From My Bookshelf: Favorite Books About Writing

If you look inside my house, there’s one thing you will consistently see throughout the home: books.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have a love affair with books, reading and writing. Bryan and I share that trait, and Sophie has become quite the reader and collector of books as well. Aside from my “to read” stack next to my bed, I also have several bookshelves in my office filled with novels, non-fiction, memoir, Judaism, history, and my growing collection of writing books.

I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing my writing books lately while I work on my novel-writing project. As I looked at each of the books on my shelf, I realized they were not only great books about the craft of writing. But each one carries with it a story that’s personal to me.

So with that, I’d like to share with you my favorite books about writing and words. I’ve not only included the title and author, but also a sentence about what makes the book unique and why it’s meaningful to me. Maybe you’ll recognize a few titles, or be inspired to pick up a new read. Enjoy the (long) list.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott — I’d venture to guess most wordsmiths own a copy of Anne Lamott’s classic, often considered the writer’s “bible.” One of my first supervisors and mentors from my career at KPBS gave this to me along with a blank journal. It was the first writing book I received.

The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron — Another writing classic by the inventor of Morning Pages. I had the pleasure of hearing Cameron speak at a writer’s workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico a few years ago. She said that she has an entire storage unit filled with all of her Morning Pages. Wouldn’t you love to see that storage room?!

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Julia Cameron — I also love this book by Cameron, which I bought in preparation for my trip to Santa Fe. I am incredibly fortunate that she signed both copies of my books.

Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (and a Guide to How You Can Too), Theo Pauline Nestor — This book is part memoir and part writing practice. I love her honest personal narrative stories, information about the craft, and the “Try This” sections that give exercises to put the book into practice.

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life, Judy Reeves — I’ve taken writing classes from Reeves, who lives here in San Diego. I love how this book is broken down by month, and teaches the craft using a different subject and prompts for each week.

The Lively Muse Daily Appointment Calendar For Writers, Judy Reeves — This guide is a book of writing prompts with a perpetual calendar, which means you can start it any time. The book also includes quotes to inspire and inform, writing tips and ideas, literary facts and features, notes on special literary celebrations, and a place for notes.

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark — I can relate to his journalism-style approach to writing since that is how I was originally trained to write. I love how this book is organized into sections with more than 200 examples from both journalism and literature.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg — Another classic book for writers. One of my best friends from college was a wonderful writer, and she gave me Goldberg’s book as a gift. Although we are no longer close friends, I still treasure the book and all the memories we shared together.

The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, Natalie Goldberg — I learned Goldberg is a practicing Buddhist when I participated in “slow walking” with her, as part of the Santa Fe writing workshop with Julia Cameron and Theo Pauline Nestor. This book encapsulates Goldberg’s teachings, which focuses on walking, sitting and writing.

No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, Margaret Mason — Bryan gave me this book when I started blogging. It’s full of great blog post ideas if you ever need inspiration.

Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature, Bill Roorbach — A great book if you’re thinking of writing a memoir, or want to practice the art of personal narratives and essay.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro — She is becoming one of my favorite writers these days. I love her memoirist take on the art of storytelling, and how writing has shaped her entire life.

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, Noah Lukeman — Lukeman writes from his perspective of a literary agent. The sections are short, focused and contain practical exercises to practice the craft. I’ve been reading sections of this book for my writing class and it’s been incredibly helpful as I write with a goal to publish a novel.

The Miracle of Language, Richard Lederer — I met this self-proclaimed “verbivore” when I worked at KPBS and he co-hosted the radio show, A Way With Words. He was the nicest man, and loved nothing more than to talk with people about words. He has written many books, but this one is essentially a love letter to the English language.

Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style, Arthur Plotnik — Bryan also gave me this book when I started writing frequently. It’s a classic book that really teaches you how to be a better writer and use the craft really well.

The Write Start: A Guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories, Jennifer Hallissy — This book is less about teaching me writing skills, but how to help kids develop their writing skills from toddler to teen. I’ve toyed with the idea of teaching writing to kids, and this book has great insight into the process and techniques to help children become writers.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Lisa Cron — This book has been super helpful as I work on my novel. I love how Lisa truly dives into the idea of story and the protagonist’s internal journey as the true driver of the plot (as opposed to external forces). Highly recommend if you’re writing a novel!

Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What it Really Takes to Get Published, Writer Unboxed — The book guides writers through the process of creating a novel — covering pre-writing considerations, and working through each of the most critical stages before reaching the end (and even beyond the end). It’s designed for all writers interested in producing the best book possible while evolving their own work habits, craft, and goals for themselves.

Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, William Safire — Before I become a full-time entrepreneur, I was a speechwriter to two college presidents at San Diego State University. It was in that job that I really honed my ability to write in other people’s voices. This book is so inspiring, especially when you think about how words and speeches have made history.

I’m always looking for more writing books to add to my shelf. What books inspire you to write?

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