What’s a better way to be inspired to write than by turning to those who are already successful in the craft? Writing and reading go hand in hand—here are 3 books on craft that all writers should read.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
Praised for his clarity and warm writing style, teacher and journalist William Zinnser brings his all to On Writing Well—the go-to guide for writers interested in dipping their toes into the nonfiction genre. The book is broken down into four key elements: “Principles,” “Methods,” “Forms,” and “Attitudes.”
The book includes practical pieces of advice such as: “the most important sentence in any article is the first one” and “if you don’t know how to punctuate—and many college still don’t—get a grammar book.” On Writing Well also provides readers with tips and tricks for editing, conducting interviews, and compiling research.
Zinsser encourages his readers to “be confident” in themselves as writers—the advice still stands today. Since its initial publication, On Writing Well has sold over a million copies worldwide. An impressive accomplishment!
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Part craft book, part memoir Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird includes the following passage which inspired the title of her manuscript:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Lamott, inspired by her father’s career as a writing instructor at a prison and passion for the craft, found herself eventually taking up the pen as well. Bird by Bird splices Lamott’s experiences with her own struggles as a writer and with simple advice on the craft. An engaging and thoughtful read!
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
English professor William Strunk Jr. first began writing The Elements of Style in 1918. It was then published for curriculum use at Cornell University in 1919. Author E.B. White, a former student of Strunk Jr, was brought on in 1959 to contribute to a revised edition of the book after he wrote an article for The New Yorker praising Strunk Jr.’s dedication to “concise writing” and “lucid prose.”
The Elements of Style is currently in its fourth edition. At 85 pages, the book packs quite a punch. Noteworthy statements include “make every word count,” “omit needless words,” and “use active voice.”
Famed author and poet Dorothy Parker once quipped: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favour you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy!”
We are always looking for more books on craft to add to our reading list–do you have a favourite that you would like to recommend? Comment below and let’s swap favourites and share.