100 books like The Art of Fiction

By John Gardner,

Here are 100 books that The Art of Fiction fans have personally recommended if you like The Art of Fiction. 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 The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Robert B. Marks Author Of Re: Apotheosis

From my list on writing for new (and even established) fiction writers.

Who am I?

Writing is in my blood – my grandmother wrote poetry, my mother writes novels, and over the last twenty-plus years I’ve written just about everything (and now I teach writing at my local university). I’ve loved stories for as long as I can remember. While my fiction career may be newly revived, I spent over 20 years as a pop culture commentator, poking at the minutia of the stories I love. I think stories may be one of the most important things in our culture – they inspire us, they brighten our day, they bring us to tears, and sometimes when we are lost they show us the way.

Robert's book list on writing for new (and even established) fiction writers

Robert B. Marks Why did Robert love this book?

This will be one of my more controversial picks – there are plenty of people who disagree with Campbell as a folklorist, a mythographer, and with his depiction of the Hero’s Journey. But, what is important about Campbell is his exploration of why the elements that appear in stories have the impact they do on our psyche, and how they fit together. One may not agree with all of Campbell’s conclusions, but I don’t think there’s a writer out there who won’t benefit from his exploration of the subject. I know I did.

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Hero with a Thousand Faces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph Campbell's classic cross-cultural study of the hero's journey has inspired millions and opened up new areas of research and exploration. Originally published in 1949, the book hit the New York Times best-seller list in 1988 when it became the subject of The Power of Myth, a PBS television special. The first popular work to combine the spiritual and psychological insights of modern psychoanalysis with the archetypes of world mythology, the book creates a roadmap for navigating the frustrating path of contemporary life. Examining heroic myths in the light of modern psychology, it considers not only the patterns and stages…


Book cover of The Emotion Thesaurus

Cara Bristol Author Of Naughty Words for Nice Writers: A Romance Novel Thesaurus

From my list on reference and writing for romance authors.

Who am I?

After writing more than sixty romance novels, I can sometimes find myself at a loss for words, unable to think of the right word or find myself using the same ones. Having a good thesaurus is invaluable. I use my own thesaurus, Naughty Words for Nice Writers, all the time. I wrote it as a survival guide—it was the book I needed that didn’t exist when I started writing romance. Besides Naughty Words, the thesauri/reference books I’m recommending are tools I couldn’t live without. 

Cara's book list on reference and writing for romance authors

Cara Bristol Why did Cara love this book?

Romance is all about feelings. The highs. The lows. The dejection and the joys. But you need to “show” and not “tell” how your characters are feeling.

To do that, you use gestures, dialogue, facial expressions, internal sensations, and thoughts. The Emotion Thesaurus provides all that and more. There are more than 130 entries to help writers show emotion. This is a fantastic book for all novel genres. If I could only keep one reference book (other than mine), this would be it!

By Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


Book cover of Techniques of the Selling Writer

Max Griffin Author Of Timekeepers

From my list on writing fiction.

Who am I?

A dozen years ago, I decided to publish short stories. I figured it’d be easy. After all, I’d published textbooks and countless research papers. It turned out I was wrong. Writing fiction is hard. My stories read like my math publications, but without the math. Then I had the good fortune to join a writing group that included experienced, published authors. Their guidance taught me the basics of the craft. I supplemented their mentorship by reading books on writing. It was like going to graduate school all over again. This list of books is the distillation of those dozen years of learning. I’m still learning. I expect I’ll never quit.

Max's book list on writing fiction

Max Griffin Why did Max love this book?

I sold three novels before I found this book, and it transformed how I think about writing. If you want to write stories that grab your readers by the throat and makes them want more, this is the book for you.  Swain’s basic premise is simple: fiction is movement, action, and reaction. He deduces from this specific, actionable ways to construct compelling sentences that turn movement to action, action to scenes, and scenes to stories. Swain’s influence on screenwriting is everywhere, from The Rockford Files to The MandalorianHis influence on contemporary fiction is just as pervasive. His ideas about “motivation reaction units” and “scenes/sequel pairs” are now in many “how-to” books, but no one describes them better than the man who invented them.   

By Dwight V. Swain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Techniques of the Selling Writer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Techniques of the Selling Writer provides solid instruction for people who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers. Here one can learn how to group words into copy that moves, movement into scenes, and scenes into stories; how to develop characters, how to revise and polish, and finally, how to sell the product.

No one can teach talent, but the practical skills of the professional writer's craft can certainly be taught. The correct and imaginative use of these kills can…


Book cover of Scene of the Crime: A Writer's Guide to Crime Scene Investigation

Max Griffin Author Of Timekeepers

From my list on writing fiction.

Who am I?

A dozen years ago, I decided to publish short stories. I figured it’d be easy. After all, I’d published textbooks and countless research papers. It turned out I was wrong. Writing fiction is hard. My stories read like my math publications, but without the math. Then I had the good fortune to join a writing group that included experienced, published authors. Their guidance taught me the basics of the craft. I supplemented their mentorship by reading books on writing. It was like going to graduate school all over again. This list of books is the distillation of those dozen years of learning. I’m still learning. I expect I’ll never quit.

