Best Books on Writing

Deanna Fei, author of A Thread of Sky, recently wrote an article for Huffington Post titled “Seven Books on Writing for Every Writer.” I think all writers have favorites. Mine is on Fei’s list: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which I love for being so practical and unpretentious. And funny.

The other books on the list are:

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Dreaming by the Book by Elaine Scarry

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Story by Robert McKee

Mysteries and Manners by Flannery O’Connor

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

I also like William K. Zinsser’s On Writing Well, which is actually about writing nonfiction; and Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees.

What books on writing have you enjoyed and why would you recommend them? Also, what writing books do you think are over-rated?

Aphorisms on Writing

I admit it, I had to look it up. An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form. (And a laconic phrase is a very concise or terse statement.) I found these on Huffington Post. If you go there, you can rate them and vote on your favorites.

Writing Aphorisms: 9 Bits of Wisdom On the Craft

Writing Aphorisms: More Wisdom About the Craft

Obviously, there are a lot more aphorisms about writing out there. Feel free to share some that have inspired you over the years. I have this one on the wall over my desk:

Only a mediocre writer is always at his best. –Somerset Maugham

This next one is my all-time favorite. It might be a little long to qualify as an aphorism, but I think it sums up what it’s like to be a writer.

Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death — fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant. –Edna Ferber

Interview With Harlan Coben

No, this is not an interview I was fortunate enough to have conducted. It’s by Jessica Strawser from the January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest. But I wanted to share it with you because of Coben’s great comments about his own career and writing in general. For instance:

Writing is one of the few activities where quantity will inevitably make quality. The more you write, the better you’re going to get at it.


There comes a time when you finally have to get to work. It’s why I love this quote: Amateurs wait for the muse to arrive; the rest of us just get to work. That’s my own paraphrase of it, but I love that, because it’s so true. I remind myself sometimes that I’m a working man, and not an artist. A plumber can’t call up and say, “Oh, I can’t do pipes today.” And so when I feel that way there’s a lot of self-hatred, a lot of guilt, but eventually I would rather be tortured by writing than being tortured by guilt.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Coben’s official web site is here.

And another interview, this one from 2007, is here.