The best books on writing (from a NY Times best selling author)

Who am I?

Denise Kiernan is a multiple New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction books including The Girls Of Atomic City, The Last Castle, and We Gather Together. With more than 25 years of experience writing newspaper and magazine articles, books, and more, Kiernan also travels the country speaking at schools, universities, corporations, and more about her work and about the writing process. She created and hosts the series CRAFT: Authors in Conversation, during which she dives into the psyches, habits, and hopes of writers from all walks. For the series, she has interviewed bestselling authors, award-winning journalists, television writers, and Academy Award winners about how they do what they do, and what writing means to them.

My channel is...

CRAFT: Authors In Conversation

CRAFT’s concept is simple:

After years of interviewing fellow authors at my local indie bookstore, Malaprop’s, here in Asheville, NC, I wanted to create a conversation series that would move beyond the longstanding setting and parameters of the typical book tour and provide a much more intimate experience for readers. In non-COVID times, I sit down with a writer in my local speakeasy, Little Jumbo. Presently, CRAFT streams live on Crowdcast. However, no matter the setting, I talk to my guest writer not only about their latest publication, but also the craft of writing itself. For each featured author—whether interviewed in person or streaming online—the Little Jumbo staff creates a specialty cocktail (or mocktail) inspired by either the author’s featured book or the author themselves. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Denise Kiernan Why did I love this book?

If there is one book on or about writing that I, personally, have read over and over, it is this one. King’s book is truly a writer’s memoir, but he infuses this writer’s life story with frank and accessible information about the craft itself. By candidly sharing his own struggles as a human and a writer, King shows by example on the page what it takes to be a great storyteller.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked On Writing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King


Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the…

Book cover of If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Denise Kiernan Why did I love this book?

One of the more moving and inspiring books on writing ever. As a journalist and author, Ueland’s writing style is lovely and completely engaging. As she shares stories of her time spent as a teacher of writing, the idea of what “art” or “good writing” takes on a very human and compelling air. The anecdotes illustrate the dedication, breadth, and challenges faced by her wide variety of students, ultimately giving hope to us all.

By Brenda Ueland,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked If You Want to Write as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brenda Ueland was a journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher of writing. In If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit she shares her philosophies on writing and life in general. Ueland firmly believed that anyone can write, that everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say. In this book she explains how find that spark that will make you a great writer. Carl Sandburg called this book the best book ever written about how to write. Join the millions of others who've found inspiration and unlocked their own talent.

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

Denise Kiernan Why did I love this book?

I love Anne Lamott’s writing so much I once accosted her in the baggage claim area of the San Francisco International Airport. She was unbelievably gracious. When I was frustrated and anxious and filled with doubt about my writing career, I turned to her book. Again. Beautifully written, authentic, and truly uplifting and inspiring when a writer needs it most.

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Bird by Bird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An essential volume for generations of writers young and old. The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this modern classic will continue to spark creative minds for years to come. Anne Lamott is "a warm, generous, and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps" (Los Angeles Times). 

“Superb writing advice…. Hilarious, helpful, and provocative.” —The New York Times Book Review

For a quarter century, more than a million readers—scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities—have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom…

Book cover of Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction

Denise Kiernan Why did I love this book?

For anyone who has ever struggled with or merely wanted to hone their abilities to craft a compelling story structure, Franklin’s book is a gem. Examples taken from Franklin’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning work adds an instructive clarity that allows the reader to step inside the decision-making process that went into some of his most lauded work. Any writer—fiction, nonfiction, academic—can use this book to up their storytelling game.

By Jon Franklin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Writing for Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The new "nonfiction" the adaptation of storytelling techniques to journalistic articles in the manner of Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, and John McPhee is an innovative genre that has been awarded virtually every Pulitzer Prize for literary journalism since 1979. And now Jon Franklin, himself a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and undisputed master of the great American nonfiction short story, shares the secrets of his success. Franklin shows how to make factual pieces come alive by applying the literary techniques of complication/resolution, flashback, foreshadowing, and pace. He illustrates his points with a close analysis and annotation of two of his most…

Book cover of Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

Denise Kiernan Why did I love this book?

Everyone needs a style guide to occasionally lean on while writing. As longtime copy chief at Random House, Dreyer has more than a little knowledge about how to make a sentence stylishly sing. Anyone and everyone can benefit from this book, no matter what they need to type or pen. Best of all, it is also a fun read. There have been many of these kinds of books to come and go over the years, but Dreyer’s is what sits on my desk. (Gosh, I hope this didn’t have any typos!)

By Benjamin Dreyer,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dreyer's English as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An utterly delightful book to read, Dreyer's English will stand among the classics on how to use the English language properly.' ELIZABETH STROUT

'A complete joy. For those who care about words - and for those who don't - Dreyer's English is the book we have all been waiting for. Wise, funny, no-nonsense, stylish and brilliantly practical.' RACHEL JOYCE
An indispensable, New York Times-bestselling guide to the craft of writing from Random House's long-time copy chief and one of Twitter's leading language gurus.

We all write, all the time: books, blogs, tweets, emails, emails, emails - and we all…

You might also like...

The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

By Nicholas Ponticello,

Book cover of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

Nicholas Ponticello Author Of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Writer Teacher Reader Lego builder Musical connoisseur

Nicholas' 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Vanderough University prepares its graduates for life on Mars. Herbert Hoover Palminteri enrolls at VU with the hope of joining the Martian colony in 2044 as a member of its esteemed engineer corps. But then Herbert is tapped to join a notorious secret society: the Order of the Scepter and Gavel. As a new pledge, Herbert has to prove himself in a series of dangerous initiation rites, even if it means risking his life and the lives of his friends.

Many years later, when Herbert thinks the scandals of his youth are finally dead and buried, a murder occurs in the Martian colony, and Herbert starts to suspect it is linked to the secret Order of the Scepter and Gavel of his past.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in writing, writer's block, and birds?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about writing, writer's block, and birds.

Writing Explore 58 books about writing
Writer's Block Explore 23 books about writer's block
Birds Explore 162 books about birds