According to old-school legend, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but if he’s a writer, it’s a safe bet the way to his heart is through his bookshelf. Never let it be said that I’m sexist! A gift of good books works just as well for women writers! What better way to affirm the budding or established author in your life than by stuffing their library full of the best books for writers?
Building the Essential Writer’s Bookshelf
How do you know what’s good? Goodreads usually answers this kind of question, but its Best Writing Books list names 432 titles! Because I can tell your heart is bursting to encourage the writer in your life, I’m going to do the hard work for you. My Goodreads shelf Writers’ Essentials holds nine must-have books for writers: five books on storytelling and craft, two reference books, and two highly browsable, creativity sparkers.
Five Must-Have Writing Craft Books
These books inspire good prose, spark literary excellence, and develop solid storytelling ability.
- Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People who Love Books & for Those who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose
- Story: Style, Structure, Substance & the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee [Helpful for novelists too!]
- Elements of Story: Field Notes on Non-fiction Writing by Francis Flaherty
- The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
- Writing Irresistible Kidlit: the Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adults and Middle Grade Readers by Mary Kole.
Click the screenshot below to visit my Writers’ Essentials shelf.
Two Essential Reference Manuals
Any writer who plans to submit work to editors and publishers needs a style guide and a writer’s marketplace manual. When deciding on which manuals, the big question is “Where?” Geography (hence, language convention and market) matters. North American writers use Writers’ Market. I live, write, and sell primarily in Australia, so my desk is equipped with the following:
- The Australian Writer’s Marketplace by Queensland Writers’ Centre
This one lists agents, publishers, and all kinds of things serious writers need to know. It’s like a Refidex for writers. I find it handy to have a physical copy of the Writer’s Marketplace so I can mark it up, dog-ear pages, and so forth. But the trouble is, these manuals have a shelf-life of about two years. An annual subscription to the AWM is a great option–and a wonderful gift for a writer.
- Style Manual: For authors, editors, and printers (Sixth Edition)
Pretty dry reading really…It covers things like comma rules, capitalisation conventions, and the official formatting of citations. Yay. But these two writing books aren’t about fun; they’re all about writing and presenting as professionally as you can.
Two Quirky & Curious Creativity Sparkers
Now for the fun part! Your writer is going to love these books. They’re full of geeky goodness and word-nerdery. Both are perfect for fantasy aficionados, but anyone who appreciates language will enjoy them.
- Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable (19th ed.) by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, edited by Susie Dent
Scholarly, eclectic, and up-to-date. Entries about heraldry and pub names sit amongst articles on steampunk and crowdsourcing
- The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones
Part tongue-in-cheek send-up, part serious genre guide, this book is wickedly funny. A travel guide through the undulating landscape of Fantasyland.
A gift of a bundle of these books for writers will show how much you support your loved one’s dreams. If you have a favourite book for writers, please share it in the comments.