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Books on Writing

An old adage states, "Everyone has at least one good book in them." This list will start you on the path to writing yours, whether it be steamy romance, thoughtful memoir, or lyrical poetry.

Thanks to volunteer Nina M. from West Hollywood Library for creating this list.

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Reading like a writer: a guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them by Francince Prose

Francine Prose demonstrates the importance of reading closely and learning from great writers, dissecting their sentences and parsing their paragraphs to discover what makes their stories tick and what lessons writers can learn.

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The Elements of Style by E.B White and William Strunk

This classic guide to writing covers everything from proper punctuation and correct spelling to the value of choosing your words wisely. Concise, elegant, and an authoritative guide to writing well.

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Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within by Kim Addonizio

Poet Kim Addonizio talks creativity, inspiration, love, loss, and publishing in this book on the craft of poetry. With wit, and honesty, Addonizio shares exercises to encourage and enliven anyone’s creative process. For Addonizio, “poetry is not a means to an end but a continuing engagement with being alive.

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The modern library writer's workshop : a guide to the craft of fiction  by Stephen Koch

Ever wonder what happens inside an MFA writing workshop? Stephen Koch, former chair of Columbia's graduate writing program, elucidates the process of writing and revising, and shares basics of craft to help every writer contend with “the quiet drama that goes on every day at every writer’s desk.”

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It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences : a writer's guide to crafting killer sentences  by June Casagrande

June Casagrande explores what makes a great sentence great and what makes a terrible sentence terrible. This is a book for those who love grammar and syntax and those who want to master it.

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On Writing  by Eudora Welty

The inestimable Eudora Welty shares her insights as to what makes great writing great. Using examples her own work as well as others’, Welty talks about the craft and “the mystery” of fiction writing.

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Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

"Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!” Ray Bradbury shares his experience, excitement, and enthusiasm for writing.

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The art of fiction : notes on craft for young writers by John Gardner

John Gardner is the godfather of writing advice. This book is not for the faint of heart but it is well worth the read for serious writers.

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott generously shares her successes, her failures, and practical writing techniques, all the while encouraging the reader not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of their writing practice but to take it one step at a time, or “bird by bird.”

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On writing : a memoir of the craft  by Stephen King

In equal parts autobiography and discussion of craft, Stephen King recounts his beginnings as a writer, gives practical writing advice, and shares the importance of writing in his life in this empowering book.

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Poetics by Aristotle

The earliest surviving work of dramatic theory, Aristotle’s Poetics remains relevant for its discussion of the elements of tragedy and literary form.

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The Art of Description: World into Word  by Mark Doty

Part of the “Art Of” Series published by Graywolf Press. Poet Mark Doty examines the difficulties of translating the world into words and the delights of sensory experience.

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Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose  by Flannery O’Connor

The masterful Flannery O’Connor talks writing, raising peacocks, and religion in this collection of essays published after her death.