100 books like On Writing Well

By William Zinsser,

Here are 100 books that On Writing Well fans have personally recommended if you like On Writing Well. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

Melanie Deziel

From my list on how writers can avoid being replaced by AI.

Why am I passionate about this?

Professionally, I’ve been a journalist, author, speaker, marketer, adjunct professor, consultant, startup founder, and more; but at my core, I’m a storyteller and a lifelong student. I read voraciously about creativity, writing, media, marketing, psychology, and design, and I’m fascinated by drawing connections between these things. (I’m still allowed to say “read” when I mostly consume audiobooks, right?) I’m currently focused on helping other creators and storytellers master their craft, refine their big ideas, and figure out their unique differentiators, through The Creator Kitchen, the mastermind program I run with fellow creator Jay Acunzo.

Melanie's book list on how writers can avoid being replaced by AI

Melanie Deziel Why did Melanie love this book?

Ok, you caught me. I recommended the first edition of this book in a previous list. But this, my friends, is the second edition which, as the cover art indicates, is 10% funnier than the first.

Ann’s work is a testament to the power of honing your unique voice in a way that makes your work easy to identify, clearly differentiated, and dang near impossible to recreate well. Now that we’re battling it out against generative AI, not just other writers, this book serves as both an instructional guide and a case study on developing a distinct voice, in and of itself. 

By Ann Handley,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Everybody Writes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finally a go-to guide to creating and publishing the kind of content that will make your business thrive. Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer. If you have a web site, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers. Yeah, but who cares about writing anymore? In a time-challenged world dominated by…


Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Dave Hersh Author Of Reignition: Transforming Stuck Startups Into Breakout Winners

From my list on leaders feeling lonely at the top.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a founder, CEO, venture capitalist, buyout specialist, Chairman, author, consultant, and coach. I’ve seen the startup world from every angle and also seen how destructive it can be if we don’t take care of our inner lives. My work now is to help people understand how we can transform ourselves to transform our businesses. These books were helpful to me when I needed them most and shaped not only my leadership approach but also my life. 

Dave's book list on leaders feeling lonely at the top

Dave Hersh Why did Dave love this book?

Being “lonely at the top” is often a problem of being stuck inside an infinite loop of cycling voices in your head. I can get insanely maniacal about the little things and have difficulty breaking out of the cycle.

This book came at a time when I was deep in one of those cycles. It was a mind-blowing look into why we are who we are and how homo sapiens systematically took over the planet. It was such an “aha” moment for me that it made all the voices go away, and I could see why and how my life was playing out in this way.

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Sapiens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…


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

Denise Brinkmeyer Author Of Project Orienteering: A Field Guide For Project Leadership

From my list on servant leaders who get things done.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the oldest child, and former teacher turned technology innovator. As the only girl, growing up with three brothers gave me the tenacity to overcome limiting beliefs. Information technology has helped me create an environment where I can help a lot of people. At the end of the day, what I love most is helping someone turn an idea into a tangible solution while motivating team members to see the beauty and joy in this type of service.  

Denise's book list on servant leaders who get things done

Denise Brinkmeyer Why did Denise love this book?

I love this book because I like to write. 

Anne makes me feel normal when I immobilize my writing by fearing that no one will like it or, worse yet, that no one will even care to read it.  When I am pulled off my joy of writing, I re-read this book and find my joy again.

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

17 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 Influence: Science and Practice

Keith Ellis Author Of Magic Bullet

From my list on help us know ourselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

We live in the age of selfies, when it’s easy to snap a picture of ourselves in the day-to-day activities of our lives. But a deeper and far more satisfying journey is to take a selfie of our inner selves to better understand who we are, what we want, and how to get it. I’ve spent a lifetime on this journey. Self discovery and self understanding, and through them self-empowerment, these are the essence of my work. As a #1 bestselling author, my purpose is to help others discover their purpose, and live it. The five books I’ve recommended here have helped me greatly along that path.

Keith's book list on help us know ourselves

Keith Ellis Why did Keith love this book?

Entire industries exist to manipulate us based on characteristics of human psychology that nature has programmed into us. An important part of knowing ourselves is to know these characteristics and understand how to use them for our benefit, instead of the benefit of those who would use our human nature against us.

By Robert B. Cialdini,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Influence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Influence: Science and Practice is an examination of the psychology of compliance (i.e. uncovering which factors cause a person to say "yes" to another's request).

