The most recommended books on rhetoric

Who picked these books? Meet our 63 experts.

63 authors created a book list connected to rhetoric, and here are their favorite rhetoric books.
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What type of rhetoric book?


Book cover of Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative

Margo Steines Author Of Brutalities: A Love Story

From Margo's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Athlete Mom New Yorker

Margo's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, Margo's 3-year-old's favorite books.

Margo Steines Why did Margo love this book?

This is a craft book that one of my coaching clients recommended to me.

It offers an intricate approach to narrative design, using geometry, biology, and philosophy to build networks and systems of thoughts and ideas within the framework of literary writing. As a creative writing teacher and coach, I read a lot of craft books, and in terms of actionable ideas, this one is top tier.

It is written in the tone of a manual yet contains a high level of its own syntactic beauty and was clearly written using the very ideas and strategies it details. 

By Jane Alison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meander, Spiral, Explode as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"How lovely to discover a book on the craft of writing that is also fun to read . . . Alison asserts that the best stories follow patterns in nature, and by defining these new styles she offers writers the freedom to explore but with enough guidance to thrive." ―Maris Kreizman, Vulture

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019 | A Poets & Writers Best Books for Writers

As Jane Alison writes in the introduction to her insightful and appealing book about the craft of writing: “For centuries there’s been one path through fiction we’re most likely to travel― one…

Book cover of Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers

Martin Edwards Author Of The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators

From my list on crime fiction, the world’s most popular genre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a storyteller and I conceived The Life of Crime as the ‘life story’ of a fascinating and truly diverse genre. I’ve always been intrigued by the ups and downs of literary lives, and the book explores the rollercoaster careers of writers from across the world. The chapter endnotes contain masses of trivia and information, as well as some original research, that I hope readers will find enjoyable as well as interesting. But The Life of Crime isn’t an academic text. It’s a love letter to a genre that I’ve adored for as long as I can remember.  

Martin's book list on crime fiction, the world’s most popular genre

Martin Edwards Why did Martin love this book?

During my twenties, I supplemented my understanding of crime writers past and present by studying the essays, bibliographies, and authors’ comments in this weighty tome. It’s a first-rate reference book, packed with information. Reilly was responsible for the first two editions and I was delighted to be asked to contribute essays myself to the third and fourth editions.

By John Reilly (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction aims to enhance understanding of one of the most popular forms of genre fiction by examining a wide variety of the detective and crime fiction produced in Britain and America during the twentieth century. It will be of interest to anyone who enjoys reading crime fiction but is specifically designed with the needs of students in mind. It introduces different theoretical approaches to crime fiction (e.g., formalist, historicist, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, feminist) and will be a useful supplement to a range of crime fiction courses, whether they focus on historical contexts, ideological shifts, the emergence of sub-genres, or…

Book cover of The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

John Irvin Author Of Make Your Writing Zing With Proofreading A Through Z!: Tips for Writers, Authors, and Publishers Alike

From my list on for writers who care about their words.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a writer since I was fourteen (possibly before that) and I’ve been an official freelance proofreader/copyeditor since 2019. I’ve published over thirty books and proofread or copyedited over sixty-two manuscripts as of this writing. I’ve garnered enough experience in both fields to, at least, be considered.

John's book list on for writers who care about their words

John Irvin Why did John love this book?

This was one of the first books I bought when I started my proofreading career. It has come in handy so many times and still does as a refresher. It not only shares the grammar or punctuation rules for one style, but has actual comparison lists for each style out there. Want a good reminder about the rules that guide the best writing? This is one of the best books to have on your library shelf, period.

By June Casagrande,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Best Punctuation Book, Period as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This all-in-one reference is a quick and easy way for book, magazine, online, academic, and business writers to look up sticky punctuation questions for all styles including AP (Associated Press), MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and Chicago Manual of Style.

Punctuate with Confidence—No Matter the Style

Confused about punctuation? There’s a reason. Everywhere you turn, publications seem to follow different rules on everything from possessive apostrophes to hyphens to serial commas. Then there are all the gray areas of punctuation—situations the rule books gloss over or never mention at all. At last, help has arrived.
This complete…

Book cover of The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change

Deirdre N. McCloskey Author Of The Rhetoric of Economics

From my list on the rhetoric of science (from a distinguished professor).

Why am I passionate about this?

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication, adjunct in classics and philosophy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty-four books and some four hundred academic and popular articles on economic history, rhetoric, philosophy, statistical theory, economic theory, feminism, queer studies, liberalism, ethics, and law.

Deirdre's book list on the rhetoric of science (from a distinguished professor)

Deirdre N. McCloskey Why did Deirdre love this book?

