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11 books every aspiring writer should read

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Best books for aspiring writers - quick list

This handy guide comprises eleven must-read books for novice and experienced writers alike.

Writing is a Sisyphean task. It’s a craft that one can never be fully satisfied with – it always leaves room to grow, something to perfect or improve, a word to replace with a different, better-sounding synonym.

No matter whether you’re a hobbyist writer or a full-time author – with so many aspects and challenges to the craft of writing, it’s easy to get confused, lost, or disheartened. Or to crumple the piece of paper and throw it in the bin.

How to phrase this? How to format this? How to publish a book on a budget? How to make this sound good? Why does this story not feel right? Did I overdo it?

If you’re an aspiring writer, chances are you’ve been bombarded by these questions (and many, many others) already. Luckily for you, however, some of the world’s biggest authors have decided to share their knowledge on how to overcome these obstacles.

Jump to the list

The selected books explore the five most challenging spheres of the craft of writing: writer’s block, concise writing, self-publishing, nonfiction, and story, helping you to polish your writing skills and bring your potential to the fullest.

The best books for aspiring writers – highlights

The top books for aspiring authors

In the following list, you will find books that are perfect when:

  • Writer’s block hits…
  • You struggle with grammar, flow, or writing clearly…
  • You’d like to self-publish but have no idea how…
  • You’re a non-fiction writer…
  • You’re looking to polish your story and composition…

Best books for aspiring writers

When writer’s block hits…

1. Steal Like An Artist

Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon - best books for writers

Austin Kleon

Perhaps one of today’s most influential guides to creativity, Steal Like An Artist describes ten simple life-changing principles that are crucial to becoming a full-fledged artist.

No work of art is fully original – masterpieces that we’ve come to admire build on an intricate network of influences, contexts, and inspirations – remixed and reimagined by the author. A good artist is one that learns to embrace it, to let himself be inspired, influenced.

While it is not specifically about writing but the arts in general, Steal Like An Artist teaches you some of the most pivotal aspects of creative growth.

What you will learn: Steal Like An Artist is guaranteed to give you a creative push, a reassuring pat on the back, and a spark of inspiration
Length: 160 pages
Average rating: 4.6/5 out of 2,269 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

2. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Battles

The War of Art - Steven Pressfield - best books for aspiring authors

Steven Pressfield

At some point, every artist encounters the ultimate creative obstacle – doubt. The self-sabotaging, paralyzing, completely disarming type, that brings your creative confidence to a halt.

The War of Art teaches you precisely how to battle it and learn the self-discipline that is so crucial in being a full-time artist. But this book is much more than just that – it helps you slowly build up a mindset, maintain consistency, and value hard work.

The War of Art is a must-read for every aspiring creative mind.

What you will learn: This phenomenal guide will encourage you to start living your creative life to its full potential
Length: 190 pages
Average rating: 4.5/5 out of 3,483 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing - Stephen King - top books for aspiring writers

Stephen King

Half-memoir, half-master class, On Writing is an absolute must-read for any aspiring author that intertwines Stephen King’s early recollections of his struggles as a writer with quality, practical advice.

Stephen King shares glimpses of where his ideas come from, his struggles and successes, childhood anecdotes, and the behind-the-scenes of his writing process.

On Writing is easily one of the best books about the craft of writing there is.

What you will learn: On Writing is essentially a masterclass taught by one of the bestselling authors of all time
Length: 388 pages
Average rating: 4.7/5 out of 650 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

When you struggle with grammar, flow, or writing clearly…

4. Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Steering the Craft - Ursula K. Le Guin - best books for writers

Ursula K. Le Guin

Steering the Craft is a wonderfully straight-to-the-point writing tutorial that will leave you with a bunch of valuable tips and skills, enhanced by exercises for both solo writers and a writers group.

Simple, comprehensive, and incredibly useful, this handbook should be on every aspiring writer’s shelf. From the sound of language, through sentence construction and components of narrative, to point of view, it gives detailed insight into the craft of writing.

What you will learn: The fundamentals of writing in a clear, concise, and simple way
Length: 160 pages
Average rating: 4.7/5 out of 91 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

5. The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment

The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need - Susan Thurman and Larry Shea

Susan Thurman & Larry Shea

Not sure where to put a comma, a dash, or a colon? If you should use this form, or another? How to organize your text so that it’s clear and concise?

