The most recommended creative writing books

Who picked these books? Meet our 46 experts.

46 authors created a book list connected to creative writing, and here are their favorite creative writing books.
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Book cover of How to Grow Your Own Poem

Harriet Griffey Author Of Write Every Day: Daily Practice to Kickstart Your Creative Writing

From my list on by writers on writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Where do writers go for distraction? For me it’s usually into the work of other writers and, when I’m done escaping into fiction, I turn to nonfiction and particularly those writers who write about writing. Why? Because it helps refresh my own writing to read those writing with clarity, insight, and coherence when my own process is in danger of fragmenting. What’s more, many writers write so well about the components of writing - voice, structure, narrative or even something as prosaic as getting started - that I am reassured about what I’m trying to do with my own writing.

Harriet's book list on by writers on writing

Harriet Griffey Why did Harriet love this book?

Even if you don’t want to be a poet, there’s something about playing with poetic form that I think is useful to any writer because it enables you to explore the use of rhythm, metaphor, simile and other ways of honing your consciousness into literary and written form. It demands specificity of description and uniqueness of voice, and Kate Clanchy’s book - she is herself a published poet, writer but also a teacher - gets to the nub of it through examples and exercise, to emerge a more fluent and confident writer, and in whichever form you choose.

By Kate Clanchy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Grow Your Own Poem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do you want to write a poem? This book will show you 'how to grow your own poem' . . .

Kate Clanchy has been teaching people to write poetry for more than twenty years. Some were old, some were young; some were fluent English speakers, some were not. None of them were confident to start with, but a surprising number went to win prizes and every one finished up with a poem they were proud of, a poem that only they could have written - their own poem.

Kate's big secret is a simple one: is to share other…


Book cover of Being Lolita: A Memoir

Liz Kinchen Author Of Light in Bandaged Places: Healing in the Wake of Young Betrayal

From my list on teenage abuse and healing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I resonate with these stories; I feel a kinship with authors of books about teen sexual abuse. My heart breaks for another innocent young person, and I am also inspired by the different ways we find healing and peace. I am so grateful for my healing journey that I want to share what helped me with others who are looking for greater peace with their struggles and scars. I am proud to join the ranks of these authors because we all shine a spotlight on the harm done by this too-common abuse of the trust and innocence of teenage girls. 

Liz's book list on teenage abuse and healing

Liz Kinchen Why did Liz love this book?

I resonated with this memoir of teen grooming because I saw myself in it and I felt less alone, like I had found a kindred spirit. Many details of our stories are different, but the core wounding from being taken advantage of by an older more powerful man felt the same.

The author and I both experienced the thrill of being chosen and the deep sadness resulting from this kind of betrayal, and we both found a way to heal, even though the scars remain.

By Alisson Wood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

AS FEATURED IN THE HULU DOCUMENTARY KEEP THIS BETWEEN US

A dark relationship evolves between a high schooler and her English teacher in this breathtakingly powerful memoir about a young woman who must learn to rewrite her own story.

“Have you ever read Lolita?”

So begins seventeen-year-old Alisson’s metamorphosis from student to lover and then victim. A lonely and vulnerable high school senior, Alisson finds solace only in her writing—and in a young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. North.

Mr. North gives Alisson a copy of Lolita to read, telling her it is a beautiful story about love. The book soon…


Book cover of Bad Panda

Rachel Hamilton Author Of Louie Lets Loose!

From my list on by British authors to get kids laughing out loud.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Rachel Hamilton and I’m the author of the Exploding series with Simon & Schuster and the Unicorn in New York series with OUP and Scholastic. I love making people laugh, especially when it's intentional rather than accidental. As well as writing books, I write comedy sketches and have performed standup as part of the Funny Girls tour in the Middle East. It's hard to do humor well, so I have huge respect and admiration for the authors on this list, because they do it fantastically. I hope you love their stories as much as I do. 

Rachel's book list on by British authors to get kids laughing out loud

Rachel Hamilton Why did Rachel love this book?