Written in a narrative style combined with scholarly research, Cialdini combines evidence from experimental work with the techniques and strategies he gathered while working as a salesperson, fundraiser, advertiser, and in other positions inside organizations that commonly use compliance tactics to get us to say "yes." Widely used in classes, as well as sold to people operating successfully in the business world, the eagerly awaited revision of Influence reminds the reader of the power of…


Book cover of First Things First

Devora Zack Author Of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

From my list on to singletask what matters most.

Why am I passionate about this?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” - Goethe. As Singletasking notes, we’ve become relentlessly disrespectful of the people and experiences right in front of us. Reversing this is a mission of mine. Nothing seems more important than redirecting our lifelong attention to what matters most. As an international author and speaker about both Singletasking and personality styles, I’m convinced paying attention to and honoring each other is the key to a meaningful life and deep relationships.

Devora's book list on to singletask what matters most

Devora Zack Why did Devora love this book?

Covey is internationally acclaimed for The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. However, I have a penchant for his also famous First Things First, a gem with visceral concepts that stick like honey in the brain. 

For example, the brilliance behind “Quad Two”—shorthand for items and to-dos that are important yet not urgent. Because they are not pressing, the things (and people) that matter most often get waylaid—propelling us into a life missing our passions and aspirations. Only cropping back up when they do become urgent—such as neglecting health until we can’t fully function.

And who can proceed in life unchanged following his introduction of the “Big Rocks” concept. I won’t do a spoiler alert. Let’s just say it merges prioritization with a singletasked focus.

Finally, I’m a sucker for the thoughtful worksheets nestled throughout First Things First.

By Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked First Things First as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The authors of this book apply insights from their previous book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", to the daily problems of people who must struggle with the demands of work and home life. Rather than focusing on time and change, the book emphasizes relationships and results.


Book cover of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Havard Mela Author Of How to Thrive in the 21st Century: By Avoiding Porn and Other Distractions

From my list on porn addiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone who has felt the consequences of spending too much time online on distractions, I am compelled to share how much better life can be when we are conscious of the time we spend online. In my early twenties, I experienced digital addiction. I managed to turn things around by cultivating discipline and finding purpose in life. In the process, I developed a deep interest in neuroscience and psychology. My book explains how you can take conscious control of your life in a practical way based on my experience backed up by research.

Havard's book list on porn addiction

Havard Mela Why did Havard love this book?

This book is not a book that covers porn addiction, but it is a great book for understanding and creating new habits. This will be of great value to you if you want to stop watching porn.

I got a lot of value from reading this book; it is one of the books that can improve your life, no matter your situation. 

By James Clear,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Atomic Habits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller. Over 4 million copies sold!

Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results

No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving--every day. James Clear, one of the world's leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you're having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn't you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the…


Book cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

James Phelps Author Of Australia's Most Infamous Jail: Inside the walls of Pentridge Prison

From my list on getting any writer started in the industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about this book list because it helped me get where I am today, a multiple-times bestselling author and an award-winning senior reporter. I began working as an overnight police round reporter before moving into sports, where I became one of Australia's best news-breaking rugby league journalists. I was then appointed News Corp Australia's Chief National Motorsports Writer and traveled the world chasing Formula 1 story, as well as covering Australia's V8 Supercar races. Everyone has to start somewhere, and for me, this list of books helped me begin and continue to grow to reach the level of success that I have.

James' book list on getting any writer started in the industry

James Phelps Why did James love this book?

It’s 2005, and it’s my first day at The Daily Telegraph. I still couldn’t believe they had hired me as a cadet journalist. The smile I was wearing–from ear to ear–suddenly vanished when the Chief of Staff walked over and said, ‘Phelpsy, a bus has just crashed in Egypt. We have been told that there may have been some Australian tourists on board. Punch out 500 words and give it to me in an hour.’ 

I turned to my computer screen, looked down at my keyboard, and suddenly realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never had any writing training, and my experience was limited to the gibber I had been submitting to the paper (for free) for the past year in the hope of landing a job. After ten minutes of writing a word or two, deleting them, and then doing it again, I…

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

23 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

ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S TOP 100 NONFICTION BOOKS OF ALL TIME

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 Politics and the English Language

Ben Hutchinson Author Of On Purpose: Ten Lessons on the Meaning of Life

From my list on essays to help us think for ourselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an essayist, literary critic, and professor of literature, books are what John Milton calls my ‘pretious life-blood.’ As a writer, teacher, and editor, I spend my days trying to make meaning out of reading. This is the idea behind my most recent book, On Purpose: it’s easy to make vague claims about the edifying powers of ‘great writing,’ but what does this actually mean? How can literature help us live? My five recommendations all help us reflect on the power of books to help us think for ourselves, as I hope do my own books, including The Midlife Mind (2020) and Comparative Literature: A Very Short Introduction (2018).

