Person holding a pile of books next to a pot plant

The 6 Best Writing Books You’ll Ever Read

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Stephen King

Stephen King wrote these famous words in his book on writing, aptly titled “On Writing.” We couldn’t agree more. You can’t be a great (or even good) writer without reading. You also can’t be a great writer without writing — a lot. Writing ability is a muscle you must exercise. The more you exercise it, the stronger writer you’ll be.

This post mixes King’s ideas. After all, it seems obvious that, if reading and writing are connected, reading about writing can only be beneficial. Below is our list of the six best writing books you’ll ever read. 

1.Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott offers some of the most fundamental writing advice out there. 

Lamott tells the story of her 10-year-old brother trying to write a book report on birds. The boy had three months to write the report, but he’d put it off until the day before it was due. Procrastination and writing on deadline certainly is something most writers relate to. The boy was close to tears, paralyzed by his inability to write. His father told him, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Thus the title of Lamott’s book and life-changing advice for many writers. Writing is difficult—no doubt about that. So we have to take it piece by piece, subject by subject, and line by line.

Another critical piece of advice from Lamott’s book is for writers to embrace “shitty first drafts.” Lamott reassures us that “all good writers write them.” Shitty first drafts are how you get to “good second drafts and terrific third drafts,” according to Lamott.

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper.”

Anne Lamott

2. Content Rules

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars and More that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business” by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman is a must-read for anyone in content marketing. The book has a long title because it explains various types of content and how to use them best. It doesn’t just give you an overview of the content but also provides practical best practices for using it.

“Content Rules” explains the fundamentals for content development and execution — from identifying strategy to finding your unique voice. So, whether you write content for a living or for your personal brand, read this book and keep it on hand for reference.

3. Everybody Writes

We may be a little biased when it comes to Ann Handley, but she knows how to write, and she’s willing to share her tips and secrets with us. 

Handley’s second book on the list is “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.” The premise of this book is that we may not all be journalists, content writers, or authors, but we’re all writers. Why? Because, from social media updates to email messages, we’re all writing every day.

“Everybody Writes” is a must-read for everyone who writes… which, if you’ve been paying attention, is everyone. Handley provides writing rules on everything from basic grammar to writing headlines for marketing content. And she knows what she’s writing about.

An assortment of books in piles

4. On Writing

Confession: We weren’t going to put Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” on this list. Maybe we didn’t think it belonged on the list because King has such a niche genre. But we quoted him in this post’s introduction. So how could we not include him on the list?

There’s no doubt that King is a productive and prolific writer. And his book on writing includes a lot of great advice on the craft, including taking it seriously and forcing yourself into a writing routine.

“You must not come lightly to the blank page.” 

Stephen King

5. On Writing Well

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction” by the late William Zinsser is the book on the craft of writing nonfiction. It’s another book that writers will want to read, reread, and keep handy on their shelves. 

Some writing nuggets from Zinsser’s book include:

  • Good writing keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next. “It’s a question of using the English language in a way that will achieve the greatest clarity and strength.”
  • “The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.”
  • “Clear thinking becomes clear writing: one can’t exist without the other.”
  • “Beware of the long word that’s no better than the short word.”
  • “You can never forget that you are practicing a craft that’s based on certain principles.”
  • “Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.”

6. Woe is I

Grammar is difficult. That’s why you need “Woe Is I” by Patricia T. O’Conner. Buy this book and keep it on your bookshelf. Look at it every time you need to use affect or effect in a sentence. Maybe one day you’ll be able to figure out the difference. We’re still working on that part, but at least we have this guide (and good editors) for help.

The Best Writing Books

You may have other writing books you’ve read and loved. We don’t pretend that this list is all of the writing books out there or even all that you like. But it’s a short list of the best writing books you’ll ever read. What other writing books do you like? We’re always looking for our next read. 

And, of course, if writing is difficult for you, we’d love to help. Contact us to learn more about how we can write for your brand.

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