Max's book list on writing fiction

Max Griffin Why did Max love this book?

I love both science fiction and mysteries, so naturally I’ve written novels that combine the two. I know enough science to realize how annoying it is when an author gets a simple thing wrong, like confusing a measure of distance (ahem, a parsec) with a unit of time. When I needed to write about a detective investigating a crime scene, I knew I needed better background than watching Lenny on Law and Order. That’s where this book comes in. Wingate is a former cop and CSI investigator in addition to having a PhD in English, and provides detailed and practical notes, drawn from personal experience, on the scene of the crime. Besides pointing out an excellent reference, the point of this recommendation is to do the research and get the details right no matter the genre.

By Anne Wingate,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scene of the Crime as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provides information on how evidence is measured, collected, identified, and analyzed, the timetable of activity at a crime scene, and technical terms and professional techniques used.


Book cover of Men of Mathematics

Basil Mahon Author Of The Forgotten Genius of Oliver Heaviside: A Maverick of Electrical Science

From my list on science to enjoy and to get you thinking.

Who am I?

I have always had a fascination with science. It came not from school or college, where lessons were sometimes dull, but from books about the discoveries and the people who made them. After careers as a soldier and as a government statistician I felt impelled to spread the word by writing, or at least try. After 40 rejections, my first book – about James Clerk Maxwell – was published and, to my joy, found many readers. My aim in writing is simply to share enjoyment with readers in an equal partnership. And I hope always to leave the reader feeling that he or she really knows the people I am writing about.

Basil's book list on science to enjoy and to get you thinking

Basil Mahon Why did Basil love this book?

First published in 1937, this lovely book is a true classic. In two volumes Bell brings to life 30 or so mathematicians, from Archimedes to Cantor. When first reading the book many years ago I had remembered some of the names from school and college, but only as labels to theorems or equations, and I felt taken into a delightful new realm of knowledge – I could now think of Fermat, Lagrange, Gauss, and Riemann as people. And I began to want to know more about the scientists whose names I had heard in school and college. Bell’s book had sparked a lifelong interest.

By E.T. Bell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Men of Mathematics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality

Mark Ronan Author Of Symmetry and the Monster: One of the Greatest Quests of Mathematics

From my list on books that make maths interesting.

Who am I?

As a full professor of mathematics for over 30 years, I have been engaged in research and teaching. Research can be difficult to describe to non-experts, but some important advances in mathematics can be explained to an interested public without the need for specialist knowledge, as I have done. 

Mark's book list on books that make maths interesting

Mark Ronan Why did Mark love this book?

Frenkel came from the Soviet Union, where discrimination against Jews made it impossible for him to get into Moscow State University. During the oral exam they sent two graduate students to question him, pick holes in his responses, and ensure he failed. He turned to an informal network of Soviet mathematicians for help.

Like him, they were denied serious employment in the field, but after the 'cold war' against the Soviet Union, Harvard invited him to take a fellowship that later turned into a permanent job. Years later, when his old tormentor from Moscow State arrives to give a talk, he confronts the man in a lecture room with first-hand evidence of allegations against the system. Faced with a victim, the Russian mathematician's denials rang hollow. 

This book reaches beyond mathematics to anyone of independent thought in an environment where it is not permitted to step out of line or,…

By Edward Frenkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Science BestsellerWhat if you had to take an art class in which you were only taught how to paint a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of van Gogh and Picasso, weren't even told they existed? Alas, this is how math is taught, and so for most of us it becomes the intellectual equivalent of watching paint dry.In Love and Math , renowned mathematician Edward Frenkel reveals a side of math we've never seen, suffused with all the beauty and elegance of a work of art. In this heartfelt and passionate book, Frenkel…


Book cover of The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan

Gilbert Strang Author Of Introduction to Linear Algebra

From my list on mathematicians and their lives.

Who am I?

A key event in my mathematical life was videotaping my linear algebra class (the MATH 18.06 course at MIT). This was the right moment when MIT created OpenCourseWare to describe all courses freely to the world—with some big classes on video. Linear algebra has had 12 million viewers and many of them write to me. So many people like to learn about mathematics and read about mathematicians—it is a great pleasure to help. I hope you will enjoy the OpenCourseWare videos (on YouTube too), the books about mathematical lives, and the Introduction to Linear Algebra that many students learn from. This is real mathematics.

Gilbert's book list on mathematicians and their lives

Gilbert Strang Why did Gilbert love this book?

I think the life and the work of Ramanujan is the most astonishing story of any mathematician. Everybody knows that 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + ... adds to 1. Ramanujan wrote down infinite series like that but of amazing complexity. He was a self-taught and unknown genius in India, who found his way to England. His ideas are still being explored and developed— they go to the heart of mathematics. This book and the movie are simply inspiring.

By Robert Kanigel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man Who Knew Infinity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING JEREMY IRONS AND DEV PATEL!

A moving and enlightening look at the unbelievable true story of how gifted prodigy Ramanujan stunned the scholars of Cambridge University and revolutionized mathematics.

