14 Best Writing Books for Aspiring Writers That’ll Help You Improve Your Craft

Learning to write well can be challenging. But by reading writing books, you can improve your craft and become a better, happier writer.

Whether you’re a fiction or nonfiction writer, or just someone interested in the writing life, here are 14 books that’ll teach you what it takes to survive, and thrive, as a writer.

Best Writing Books for Fiction Writers

1. On Writing by Stephen King

First book cover for writing books list

In this immensely helpful writing book for aspiring writers, Stephen King shares the convictions, experiences, and habits that have influenced him and his work.

Part memoir, part writing master class, King reveals the basic tools every writer needs.

What’s in it for you:

  • An intimate look into the craft of writing and what it takes to succeed in this field

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird is part memoir and part advice on how to become a writer.

Anne Lamott narrates her life story while offering invaluable lessons on the craft of writing.

Her first and most important lesson: take things bird by bird.

By this, she means breaking large writing projects into short assignments.

She advocates getting a little work done each day and creating a writing schedule.

What’s in it for you:

  • A brutally honest writing book by someone whose life has been immensely shaped by writing

3. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

In this writing book, science fiction and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury shares how he mastered the craft of creating worlds by channeling his immense passion.

Written in a series of essays, the book teaches and celebrates the joy of writing, of storytelling.  

What’s in it for you:

  • Insight and inspiration on finding your muse and channeling it onto the page

4. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

In this writing book, Francine Prose asserts that long before creative writing workshops, aspiring writers learned to write by writing and, by example, from reading books.

She encourages aspiring writers and readers to read closely, word by word, sentence by sentence, examining each decision the writer made.

What’s in it for you:

  • An inside look at how writers read and write

Best Writing Books for Nonfiction Writers

5. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well offers fundamental principles and insights into the craft of writing. 

The book debunks the myth that to write well, you need to have a writing gene.

William Zinsser asserts that writing well requires applying a few well-grounded writing principles.

What’s in it for you:

  • An invaluable writing book for nonfiction writers

6. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Willians and Joseph Bizup

This writing book focuses on the importance of style in writing for different audiences.

Th authors assert that style involves making informed choices that serve readers.

Although writers know what they want to communicate, readers ultimately decide if they’ve said it effectively.

Thus, writers have to write with their readers in mind.

What’s in it for you:

  • An excellent guide for learning how to write effectively

7. How to Take Smart Notes by Sonke Ahrens

Although not a typical writing book, How to Take Smart Notes attempts to help nonfiction writers write with more ease by teaching them to take smart notes.

Sonke Ahrens argues that note-taking is a crucial aspect of the writing process, one that writers don’t pay much attention to.

The book is based on the proven Zettelkasten note-taking method, which offers insights into good, efficient writing.

What’s in it for you:

  • How to get more done and write efficiently by taking smart notes

Best Writing Books for All Writers

8. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Geared toward American writers, The Elements of Style is a writing style guide on grammar and usage.

It covers 11 rules of usage and 11 principles of composition, offering language tips and reminders throughout.

Written in an entertaining, witty style, this writing book emphasizes concision, clarity, and precision.

What’s in it for you:

  • A writing reference that’ll help you improve your writing and communicate more clearly and effectively

9. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Written in short essays, The Writing Life highlights the dedication, daring, and absurdity that shape a writer’s life.

Annie Dillard shares her own experiences, her daily life and writing struggles, offering insights into the writing life.

What’s in it for you:

  • A glimpse into the trials and delights of being a writer

10. Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Verlyn Kinkenborg draws on her years of experience as a teacher and writer to teach you an approach to writing that’ll change how you think and work.

Kinkenborg helps you get rid of harmful myths, half-truths, and false assumptions about writing.

He helps you unlearn, and then learn how to discover your rhythmic, poetic sense of writing.

What’s in it for you:

  • An indispensable writing book that’ll help you improve the quality of your writing

11. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

In this practical writing book, Steven Pinker offers a writing usage guide for the twenty-first century.

Written in a scholarly style, the book shows good and bad examples of modern writing and explores how mastering writing can be pleasurable and fascinating.

What’s in it for you:

  • A scholarly illumination of how the English language works at its best

12. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

In this groundbreaking writing book, Natalie Goldberg combines Zen meditation and writing.

Goldberg understands on a deep level that writing involves trusting your subconscious mind and offers a spiritual, Zen-inspired way of looking at the craft.

What’s in it for you:

  • A novel way of approaching writing through Zen practice

Bonus Writing Books

13. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday

In Perennial Seller, Ryan Holiday explores how great works endure and thrive while most disappear after initial success. 

Holiday examines how perennial sellers achieve their longevity and offers insights and strategies for emulating their success.

He asserts that the creators of perennial sellers don’t separate the making from the marketing; they keep the product’s purpose and audience in mind from day one.

And by doing this, these creators improve the chances that their products endure and stay around for a long time.

What’s in it for you:

  • How to create something that stands the test of time
  • How to develop lasting marketing channels
  • How to build an audience and a platform that stands the test of time

14. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist offers 10 principles that’ll help you discover your artistic life and build a more creative life.

Austin Kleon asserts that nothing is original, so we need to embrace the influence of others, and remix and reimagine their ideas to discover our own path.

What’s in it for you:

  • A helpful guide on creativity in the digital era 
  • How to use inspiration and influence to create something original

Further Reading: English Series

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