Recommended Reading (A Work in Progress)



These are my recommendations for books on writing. The first list are the classic “go-tos” that you will probably find on many writers’ lists and that have influenced and guided me a lot as a writer and teacher.

  • On Writing Well–William Zinsser…… I’ve used this classic text in many of my writing classes. Zinsser’s chapters on simplicity and clutter have been reprinted in numerous anthologies. A good guide to crisp, concise writing for journalists and students. There are several editions of this, as it’s been updated over the years. Even if you can’t get the most recent one, there’s still a lot of good, solid advice here.



  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life–Anne Lamott…………….Another classic. Her chapter “Shitty First Drafts” has been reprinted in numerous anthologies and is a funny, smart, and warm lesson to writing without censoring yourself, as is the rest of the book
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within–Natalie Goldberg…………… Appropriate for poets and fiction writers, Goldberg applies principles of Zen Buddhism in bite-sized pieces to writing and includes lots of exercises and things to try out to grow as a writer.


  • The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry–Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux…………… This text is great for poets at any level and is written in a friendly, encouraging tone, with lots of ideas, exercises, and inspiration for writing poetry of all kinds.
  • How to Read a Poem…and Start a Poetry Circle –Molly Peacock……………………Peacock breaks poems down into three “systems,” and then devotes each chapter to analyzing a poem according to these systems. But don’t worry–it’s not as dry as you might think! Great for readers and writers of poetry who want to learn more.
  • Letters to a Young Poet–Rainer Maria Rilke Rilke’s gentle but firm advice to a young poet resonates across time. And much of it is applicable to writers in other genres, too.



  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft —Stephen King..…………. Not just for writers of horror or genre. King blends a lot of personal examples and anecdotes into his thoughts and advice on writing and the writing life.
  • Page after Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing and Keep Writing (No Matter What!) and Chapter after Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams –Heather Sellers……………… I found Chapter after Chapter just when I needed it to find the focus and determination to get through a revision of my novel. One thing I *loved* about her book is a quote she assigned as a posting above my workspace: “Remember you are a book writer, not a book buyer.” Obviously, I’m both! But it helps to remember that the most important key to writing is to write.