Look no further – whether it’s for school papers, a Powerpoint presentation transcript, or a full-fledged fiction novel, this book is really the only grammar book you’ll ever need. It provides guidelines for understanding the parts of speech and elements of a sentence, avoiding most common punctuation and grammar mistakes, writing clearly, and approaching writing projects.

Well-written, to the point and concise, The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need will provide you with the perfect literary foundation.

What you will learn: The most essential grammar and punctuation rules and tips
Length: 192 pages
Average rating: 4.5/5 out of 724 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

When you’d like to self-publish but have no idea how…

6. Successful Self-Publishing: How to self-publish and market your book in ebook and print

Successful Self-Publishing - Joanna Penn - best books for aspiring writers

Joanna Penn

Publishing might be one of the most crucial and often undermined, steps of creating a book. After all, there are hundreds of thousands of new books being released every day – and skillful publishing is what puts your book at the top of the pile.

From editing to marketing, this brilliantly concise read guides you through the entire process of self-publishing. Packed with useful links and tips from Joanna Penn herself, it covers self-publishing in ebook, print, and audiobook formats.

What you will learn: The perfect read for new authors who are just getting started with self-publishing
Length: 118 pages
Average rating: 4.6/5 out of 113 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

7. APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book

APE - Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch - best books for aspiring authors

Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Welch

Internet marketing, cover design, ebook formatting, printing for self-publishers – APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur is one of the most in-depth practical guides to self-publishing there is.

Comprising valuable lessons for both beginner and experienced authors, APE teaches you some of the key strategies and tricks that are guaranteed to make your book launch a success.

What you will learn: A fantastic starting point for self-publishing a book
Length: 410 pages
Average rating: 4.7/5 out of 1,032 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

When you’re a non-fiction writer…

8. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

On Writing Well - William Zinsser - top books for authors

William Zinsser

Both extremely valuable and entertaining, On Writing Well is not just a book about how to write – it is also a prime example of how you should write.

From effective structuring to the power of word choice, this book is particularly valuable to journalists, attorneys, and nonfiction writers. Uniquely comprehensive and written with warmth and humanity, On Writing Well is perhaps one of the best guides to the writer’s craft.

What you will learn: This easy-to-follow guide will teach you about style, methods, leads, and endings crucial to non-fiction writing
Length: 336 pages
Average rating: 4.7/5 out of 821 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

9. The Associated Press Stylebook 2019

The Associated Press Stylebook 2019

The Associated Press

The bible of the newspaper industry, The Associated Press Stylebook is an absolute must-have for every news writer.

It helps you learn the AP’s golden rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, word and numeral usage – and to make navigating even easier, the Stylebook includes a comprehensive index to specialty chapters.

What you will learn: You’ll learn all the key skills of correct formatting and punctuation, from spelling to punctuation
Length: 656 pages
Average rating: 4.8/5 out of 72 ratings

⇢ Print

When you’re looking to polish your story and composition…

10. Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron - best books for aspiring authors

Lisa Cron

Wired for Story is an entirely different take on writing: backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as excerpts from novels, screenplays, and short stories, it examines what keeps the readers transfixed from a cognitive perspective.

Wired for Story delves into the intricate workings of our brains in search of perfect prose that’s capable of holding our interest and offers a revolutionary look at story as the brain experiences it.

What you will learn: How to captivate the readers through each and every plot element
Length: 274 pages
Average rating: 4.6/5 out of 366 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

11. The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style - William Strunk Jr - must-read books for writers

William Strunk Jr.

The Elements of Style has established itself as one of the most iconic guides on the craft of writing – and for a good reason. In a little under a 100 pages, it answers questions on style, grammar, and composition, in a way that is concise and comprehensive.

No matter if your field is business or journalism – this book is guaranteed to improve your writing. Compact, informative, and thorough, The Elements of Style is a handy reference that you can (and should!) consult every time you write.

What you will learn: This is THE book that helps you maximize your writing
Length: 70 pages
Average rating: 4.4/5 out of 692 ratings

⇢ Kindle ⇢ Print

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