In 1913, a young unschooled Indian clerk wrote a letter to G H Hardy, begging the preeminent English mathematician's opinion on several ideas he had about numbers. Realizing the letter was the work of a genius, Hardy arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England.

Thus began one of the most improbable and productive collaborations ever chronicled. With a passion for rich and evocative detail,…


Book cover of Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football

Richard Hoshino Author Of The Math Olympian

From my list on mathematics and life.

Who am I?

I have devoted my entire career to mathematics, and have a life filled with meaning and purpose through my roles as an educator, researcher, and consultant. I teach at the Vancouver campus of Northeastern University and am the owner and principal of Hoshino Math Services, a boutique math consulting firm. 

Richard's book list on mathematics and life

Richard Hoshino Why did Richard love this book?

John Urschel is an African-American mathematician specializing in graph theory, who recently completed his Ph.D. in mathematics at MIT. But he is better known for his football career, as a starting offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens. Six of Urschel’s papers were completed while he was still in the National Football League.

Mind and Matter is John Urschel’s memoir, co-authored with his wife Louisa Thomas. Each chapter alternates between football and mathematics, and how his success on the field translated to success in the classroom, and vice-versa. I loved how accessible the book is, for readers of all ages, and I fully agree with the author’s perspective that mathematics gives us a way of making sense of the world, and helping us see past the confusion of everyday life.

By John Urschel, Louisa Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mind and Matter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller

John Urschel, mathematician and former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, tells the story of a life balanced between two passions

For John Urschel, what began as an insatiable appetite for puzzles as a child developed into mastery of the elegant systems and rules of mathematics. By the time he was thirteen, Urschel was auditing a college-level calculus course. But when he joined his high school football team, a new interest began to eclipse the thrill he felt in the classroom. Football challenged Urschel in an entirely different way, and he became addicted to the…


Book cover of Graph Theory in America: The First Hundred Years

Gary Chartrand Author Of Mathematical Proofs: A Transition to Advanced Mathematics

From my list on if you want to be a mathematician.

Who am I?

I have enjoyed mathematics and writing since I’ve been a kid, not only enjoying doing research in mathematics but assisting others to appreciate and enjoy mathematics. Along the way, I’ve gained an interest in the history of mathematics and the mathematicians who created mathematics. Perhaps most important, my primary goal has been to show others how enjoyable mathematics can be. Mathematics has given me the marvelous opportunity to meet and work with other mathematicians who have a similar passion for mathematics.

Gary's book list on if you want to be a mathematician

Gary Chartrand Why did Gary love this book?

Robin Wilson, the famous mathematical historian and storyteller with a great sense of humor, along with his co-authors, tell the story of how one particular area of mathematics (graph theory, my favorite area) got its start in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, found its way across the Atlantic to America, and what effect Americans had on this area of mathematics. It also tells the fascinating story of how and where more advanced mathematics became part of America. 

This book will be available Fall 2022.

By Robin J. Wilson, John J. Watkins, David J. Parks

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Graph Theory in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How a new mathematical field grew and matured in America

Graph Theory in America focuses on the development of graph theory in North America from 1876 to 1976. At the beginning of this period, James Joseph Sylvester, perhaps the finest mathematician in the English-speaking world, took up his appointment as the first professor of mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University, where his inaugural lecture outlined connections between graph theory, algebra, and chemistry-shortly after, he introduced the word graph in our modern sense. A hundred years later, in 1976, graph theory witnessed the solution of the long-standing four color problem by…


Book cover of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth

Gilbert Strang Author Of Introduction to Linear Algebra

From my list on mathematicians and their lives.

Who am I?

A key event in my mathematical life was videotaping my linear algebra class (the MATH 18.06 course at MIT). This was the right moment when MIT created OpenCourseWare to describe all courses freely to the world—with some big classes on video. Linear algebra has had 12 million viewers and many of them write to me. So many people like to learn about mathematics and read about mathematicians—it is a great pleasure to help. I hope you will enjoy the OpenCourseWare videos (on YouTube too), the books about mathematical lives, and the Introduction to Linear Algebra that many students learn from. This is real mathematics.

Gilbert's book list on mathematicians and their lives

Gilbert Strang Why did Gilbert love this book?

I well remember when Erdos came to MIT to visit my wonderful friend Gian-Carlo Rota. He traveled without money and without a place to stay. He depended entirely on friends. What he offered in return was something of much greater value: his ideas. A mathematician searches everywhere for the right problems to work on – not easy, not random, but opening a door from what we know to what we don't know. Erdos gave that ideal gift to his friends. If you wrote a paper with him, your Erdos number is 1.  

By Paul Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Man Who Loved Only Numbers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The biography of a mathematical genius. Paul Erdos was the most prolific pure mathematician in history and, arguably, the strangest too.

'A mathematical genius of the first order, Paul Erdos was totally obsessed with his subject - he thought and wrote mathematics for nineteen hours a day until he died. He travelled constantly, living out of a plastic bag and had no interest in food, sex, companionship, art - all that is usually indispensible to a human life. Paul Hoffman, in this marvellous biography, gives us a vivid and strangely moving portrait of this singular creature, one that brings out…


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