The best books to inspire beginning writers

The Books I Picked & Why

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

By Anne Lamott

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.


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Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

By Natalie Goldberg

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.


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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert

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.


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Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World

By Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman

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.


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Letters to a Young Poet

By Rainer Maria Rilke, MD Herter Norton

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.


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