I’ve been a huge fan of Swapna and Sheena’s since I first read Dave Pigeon, which is so good it’s now a set text on the Creative Writing degree I teach. These two are champions of slapstick, silliness, and subversive creatures with big hearts. And Bad Panda is, arguably, their greatest creation. She’s SO desperate to be bad, but she is scuppered at every turn by the fact that everything she does looks so ridiculously cute. The result is panda-monium (groan!)

“Are you sick of being utterly adorable?
Tired of being cuddled and hugged?
Fed up of having your head confused for your bottom because you just so happen to be SOOOOPER-DOOOOOPER fluffy?
Lin: If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you’re in the right book.”

By Swapna Haddow, Sheena Dempsey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Are you sick of being utterly adorable?
Tired of being cuddled and hugged?
Fed up of having your head confused for your bottom because you just so happen to be SOOOOPER-DOOOOOPER fluffy?

Lin: If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you're in the right book.

Everyone thinks that Lin is the cutest panda in the world. So much so that they ship her off to the local zoo, away from her beloved brother, to be ogled at by the masses. But Lin HATES being cute, and now she will do everything in her power to prove that…


Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

By Mark Doherty,

Book cover of Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

Mark Doherty Author Of Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a highly experienced outdoorsman, musician, songwriter, and backcountry guide who chose teaching as a day job. As a writer, however, I am a promoter of creative and literary nonfiction, especially nonfiction that features a thematic thread, whether it be philosophical, conservation, historical, or even unique experiential. The thread I used for thirty years of teaching high school and honors English was the thread of Conservation, as exemplified by authors like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Edward O. Wilson, Al Gore, Henry David Thoreau, as well as many other more contemporary authors.

Mark's book list on creative nonfiction books that entertain and teach through threaded essays and stories

What is my book about?

I have woven numerous delightful and descriptive true life stories, many from my adventures as an outdoorsman and singer songwriter, into my life as a high school English teacher. I think you'll find this work both entertaining as well as informative, and I hope you enjoy the often lighthearted repartee and dialogue that enhances the stories and experiences.

When I started teaching in the early 1990s, I brought into the classroom with me my passions for nature, folk music, and creativity. This book holds something new and engaging with every chapter and can be enjoyed by all sorts of readers, particularly those who enjoy nonfiction that employs wit, wisdom, humor, and even some down-to-earth philosophy.

Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration

By Mark Doherty,

What is this book about?

Creativity, Teaching, and Natural Inspiration follows the evolution of a high school English teacher as he develops a creative and innovative teaching style despite being juxtaposed against a public education system bent on didactic, normalizing regulations and political demands. Doherty crafts an engaging nonfiction story that utilizes memoir, anecdote, poetry, and dialogue to explore how mixing creativity and pedagogy can change the way budding students visualize creative writing: A chunk of firewood plunked on a classroom table becomes part of a sawmill, a mine timber, an Anasazi artifact...it also becomes a poem, a song, an essay, and a memoir. The…


Book cover of Outline

Bridget van der Zijpp Author Of I Laugh Me Broken

From my list on women who travel far from home to gain perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of three novels that all explore contemporary notions of fidentity. In 2016 I received a scholarship to travel from New Zealand to Berlin for three months and fell in love with the city. I ended up staying there for nearly four years, until the pandemic started. As a writer I liked the way that being detached from your regular life, and living in a country where you are unfamiliar with the language and the rules, makes you alert to the quirks. It helps you to gain a fresh perspective about the place that you came from, and also the place that you are in.

Bridget's book list on women who travel far from home to gain perspective

Bridget van der Zijpp Why did Bridget love this book?

This book, the first in Rachel Cusk’s famous trilogy, was a revelation to me because it feels so radically unstructured but at the same time is fascinating in its form.

The narrator travels to Athens to teach a summer writing course but the details about her are kept so sketchy that we only really get to know her through the way she receives what others tell her. Faye is brilliantly observant, and only gradually do you begin to realise, as a reader, that the author is subtly meditating on a series of themes through these conversations, mostly about disappointments and divorces.

By Rachel Cusk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first in Rachel Cusk's critically-acclaimed trilogy, shortlisted for the Folio Prize and the Goldsmith Prize and longlisted for the IMPAC Prize.

Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing over an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her student in storytelling exercises. She meets other writers for dinner. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her seatmate from the place. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves, their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator…


Book cover of Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them

James R. Benn Author Of Road of Bones

From my list on essential books for writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always wanted to write. It took years to get started, and after working in the library and information technology fields for over thirty-five years, I quit the day job routine in 2011 to write full time. I've learned two valuable lessons since I started writing which have been of immense help. The first is a quote from writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse, who said, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." The second is from novelist Rachel Basch, who told me that "the story has to move down, as well as forward." Both sound simple. Neither is.

James' book list on essential books for writers

James R. Benn Why did James love this book?

This title is unique among books on writing in that Prose devotes a full chapter to eight critical elements of writing: words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialog, details, and gesture. For example, she explores concepts such as first sentences and their impact on the narrative. Prose suggests that “close reading” is the key to understanding and learning about literature, for the reader and writer. She takes her readers on a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters―Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov―and discusses why these writers have endured. Throughout, she cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted. One of the most important books on writing I have ever read.

By Francine Prose,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reading Like a Writer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and tricks of the masters to discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humour and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart - to take pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; to look to John le Carre for a lesson in how to advance plot through…


Book cover of What It Is

Jesse Schell Author Of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

From my list on for game designers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved game design – I love doing it, reading about it, thinking about it, and helping others do it. As you can see in the list, I’ve learned that sometimes what helps game designers most is getting inspiration from other fields. I hope these books help you as much as they helped me.

Jesse's book list on for game designers

Jesse Schell Why did Jesse love this book?

All game designers struggle with what it means to be creative, and whether they are doing it properly. What It Is and its companion book, Picture This are very personal guides to what it means to be a creative person, and are full of inspirational stories and very practical tips to create your best work and not get in your own way. 

By Lynda Barry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Deliciously drawn (with fragments of collage worked into each page), insightful and bubbling with delight in the process of artistic creation. A+" -Salon

How do objects summon memories? What do real images feel like? For decades, these types of questions have permeated the pages of Lynda Barry's compositions, with words attracting pictures and conjuring places through a pen that first and foremost keeps on moving. What It Is demonstrates a tried-and-true creative method that is playful, powerful, and accessible to anyone with an inquisitive wish to write or to remember. Composed of completely new material, each page of Barry's first…


Book cover of No Other Life

B.L. Bruce Author Of The Weight of Snow: New & Selected Poems

From my list on contemporary nature poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Bri Bruce, writing as B. L. Bruce, and am an award-winning poet and Pushcart prize nominee from California. Over the last decade and a half, my work has appeared in dozens of literary publications. I am the author of four books and Editor-in-Chief of nature-centric magazine Humana Obscura. I was raised with a wildlife biologist/avid gardener for a mother and a forestry major/backpacker/fisherman as a father. Both my parents instilled in me at a young age a love of nature. A lifetime spent outdoors inspires my work—so much so that I’ve been called a “poetic naturalist” and the “heiress of Mary Oliver.”

B.L.'s book list on contemporary nature poetry

B.L. Bruce Why did B.L. love this book?

No Other Life combines three of Gary Young’s books into one volume. There is such unique style and quiet beauty to Young’s work. I am truly inspired by it. He has a knack for capturing the extraordinary in the mundane in brief but deep prose poems that grip the soul. 

Young was one of my professors in college and was a driving force for why I pursued a creative writing degree and chose to continue to write after graduating. His work will always hold a special place in my nature-loving creative heart.

By Gary Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Other Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No Other Life gathers in a single volume two earlier books by Gary Young, Days and the award-winning Braver Deeds, with the final book in his trilogy, If He Had. Utilizing a radically brief prose poem that in its spare lucidity leaves after images burned into the readers imagination, Young weaves a pattern of compelling and often harrowing correspondences that Ethan Paquin described in Quarterly West as an exploration of thresholds, of levels of human endurance. Although every poem stands as an independent utterance, each book suggests a discrete poetic unit, and the entire trilogy can be read as a…


Book cover of Steering The Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Margot Livesey Author Of The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing

From my list on reading and writing fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the Scottish countryside, reading passionately. When adults asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer came from my latest book: a nun, an outlaw, a queen, or an explorer. Not until I was in my twenties did I realise that I wanted to be the person behind the covers of a book, not between them. My early stories, written between waitressing shifts, were bafflingly bad. Gradually I began to understand that the fiction I loved was driven by a hidden machinery. I now teach at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and have been lucky enough to explore this idea with many talented students.

