Five best books about writing

There are hundreds and hundreds of books on writing out there, some good, some great – and some not so great. Here are my five favourite ones, the ones I recommend most often to clients or friends. These are not books on getting published, but on the act and craft of writing itself.


Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott – probably my favourite of these favourites. Funny, full of wisdom about life as well as writing. You can also follow Anne on Facebook for occasional mini-essays.


Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg – a close second to Bird by Bird, this will encourage you to build your writing practice and, as the book’s subtitle promises, ‘free the writer within’.


Wired for Story by Lisa Cron takes a slightly different approach to the first two books here (which are more about getting you started with writing) and looks at how our brains respond to the universal patterns of story, and how to make use of these narrative drivers when we write.


Storycraft: the complete guide to writing narrative nonfiction by Jack Hart – this is the best guide I’ve found to doing exactly what it says on the tin, using the craft of story writing to write compelling nonfiction.


Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande – I’ll leave this one to Hilary Mantel, who says:

“Read  Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t ­really need any others…”

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