The best books to inspire beginning writers

Who am I?

Dinty W. Moore is the author of the writing guides The Story Cure, Crafting the Personal Essay, and The Mindful Writer, among many other books. He has published essays and stories in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Southern Review, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere, and has taught master classes and workshops across the United States as well as in Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and Mexico.


I wrote...

The Mindful Writer

By Dinty W. Moore,

Book cover of The Mindful Writer

What is my book about?

This isn't your typical “how to write” book. Author Dinty W. Moore, a well-respected writing coach, and teacher, thoughtfully illuminates the creative process: where writing and creativity originate, how mindfulness plays into work, how to cultivate good writing habits and grow as a person, and what it means to live a life dedicated to writing.

The Mindful Writer features bite-sized essays that will delight and inform not only writers, but also other artists, mediators, and mindfulness practitioners. Built around heartening quotes from famous writers and thinkers, it is a resource that readers will turn to again and again for guidance and encouragement.

The books I picked & why

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Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Why this book?

Lamott’s practical advice takes the immensely huge task of writing a book and encourages us forward through single steps, small efforts. She writes with humor and passion, offering us needed encouragement. This is a book that writers will return to again and again, on those days that we most need a quick dose of hope and inspiration.


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

By Natalie Goldberg,

Book cover of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Why this book?

Goldberg has a mystic touch, a bit of Zen, and a lot of freedom in her creative approach. This book is not about grammar, or plot, or “rules of writing,” but instead about the mind of an artist, what it takes to shut down the negative and constricting voices and give free rein to your wildest and most surprising ideas.


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Why this book?

Big Magic is as much about the inspiration of Gilbert’s voice as it is about advice. The acclaimed author of Eat, Pray, Love shares her secrets to overcoming the fear and hesitancy that plague all creative beginners (and some advanced artists as well), and she does it with humor and generosity. Gilbert turns out to be as friendly a writing coach as you could imagine.


Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World

By Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World

Why this book?

Gaiman is always wonderfully positive on the subjects of experimentation, failure, and persistence, and with advice such as “The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” This inspiring book is made even better by the accompanying four-color artwork from his longtime illustrator, Chris Riddell.


Letters to a Young Poet

By Rainer Maria Rilke, MD Herter Norton,

Book cover of Letters to a Young Poet

Why this book?

A slim classic from a 19th Century poet that is relevant still, for anyone writing poetry or prose. Rilke focuses on inner qualities of sensitivity, compassionate observation, and appreciation of intrinsic beauty in the world and in all people.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in writer's block, life satisfaction, and letters?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about writer's block, life satisfaction, and letters.

Writer's Block Explore 18 books about writer's block
Life Satisfaction Explore 120 books about life satisfaction
Letters Explore 20 books about letters

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Braiding Sweetgrass, The Artist's Way, and Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind if you like this list.