Margot's book list on reading and writing fiction

Margot Livesey Why did Margot love this book?

Le Guin is a star in fiction’s firmament but in this book she’s also a wonderfully modest practitioner of the art of writing. She discusses the sound of your prose, naming characters, repetition, and point of view. I found her chapter on crowding and leaping especially helpful. Crowding is when you follow Keats’ advice to load every rift with ore; leaping is when you skillfully leave things out—two invaluable skills in fiction, and in life.  

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Steering The Craft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the celebrated Ursula K. Le Guin, "a writer of enormous intelligence and wit, a master storyteller" (Boston Globe), the revised and updated edition of her classic guide to the essentials of a writer's craft.

Completely revised and rewritten to address modern challenges and opportunities, this handbook is a short, deceptively simple guide to the craft of writing.

Le Guin lays out ten chapters that address the most fundamental components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view. Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin’s own witty commentary and…


Book cover of How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America

Peter Lovesey Author Of The Last Detective

From my list on the secrets of great mystery writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

My introduction to mystery writing was a competition for a first crime novel. I was lucky enough to win with Wobble to Death, about a Victorian long-distance race. When I went to collect the prize, I was startled to be asked if I was already at work on the next one. The publishers Macmillan had started a crime list and were looking for a career writer. I knew practically nothing about the genre and had to give myself a crash course. How I needed the support of books like these! After five years, I had the confidence to give up the day job and have made my living from mystery writing for almost fifty years. 

Peter's book list on the secrets of great mystery writing

Peter Lovesey Why did Peter love this book?

Although I’m a Brit, I joined the Mystery Writers of America early in my career and benefited enormously from the friendships I made. This newly published volume is a virtual encyclopedia of the advice their experts are willing to share. With more than seventy contributors, it covers the field and more, including mysteries for children, graphic novels, and true crime. None of it is treated as gospel. I laughed out loud when I found the chapter "Always Outline" by Jeffery Deaver, followed by "Never Outline" by Lee Child. Even the follow-up process of reaching out to readers is explained in "Building Your Community" by Louise Penny. This is a must-visit workshop for anyone serious about the craft.

By Mystery Writers of America,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Write a Mystery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the most successful mystery writers in the business, an invaluable guide to crafting mysteries-from character development and plot to procedurals and thrillers-a must-have for every aspiring mystery writer.

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is known for providing unparalleled resources on the craft, art, and business of storytelling, helping writers of all levels improve their skills for nearly a century. Now, this new handbook helps authors navigate the ever-shifting publishing landscape-from pacing, plotting, the business side of publishing, to the current demand for diversity and inclusivity across all genres, and more.

Featuring essays by a new generation of bestselling experts…


Book cover of Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

Mark David Gerson Author Of Writer's Block Unblocked: Seven Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow

From my list on unlikely books to help you through creative blocks.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ask successful authors how they started writing, and many will tell you that they always wanted to write. Not me! In fact, through most of my first 35 years, I resisted engaging with anything even remotely creative. I wouldn’t have called it “writer’s block” back then because, having no conscious desire to be a writer, how I could I be blocked? Yet writer’s block is what it was. That I was ultimately able to recognize it as such and get past it has given me a unique perspective on others’ writing challenges, as well as the skill and compassion to help them free up their innate creative potential.

Mark's book list on unlikely books to help you through creative blocks

Mark David Gerson Why did Mark love this book?

As with Madeleine L’Engle, everything I’ve read by Ursula K. Le Guin—fiction as well as nonfiction—has radically influenced my writing and my teaching of writing. In fact, her impact on my creative awakening was so profound that I sent her a copy of my first book as a thank you! Steering the Craft is filled with wisdom and exercises for both new and seasoned writers, but perhaps the most liberating for blocked writers is her controversial view that “story” is defined by “change” not “conflict.” That’s especially welcoming for writers who feel hemmed in (and, perhaps, blocked) by the traditional definition.

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ursula K. Le Guin generously shares the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime's work.