The book is much better than his famous but often misread The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, because it gets down to detailed cases in physics, in which Kuhn was trained. Though he never accepted the term, it amounts to a “rhetoric” of physics, that is, a study of, in Aristotle’s definition, the available means of persuasion in a science or a court of law.

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Kuhn has the unmistakable address of a man, who, so far from wanting to score points, is anxious above all else to get at the truth of matters."-Sir Peter Medawar, Nature

Book cover of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames

John Wills Author Of Gamer Nation: Video Games and American Culture

From my list on video games and popular culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a university academic who writes and teaches on American popular culture. I’ve played video games all my life—I remember first playing Breakout and Boot Hill at the local arcade back in the late 1970s as a young child, and yes, I had an Atari VCS. Today, I write, teach, and exhibit work on the history of video games, especially how games depict and connect with the USA. I still play video games, probably too much, and my favorite console is the Sega Dreamcast.

John's book list on video games and popular culture

John Wills Why did John love this book?

Persuasive Games is about how games persuade you, of ideas, what to buy, how to vote, how to live and more. It is a brilliantly inventive title from an established Game Studies scholar with a knack for original thought. Bogost brings in all kinds of little-known games to highlight his themes, and for me, it is just one of those books that you come back to for ideas and inspiration.

By Ian Bogost,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An exploration of the way videogames mount arguments and make expressive statements about the world that analyzes their unique persuasive power in terms of their computational properties.

Videogames are an expressive medium, and a persuasive medium; they represent how real and imagined systems work, and they invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. In this innovative analysis, Ian Bogost examines the way videogames mount arguments and influence players. Drawing on the 2,500-year history of rhetoric, the study of persuasive expression, Bogost analyzes rhetoric's unique function in software in general and videogames in particular. The field…

Book cover of Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative

James R. Farr Author Of Who Was William Hickey? A Crafted Life in Georgian England and Imperial India

From my list on autobiography, memory, identity, and the self.

Why am I passionate about this?

I stumbled upon Hickey’s memoirs and while reading them became captivated not only by the frequently hilarious episodes he recounts from his life, but also by the subject of autobiography and how narrating our life story somehow projects a sense of self and identity to the reader. Trying to grasp this process led me to exploring a wide range of books, and opened up understanding of how our selves are fashioned and what they mean to others. An endlessly fascinating subject.

James' book list on autobiography, memory, identity, and the self

James R. Farr Why did James love this book?

With an easy-going and very approachable style, Eakin explores how our identity is formed by the autobiographical stories we tell about ourselves. He wears his deeply informed theoretical insights very lightly, and when I encountered this book while working on my book on Hickey, I came away with an appreciation of the importance of narrative in determining who we are, who we think we are, and who we want others to think we are.

By Paul John Eakin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Autobiography is naturally regarded as an art of retrospect, but making autobiography is equally part of the fabric of our ongoing experience. We tell the stories of our lives piecemeal, and these stories are not merely about our selves but also an integral part of them. In this way we "live autobiographically"; we have narrative identities. In this book, noted life-writing scholar Paul John Eakin explores the intimate, dynamic connection between our selves and our stories, between narrative and identity in everyday life.

Eakin draws on a wide range of autobiographical writings, from work by Jonathan Franzen, Mary Karr, and…

Book cover of The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paul Harvey Author Of Martin Luther King: A Religious Life

From my list on Martin Luther King, Jr..

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my entire academic career researching and teaching about American religious history, particularly focusing on issues of race and religion. I am the author of numerous works on this topic, including The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in American History (co-authored with Edward J. Blum), and Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography. Finally, after thirty years of work, I challenged myself to write a short reader-friendly biography of King that would capture him as fully as possible, but in a brief book that would communicate to general readers the full measure of the man.

Paul's book list on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paul Harvey Why did Paul love this book?

Rieder’s work is perhaps the single most interesting interpretation of King’s ability to thrive in very different rhetorical audiences, and explains his ability to communicate to so many different audiences at the same time. From King’s street talk in private to his SCLC colleagues, to his magnificent sermons to black church crowds, to his soaring oratory to more general public audiences, King code-shifted with ease and skill. No one captures this quality better than Rieder in this book.

By Jonathan Rieder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"You don't know me," Martin Luther King, Jr., once declared to those who criticized his denunciation of the Vietnam War, who wanted to confine him to the ghetto of "black" issues. Now, forty years after being felled by an assassin's bullet, it is still difficult to take the measure of the man: apostle of peace or angry prophet; sublime exponent of a beloved community or fiery Moses leading his people up from bondage; black preacher or translator of blackness to the white world? This book explores the extraordinary performances through which King played with all of these possibilities, and others…

Book cover of The Rhetoric of Religion

Corey Anton Author Of Sources of Significance: Worldly Rejuvenation and Neo-Stoic Heroism

From my list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition.

