10 Amazing Books That Will Improve Your Writing Skills

10 Amazing Books That Will Improve Your Writing Skills

Here are two simple truths—writing skills can be taught, and all good writers are also readers. What better way to accomplish two things at once than to read books about writing?

Back in the late ’90s, I owned and managed one of the first websites to offer online workshops especially for writers. Nearly every week, some publishing house would send me one of their latest books for writers hoping for a glowing review. The bottom line? I’ve read a lot of books about how to write and how to live the writing life.

This collection of recommendations includes some of my favorite classics as well as impressive new additions that will help wordslingers of all types—from bloggers to content producers to budding novelists to poets—hone their skills.

The Best Writing How-To Books

1 Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

Best for: Bloggers, content creators

Millions of new blog posts and other pieces of content hit the internet every single day. Ann Handley’s book is a must-have guide that shows content producers what it takes to stand out in a space where competition is fierce. With an accessible style, she takes on everything from how to write to grammar and usage to best practices. Perhaps my favorite part is Handley’s formula for creating content with a focus on empathizing with the reader and telling a great story. This isn’t just a how-to-write guide, it’ll also help you uncover what to write.

2 Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh

Best for: All writers

Writers are encouraged to make their writing lean and precise. Which is great advice, but how do you do it? Brohaugh, a former Writer’s Digest editor, offers all the necessary how-tos in this book. He teaches writers to eliminate redundancy, recognize and squash empty modifiers, and remove other dead weight that slows writing down. Although it’s sometimes criticized for being a bit pedantic, Brohaugh’s guide gave me some striking Aha! moments when I first read it about a decade ago, which is why I heartily recommend it.

3 The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

Best for: All writers

Although Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is a time-honored classic, its prescriptive approach to language isn’t for everyone. Enter Harvard professor Steven Pinker with a more contemporary take. His witty approach recognizes that language is fluid and that, while it’s good to know and follow the rules when it makes sense to, expressive writing often relies on bending them. Writing newbs may find this book challenging, but it’s full of insight for those who already have a grasp on grammar and style and want to improve.

4 You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

Best for: Bloggers, content creators, indie authors

Jeff Goins parlayed a love of writing into a successful career as an author, blogger, and speaker. If you have the drive to succeed as a writer, Goins provides the roadmap. You Are a Writer isn’t so much a book about the art of writing as it is about the business of getting your hard work noticed. If you aspire to build your platform and become a professional writer, it’s a great place to start.

5 Stein On Writing by Sol Stein

Best for: Creative writers

There are plenty of books that share advice for dealing with writer angst, getting unstuck creatively, and living life as a wordsmith. Stein On Writing is not one of those books. If you’re ready to dig into the nuts and bolts of great writing and you want to truly improve at your craft, this book is a master class by a veteran editor, author, and teacher.

6  1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig

Best for: Fiction writers

Chuck Wendig’s writing isn’t for the sensitive or easily offended—his no-holds-barred style is full of biting humor, social commentary, and profanity. But what his book delivers is a contemporary guide to becoming a better fiction writer that’s rendered in quick, easy-to-digest truth bombs. This from a successful blogger, screenwriter, and author of numerous novels, including the New York Times bestselling Star Wars: Aftermath.

The Best Books about Living the Writing Life

7 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Best for: Fiction writers

Any writer who dreams of publishing a novel should add On Writing to their to-read (or to-reread) list. Part writing how-to and part memoir, King’s book is a modern classic. (I’ve read it three times so far.) I love King’s stories about how his experiences forged him as a writer from early on. I’m of how King, his young family living hand-to-mouth, collapsed to the floor when his editor called to tell him that the paperback rights to Carrie, his breakout novel, sold for $400,000.

Not only does On Writing share one enormously successful writer’s origin story, it teaches the craft of writing in a way that feels conversational and real, as though he’s a mentor sitting across the table from you, sipping coffee and giving you his best advice.

8 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Best for: Creative writers

Sometimes writers take themselves too seriously. By allowing us a glimpse of her own human foibles, Anne Lamott takes some of the sting out of the things that cause writers grief, from perfectionism to insomnia. And she does it all with her celebrated wit and self-deprecating humor. It’s like having a crazy writer aunt to commiserate with. And you’ll learn a thing or two in the process.

9 Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within Natalie Goldberg

Best for: Creative writers

Natalie Goldberg’s approach to writing is simple—if you want to write truthfully and powerfully, you have to connect with yourself. Using Zen teachings, she encourages writers to follow their first thoughts and to trust their minds and bodies to lead them. Her voice is accessible, and sometimes vulnerable, and her inspirational and wildly creative methods have been helping writers find their voices for over thirty years.

10 Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Best for: Creative writers

In the form of some Fahrenheit 451 bookends, I own a chunk of Ray Bradbury’s , so I could hardly leave his classic off the list. Zen in the Art of Writing, a collection of essays on the writing life, rings with sage wisdom from a famous sci-fi master. Keep your highlighter (physical or digital) handy for marking all the memorable phrases, like “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me . . . .I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now it’s your turn. Jump!”

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