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Books for Writers

The Books for Writers series presents instructive texts for writers across a range of fields and backgrounds. Discover something new or recommit to a classic with a glimpse at what's inside!


On Writing

Stephen King

Who it's for:

Creative writers looking to improve their craft, or just be entertained.


What's inside:

Honest advice and anecdotes full of grit and humor.

This is a great read for creative writers of fiction and non-fiction who want to add texture to their prose. It also delivers some broad advice for the aspiring and professional writer through humorous and tragic anecdotes from King's own life. King covers topics from adverbs to substance abuse, entertaining you all the while. I laughed out loud at an episode describing a childhood brush with poison ivy, and am still a little disturbed by the description of a grisly scene witnessed by King's mother. Despite some heavy-hitting moments, this book is a light, pleasurable read. Consider it for yourself, or as a gift for the writer in your life.

Writing Down the Bones

Natalie Goldberg

Who it's for:

Anyone curious about developing a more writerly mindset.


What's inside:

A meditative approach to growing as a writer, with practical guideposts.

Reading Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones is like having a personal mentor in book form. Though it does contain concrete tips for new and seasoned writers, it is worth noting that this book is not a lecture or master class. It is rather more like a long walk with an experienced friend. Sometimes anecdotal, sometimes philosophical, my constant impression throughout is that I'm sitting over a cup of coffee with the author, soaking in well-earned wisdom. Goldberg does not coach a genre or practicum, but a mindset. For writers (or would-be writers), this book is as therapeutic as it is educational. For those who have experienced doubt about their personal journey as a writer, this book may offer the means to heal and persevere.


The Adweek Copywriting Handbook

Joseph Sugarman

Who it's for:

Copywriters, marketers, and business professionals interested in selling or driving response through written content.
What's inside:

Easily accessible principles for writing actionable, human-focused copy.

If you've written in the sales or marketing sectors, then odds are good you’ve heard of The Adweek Copywriting Handbook. But you may have avoided it on the assumption that it is technical or inaccessible. This couldn’t be farther from the case. Joseph Sugarman’s approach is decidedly easygoing and conversational. Far from touting jargon or industry specifics, the focus of this book is on the emotional and psychological aspects of honest selling. Though the book is educational in nature, you are not its focus — your clients and business prospects are.   In content, the book is exactly what it claims to be — a handbook. Though one could benefit from reading it start to finish, it is most effective as a reference tool, with principles and sales approaches organized in modules. If you’re writing a marketing email, for example, and you’re wondering what approach to take, you might consult Chapter 19, where Sugarman details 64 psychological triggers.   What you won’t find are didactics pertaining to writing itself in terms of mechanics and usage. Nor will you encounter any topics native to the digital era, such as Search Engine Optimization. The advice here is decidedly human-focused, and as such, evergreen.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

George Saunders

Who it’s for:

Writers and readers seeking to deepen their understanding of classic literary fiction and storytelling.

What’s inside:

An accessible walkthrough and discussion of stories by four masters of Russian literature.

This one is for creative writers and storytellers, but also readers who want to read deeper.

If you ever wished you could enroll in a college-level course that would reveal the inner workings of Russian literary masters, but without any of the pretense or pressure, this is your book. And if that sounds far too complicated or specific, believe me, it’s not. George Saunders is not here to prove he’s smarter than you. Rather, he is a gentle guide, whose goal is to unpack the beauty and imperfections of several classic works of short fiction. His approach is truly professorial, at times breaking the stories down a page at a time to discuss content and style. If you’re willing to listen and learn, you won’t get lost. Saunders overarching style is to juxtapose critical discourse with simple, relatable objects. He may spend several sentences or paragraphs diving after some ephemeral essence of story only to emerge from the murky depths of theory, catch his breath, and ask, “Hey, do you remember that toy robot back in the day with the spinning head?” And somehow both of these moves will have contributed to a fuller understanding of literature. This is not a book for the impatient, the overly pragmatic, or those seeking a straightforward set of instructions to writing, revision, et cetera. Saunders provides guidance in these areas, even some real sit-down exercises, but there is no answer key. This is partly because, yes, the work or the journey is half the point, but also because for Saunders, getting a few things wrong is part of the joy of writing. Some of the beauty is in the defects. This is also one instance where I would whole-heartedly endorse the audio book, with the “classroom” discussions led by the author himself, and the stories delivered by such talent as Nick Offerman, Glenn Close, Keith David, BD Wong (my favorite of the bunch), and more. So what does this book have to offer the writer? The question is, when you finish this quirky exploration, will you feel smart or confused? The answer, beautifully, is yes.

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