I think most writers have read a few books about writing, whether inspirational or instructional. Ironically, as much as I love Stephen King, I’ve never read his book On Writing, though I hear it’s great and I should get around to that someday. I’ve had two books since my early twenties that even now, nearly two decades later, are still my favorites and quite dogeared because of it.
One is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Anne Lamott is one of my absolute favorite writers. She’s largely an inspirational writer, but she’s incredibly funny (darkly humorous, my favorite), insightful, and her writing is very bare bones, realistic, and raw. Bird by Bird is a collection of both writing advice and instruction, and witty sardonic observations on what it means to be a writer. Even after all these years I still nod my head at her pithy wisdom. She writes on Salon as well, if you want to enjoy her humor.
I also highly recommend her book Help Thanks Wow for general advice on life, faith, and prayer (no matter what your religion or lack thereof).
My other well-read favorite book about writing is For Writers Only by Sophy Burnham. Largely a collection of inspirational stories and encouraging lessons and anecdotes, it also contains quotes from writers on every other page. Including one of my favorite writing quotes of all time:
Easy reading is damned hard writing. – Nathaniel Hawthorne
I guess for me, I need a little bit of inspiration to go with my instruction. I love to read a quote or story and have it resonate deeply, to have that moment where I go “exactly!” Both books are full of moments like that.
How about you, do you have favorite books about writing? Have you read On Writing? Because I’m definitely going to get around to that next!