top of page

Must have books for your shelf!

Updated: May 30

So I know as an author/ writer I should love reading all sorts of books on writing. But I don't. As you know I'm a slow reader, and I generally try to listen to audio books. But listening to non-fiction on audio is difficult, I am easily distracted and find I need to highlight, underline, dog ear etc. when reading non-fiction for content. So here are my top 5 books for new writers

Yes you really need to read these!

1. "On Writing" by Stephen King

Yep tied for top of my list.

No you don't need to like horror, or even his writing in particular, to really enjoy and learn from this book. It is good. It is necessary. It will help.

If you are daunted by a 300 plus page non-fiction book (the twentieth anniversary edition) don't be. The first 100 or so are forwards and his memoir. However I suggest reading them, his memoir helps you to understand his perspective, his experience and his voice (if any of them are unfamiliar to you). The next is his "toolbox". I found this to be extremely helpful and I liked how it laid out the groundwork for the next section, "On writing".

Again, I am not a writer or story teller by training or education. But my scientific background greatly appreciates, bullet points, synopses, and logic models. His organization followed suit.

"But Why? I'm still scarred from my high school critiques?"

I think many of us are. Mr. King gives credence and explanation as well as examples to many of the edits and critiques you may get. One of my favorite quotes, "Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then to get on with your story."

I will include more in a later post. But for now, I hope you believe me and buy the paperback. Read it. Love it. Mark it up. Make artistic memes of quotes you love.

2. "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamont

Her self-deprecating humor hooked me early on. Add to that all the chapters are short. That meant I could easily set a goal of one chapter a day, learn something, highlight something and close the book feeling satisfied, laughing and relieved that my darker thoughts were not isolated. Seriously some chapters are 5 or 6 pages.

Also if you are wondering what it is about, what knowledge does it impart? Just read the back cover, where she kindly and quickly explains the title. Bird by Bird was advice her father imparted on her brother for a last minute project. He just had to take his research topic 'bird by bird'.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and am not up to reading a whole book (although I heartily suggest it,) you can also skip to "Jealousy" or "Someone to Read Your Drafts". Those both grabbed me through humor, personal fears, and my own dark thoughts. They immediately made me feel less alone.

3. "Master Lists for Writers" by Bryn Donovan

First don't worry this is reference material, you don't actually have to read it all, at least not in one go. Bryn Donovan has a slew of amazing books, blogs, links etc. on her website. All of which are incredibly helpful for those moments where you lack inspiration, are mired in self doubt, can't find that word, that emotion, that gesture or the like. There are even lists of names appropriate to certain time periods!

4. "No Plot? No Problem" by Chris Baty

Okay even if you aren't crazy enough to want or try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. NaNoWriMo's Founder Chris Baty has produced a book full of tips, tricks, and tonics for the budding author. From how to help your family understand your temporary absence and insanity to how to prepare with everything from snacks to timers for writing. This is another humorous guide to help you on your writing quest. Whether you are needing inspiration, stalled or needing a kick in the pants with a formatted excel sheet, this book can help.

5. "The Heroine's Journey" by Gail Carriger

(Initial disclaimer, I'm a huge fan of her work. I love her witty steampunk - Parasol Protectorate series - there are so many more to love, but we will start there).

If you want to learn about the Hero's Journey and it's juxtaposed Heroine's journey and it's origins using pop culture references - this is the book for you. As a GenXer I was immediately in love when she was using Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey in the initial Star Wars trilogy to kick things off. Also as a budding romance and fantasy author learning more about the underpinnings of contemporary storytelling, their mythical constructs and inspirations and the modern criticism that is connected to them was immensely interesting and useful.

I will write more extensive reviews of each above book in the coming weeks. But for now I urge you to get your own copies and enjoy!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page