Jefferson D. Bates is one of the best. His “How to write so you cannot possibly be misunderstood” was a turning point for my writing. I have three books out now (standard publishing, via Auerbach, not self published).

  • Posted by Meryl on February 23rd, 2010, 7:38 AM

    Thanks for adding your suggestion, William.

  • Posted by Kathy on February 24th, 2010, 3:50 PM

    What a great list! Will definitely keep this one handy when I need a new reference book. Thanks for posting!

  • Posted by Trevor Belshaw on March 24th, 2010, 1:49 PM

    No Sol Stein?
    Solutions for Writers is an excellent guide.On par with King’s.

    Also try
    The ABC Checklist For New Writers by Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam.
    Every writer should have a copy.

  • Posted by Meryl on March 24th, 2010, 2:19 PM

    @Kathy, glad this helps!

    @Trevor, Sol Stein’s book was in the nominees list, but it didn’t receive enough votes to make the top 25. Thanks for suggesting The ABC Checklist.

  • Posted by Daniel on April 22nd, 2010, 10:09 AM

    For technical writing (I know, it’s a niche), the Microsoft Manual of Style should be top 5.

    It’s not particularly useful to anyone outside that profession though.

  • Posted by Meryl K Evans on April 25th, 2010, 9:28 AM

    Daniel, that’s a great recommendation. You’re right that its audience is limited — but worth mentioning for those who do the work.

  • Posted by Advice to Wanna Be Writers on June 11th, 2010, 11:06 AM

    […] Book recommendations: Writer’s Market [current year] and those listed in the top 25 books for writers and writing-related topics. […]

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    […] Top 25 Books for Writers and Writing-related Topics: As voted by writers. […]

  • Posted by Isabel on August 29th, 2010, 4:32 PM

    I stumbled into this site and got inspired to mention one book that, to me, transforms the language into a living entity that breathes through every page. At times the theme is dark or very dark, painful, with touches of light here and there. How much so depends on what your ethnic-cultural background spectrum of dark to light is.
    The book is Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things”. So, it’s not a book about writing. It simply is great writing.
    THank you.

  • Posted by Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is books on writing | Media Editing on December 3rd, 2010, 11:30 AM

    […] If friends and family are asking you for holiday gift ideas, perhaps you’ll find something on this list of top 25 books for writers. […]

  • Posted by Web Sites for Writers - Content Maven - Meryl.Net | PoeWar on April 26th, 2011, 10:24 AM

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  • Posted by Web Sites for Writers - Content Maven - Meryl.Net | Poewar on May 5th, 2012, 11:02 AM

    […] blog or subscribing to her newsfeed. Below are links to some of my favorite articles from 25 Books for Writers and Writing-related TopicsA list of great books for writers. I’ve read about half of them and I really should read the […]

  • Posted by Graeme on January 29th, 2013, 5:54 AM

    The editing book I always recommend is ‘Self Editing for Fiction Writers’ by Renni Browne and Dave King

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