Everyone has a natural talent in a certain skill – their space of genius. For me, writing has always been my space of genius. It’s the foundation upon which I’ve built my entire career. Of course, having talent does not mean that you don’t need to work to develop a skill in order to achieve greatness. In this case, one of the best ways to become a better writer is to read.
Here are four books that have helped me become a more effective writer.
1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
While this one is especially helpful for fiction writers, every aspiring author can find value in the process analysis of Stephen King. Known as the King of Horror (get it?), Stephen King is an icon in the field of writing. If you just Googled “Books for Writers,” you likely found this book listed on 90% of the resulting blogs. That’s because it’s the best.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is the most practical, in-depth, soup-to-nuts guide to the practice of actually writing a book. It strips away the noise of marketing, publishing, and the logistical tasks associated with releasing a book, and dives into the meat of the creative process. The book reads like you are talking shop with a professor or a knowledgeable friend over coffee. Despite King’s reputation for dark themes, the book is profoundly inspiring.
It’s a must-read for newbies and experienced writers alike.
2. By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway has long been one of my favorite authors. When my husband and I got married shortly after moving to Boise, we spent our honeymoon in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Sun Valley is known as a favorite escape for the late Hemingway, and there is a treasure trove of memorabilia and insight into his life to be found in the area. At Iconoclast Books, a local bookstore in the Sun Valley, I picked up a copy of By-Line: Ernest Hemingway. It has since become a staple of my reading rotation, and I find something new every time I explore its contents.
By Line: Ernest Hemingway is a collection of Hemingway’s editorial work spanning nearly four decades. It paints the portrait of Hemingway as a journalist, and shows a unique insight into the inspiration behind classics like A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea.
I love this book because it shows me how he got to those stories. There is a rich real-life history in all of Hemingway’s work, and he is the master of crafting grit and reality with a touch of that good, gooey humanity. Whether you are reading By-Line or one of his novels, you really can’t go wrong from an inspiration standpoint.
3. Finish, by John Acuff
Here’s the thing about writing: Writing isn’t hard. Sitting down to write and committing to finishing that project is what gets you. Finish from John Acuff can help with that.
Finish tackles more than just writing. It discusses the problem plaguing procrastinators around the world – finishing a project. He offers some unconventional strategies to give yourself “the gift of done.” It’s a light, smart, and direct read that you can finish in a weekend. It will help you with your goal setting across the board, but it’s a great kick in the butt for writers.
Side note: If you are not following John Acuff on social media, you should be. He’s insightful and hilarious.
4. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
We’ve all heard of The Art of War – Sun-Tzu’s masterpiece – but there is a different battlefield addressed in Pressfield’s The War of Art. There is an internal fight that every writer has before releasing their work. There are moments in the process ranging from general doubt to sheer panic as you put yourself onto a piece of paper (or a Word document).
The War of Art takes a direct approach to attacking these fears and offers insights on how to navigate through the different phases of producing a piece of work. If you’re looking for help with procrastination, perfectionism, and self-sabotage – this book can help. He does have a series of books to help with the writing process, but this one is my favorite in the series.