Ben's book list on essays to help us think for ourselves

Ben Hutchinson Why did Ben love this book?

What I like about Orwell is that he is uncompromising. His fiction, such as Animal Farm and 1984, is very well known, but some of his essays have been just as influential.

This is probably the most important one, in which Orwell makes a case for clarity and concision as the guiding principles of communication. Language is both cause and effect of meaning: it "becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts."

Good writing, Orwell suggests, helps us retain freshness of thought; bad writing, conversely, deadens our sensibilities. Linguistic precision, in other words, is "not the exclusive concern of professional writers." We should all be concerned by cliché.

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Politics and the English Language as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Politics and the English Language' is widely considered Orwell's most important essay on style. Style, for Orwell, was never simply a question of aesthetics; it was always inextricably linked to politics and to truth.'All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.'Language is a political issue, and slovenly use of language and cliches make it easier for those in power to deliberately use misleading language to hide unpleasant political facts. Bad English, he believed, was a vehicle for oppressive ideology, and it is…


Book cover of The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

Lloyd Sederer Author Of Caught in the Crosshairs of American Healthcare

From my list on books to read if you want to write the best of non-fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a psychiatrist and public health doctor, non-fiction writer, and lay and medical editor. For over 12 years, I have taught non-fiction writing for a general audience at Columbia medical and public health schools to physicians, neuroscientists, epidemiologists, psychologists, and other professionals. I have published 14 books and over 500 written articles and videos. I love to write and help others write...well.

Lloyd's book list on books to read if you want to write the best of non-fiction

Lloyd Sederer Why did Lloyd love this book?

I loved this book because it demonstrates we can write about any subject we have a passion for: bowling, the bassoon, the Canary Islands, UFOs, opium, truffles, cats and dogs, evil and good, or cells!

Thomas starts his book by marveling about cells. Vivid imagination, not labor, carries him to subjects like insects, music, language, computers, and medicine. After all, they are interconnected, like we are. 

Which means I need only start with one subject* that stirs my wonder or worry and holds meaning for me. I don’t need to hunt for something to write about, it is right in front of my eyes. 

*BTW, the author of my book choice #1, Bill Zinsser, covered war, theatre, baseball, music, nonfiction writing, and memoirs. Note to self: One subject will do.

By Lewis Thomas,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Lives of a Cell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Elegant, suggestive, and clarifying, Lewis Thomas's profoundly humane vision explores the world around us and examines the complex interdependence of all things.  Extending beyond the usual limitations of biological science and into a vast and wondrous world of hidden relationships, this provocative book explores in personal, poetic essays to topics such as computers, germs, language, music, death, insects, and medicine.  Lewis Thomas writes, "Once you have become permanently startled, as I am, by the realization that we are a social species, you tend to keep an eye out for the pieces of evidence that this is, by and large, good…


Book cover of The Emotion Thesaurus

James Phelps Author Of Australia's Most Infamous Jail: Inside the walls of Pentridge Prison

From my list on getting any writer started in the industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about this book list because it helped me get where I am today, a multiple-times bestselling author and an award-winning senior reporter. I began working as an overnight police round reporter before moving into sports, where I became one of Australia's best news-breaking rugby league journalists. I was then appointed News Corp Australia's Chief National Motorsports Writer and traveled the world chasing Formula 1 story, as well as covering Australia's V8 Supercar races. Everyone has to start somewhere, and for me, this list of books helped me begin and continue to grow to reach the level of success that I have.

James' book list on getting any writer started in the industry

James Phelps Why did James love this book?

I stumbled upon this one in a library. Yes, they still have things called Libraries. And this book is a little ripper if you are writing fiction. 

If you have ever attempted to write a novel, you would have no doubt found yourself saying things like his heart was racing; he held his breath, a shiver ran up his spine, blah, blah, blah. It’s not until you go back through your manuscript that you realize how many times you have used the same descriptions. Over and over and over again. 

This little gem of a book is jam-packed with alternatives. It offers brilliant tips on expressing the same emotions and feelings with originality and without repetition.

By Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Emotion Thesaurus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling Emotion Thesaurus, often hailed as “the gold standard for writers” and credited with transforming how writers craft emotion, has now been expanded to include 55 new entries! 

One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters’ feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding, and frowning too much. 

If you need inspiration for creating characters’ emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don’t-tell guide for emotion can help. It includes:

Body language…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in writing, the English language, and endangered species?

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