Why am I passionate about this?

Corey Anton is Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University, Vice-President of the Institute of General Semantics, Past President of the Media Ecology Association, and a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and author. His research spans the fields of media ecology, semiotics, phenomenology, stoicism, death studies, the philosophy of communication, and multidisciplinary communication theory.

Corey's book list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition

Corey Anton Why did Corey love this book?

Kenneth Burke was Shakespeare scholar, biblical scholar, poet, novelist, literary critic, rhetorical theorist, the father of “Dramatism,” and a ferocious homegrown, self-taught intellect, and this book is Burke at his best. It boldly addresses the vital role that language plays in human life and religious thought, advocates a thoroughgoing study of theology not to assess any veracity therein, but rather, as a specimen of language use, for, whatever else theology may be, it is, at the least, verbal, and, the study of religious language reveals much about human motives and self-understanding. This book also touches upon some of the interesting relations between money, guilt, and the Christian notion of redemption. It ends with an “Epilogue: Prologue in Heaven,” which is a lengthy mind-blowing fictional dialogue set in Heaven between “The Lord” and “Satan” regarding “the word-animal,” and it playfully draws out important connections between language, negativity, property rights, time, and…

By Kenneth Burke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"But the point of Burke's work, and the significance of his achievement, is not that he points out that religion and language affect each other, for this has been said before, but that he proceeds to demonstrate how this is so by reference to a specific symbolic context. After a discussion 'On Words and The Word,' he analysess verbal action in St. Augustine's Confessions. He then discusses the first three chapters of Genesis, and ends with a brilliant and profound 'Prologue in Heaven,' an imaginary dialogue between the Lord and Satan in which he proposes that we begin our study…

Book cover of The Craft of Revision

Mark Rennella Author Of The One-Idea Rule: An Efficient Way to Improve Your Writing at School and Work

From my list on helping you find and assert your voice in writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mark Rennella has given students and professionals helpful advice about writing throughout his career, most recently as a writing coach for MBA candidates at Harvard Business School. Mark earned a PhD in American history from Brandeis University and has taught literature and American history at Harvard University, the University of Miami, and the University of Tours (France). Mark's books, articles, business case studies, and collaborative writing endeavors have garnered him critical praise from historians, academicians, and business leaders alike. His concept of the “one-idea rule” was included among’s ten favorite management tips for 2022 and was featured more recently in Forbes. He currently works as an editor for Harvard Business Publishing.

Mark's book list on helping you find and assert your voice in writing

Mark Rennella Why did Mark love this book?

This writing instruction book came to my aid as I began to teach writing at Harvard University in the late 1990s, when I was trying to help college students cultivate their own voice as writers.

The title was brilliant, surprising the reader that the subject was revision and not writing, per se. This focused on a fundamental truth, which is that good writing – whether it be fiction or non-fiction, artistic or professional – almost always goes through several revisions. Students often recoil at the idea of revisions because they threaten to burden them with more work.

What Murray underlined (and a point I’ve reiterated) is that revisions provide the opportunity to improve your work. The more that writers are comfortable with making revisions, the easier it will be to cultivate and improve their voices in their written work.

By Donald Murray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Donald M. Murray takes a lively and inspiring approach to writing and revision that does not condescend but invites students into the writer's studio.

Book cover of The Elements of Style (Illustrated)

Maddalena Bearzi Author Of Stranded: Finding Nature in Uncertain Times

From Maddalena's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Marine Biologist Conservation Advocate Traveler Reader

Maddalena's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Maddalena Bearzi Why did Maddalena love this book?

And here is something totally different for you…

I read The Elements of Style several times in my life but I recently bought the illustrated edition of this little “bible.” The Elements of Style (illustrated) by Strunk/White/Kalman is not only a classic but something every English language writer (and reader) should check out! The colorful illustrations by Maira Kalman make the reading even more entertaining.

It’s not a surprise to me that this “style manual” has also appeared on a bestseller list. It’s not just a great, quick, and useful reading; it also makes a great gift for anyone interested in writing and in better understanding the English language.

By William Strunk, E. B. White, Maira Kalman (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Elements of Style (Illustrated) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"So friendly, so classic, so delightful . . . Kalman has taken 'the little book' and made it even more elegant and uplifting." —Los Angeles Times

The only style manual to ever appear on a bestseller list now refreshed by one of our most beloved illustrators

Every English writer knows Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The book’s mantra, make every word tell, is still on point. This much-loved classic, now in its fourth edition, will forever be the go-to guide when in need of a hint to make a turn of phrase clearer or a reminder on how…