The 7.5 Best Books to Become a Great Writer

What are the best books on writing?

There are three things that make a book a must-read for authors:

  1. The advice must be timeless, like how to craft a good story
  2. Or the ideas must be hyper-relevant, like how to sell books through specific platforms
  3. Last, the best writing books will grow your mindset, like how to fall in love with the process of writing

Every book on this list contains at least two of these elements, and each one has fundamentally changed my writing life for the better.

Whether you’re scared to start, aspiring to grow, or trying to become a master of your craft… these are the best 7.5 books for anyone who wants to become a truly great writer.

And yes, I’ll explain that “.5” at the end. Let’s dive in:

#1 - On Writing by Stephen King

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

“...you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” 

Who Should Read This?

Every writer out there. Even if you’ve never read anything by Stephen King.

This book will show you what a writer’s life is really like - and how to make yours fit you better.

Why Should You Read This?

King covers everything about the writer’s process, setting healthy expectations, all with a dash of fantastically dry advice made to inspire new writers… and to discourage those who are in it for the wrong reasons. 

He will talk to you about:

  • How much should you write?
  • How do you get more writing done?
  • What kinds of stories should you be writing?
  • How do you deal with failure and criticism? 
  • How do you improve and edit your writing? 

He also gives a hefty dose of hard-earned life advice, in the salty way that only Stephen King can. Mostly, that means how to keep your sanity while writing - because it is both a miraculous and a lonely practice.

Buy “On Writing” on Amazon

#2 - Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.” 

Who Should Read This?

Bird by Bird is wonderful for writers who suffer from perfectionism, but I recommend it to anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a writer. 

Especially if you’re looking for inspiration.

Why Should You Read This?

If On Writing is the perfect introduction for writers, then this should be the main textbook of the craft. 

Stuck? Too “perfectionist” to move forward?

Bird by Bird is a step-by-step guide to become an author, and to building your writing life. 

Lamott talks about growing a healthy creative process that fuels your passion - instead of draining it. Once you read through this book, you’ll have a much easier time battling with your inner editor, and you’ll find a way to enter that blissful state where the words just flow.

She also delves into plot, dialogue, and the core reasons why we read, which is critical for figuring out how to write words that people actually want to read

Every time I read a chapter, my thoughts would hum and my fingers would burn with the urge to go write. I am halfway convinced this is not actually guide to writing, but a magic spellbook filled with inspiration. 

Get “Bird by Bird” on Amazon

#3 - The Dip by Seth Godin

I’ve never seen this on anyone else’s “Best Books for Writers” list, and it drives me wild, because The Dip is all about the scariest question every single writer will ever face: 

How do you know when to quit, and how do you know when to keep going?

Here’s a quote: 

“A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.” 

Who Should Read This?

  • People who think they are “too busy” to write
  • Writers who can’t seem to FINISH a writing project
  • Authors who feel like they are losing their passion for their work

If you have shiny object syndrome, and you can’t stop jumping to “the next great writing idea,” this book is a must-read for you.

Why Should You Read This?

The hardest part about writing, and the best part about writing, are the same thing.

Putting words on the page is a struggle, and it will always be a struggle. 

But if you feel like you’re lost at sea where the stars are hidden by clouds and the crashing waves are as tall as mountains, please read this book.

If you’re about to start a new big project, please read this book. 

It’s short and sweet; The Dip will only take you a few hours to get through. But every word is important, and Godin’s writing style is both soothing and stark at the same time. So easy to get lost in. 

This book will teach you how to:

  • Narrow your focus
  • Embrace the struggle of writing
  • And become the boss of the things that actually matter to you

Get “The Dip” on Amazon

#4 - Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

Who Should Read This?

New writers and writers who want fresh inspiration for dealing with writer’s block.

If you’re a new writer, I highly recommend reading this right after you read Stephen King’s On Writing.

Why Should You Read This?

This book is two things:

  • A love letter to all writing
  • A practical guidebook for new writers

It can get a little preachy at time… but that’s only because the author is so passionate about the practice of writing (and not the fool’s gold of “becoming a famous author”).

Writing Down the Bones is an excellent first read for new writers, and for anyone seeking an invigorating dose of inspiration. 

In a word, this book is infectious.

Get “Writing Down the Bones” on Amazon

#5 - Deep Work by Cal Newport

“Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.”

Who Should Read This?

Writers who want to write more, faster, and actually get projects finished. Especially if you find yourself getting distracted.

If you want to become an ultra-productive writer, and to see lots of your books get published, read this book next.

Why Should You Read This?

I am not exaggerating when I say, this book will give you superpowers. 

Thanks to ever-present technology, our culture is riddled with people seeking instant gratification.

For a writer, instant gratification is a death trap

The good news: you can avoid it. And then, you can start becoming more productive than everyone else. 

Deep Work outlines a method of distraction-free work will let you create the best writing you’ve ever done. The kind of writing that makes people stop, and focus, and feel... 

Read this, and you will get more done, your ideas will flow more easily, and you will start to smash through your writing goals

I cannot overstate the value of this book.

Get “Deep Work” on Amazon

#6 - 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

“If you want to write faster, the first step is to know what you're writing before you write it.” 

Also, I love this one: “I'm not a temperamental artist enslaved to the whims of her muse.”

Who Should Read This?

Authors who want to write more and, paradoxically, write better. 

2,000 to 10,000 is an intermediate-level writing book, because you really need to understand the general concepts of storytelling before reaching these break-neck writing speeds.

Why Should You Read This?

Thanks to ebooks, the internet, and mega-gargantuan book distributors, the writing world has changed for good.

To grow an audience as a writer, you need to write. The more high-quality prose you can craft, the better your chances of reaching your wildest writing dreams.

This is the most practical guide for boosting your word counts. Personally, I use the ideas in this book every single time I sit down to write. I’m nowhere near 10,000 words a day, and I probably never will be, but I doubled my writing output after reading this book, and then some.

It only took a couple weeks of practice, and surprisingly, the quality of my prose didn’t decrease. Instead, it’s been getting so much better because I’m writing more, learning more, and practicing more. 

That’s because this book isn’t just about “writing faster.” It’s about falling in love with what you write, so that you can’t bear to write it any slower. And that’s a huge distinction. 

If you’ve ever said “I wish I could write more,” do yourself a favor and read this book next.

Get “2,000 to 10,000” on Amazon

#7 - The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Who Should Read This?

All creators of all content, and all art. 

If you struggle to START writing, if you struggle to actually put words on the page, this is the best book on writing for you.

Why Should You Read This?

This book is off-beat, a bit aggressive, and militantly inspiring. 

The problem with most inspiring books on writing is when you finish them, the inspiration evaporates.

Not here. 

For me, getting started is the hardest part of writing, and until I read this book, I had no idea why. The answer? 

A vague but too-real concept the author dubs “resistance.” Everyone feels it. Everyone struggles with doubt, with questions, and with the fear of wading into the unknown. 

This book did NOT fix my problem, but it did shine a stadium-sized beacon on it, and it gave me a set of incredible tools to fight back.

Since I read this book, putting words on the page has never been easier. 

At the very least, read the first chapter, because it gets to the heart of the book. 

Get "The War of Art" on Amazon

#7.5 - Your Favorite Novel of All Time

Do you remember that book you read when you were young?

The one that sparked something inside you…

The book that made you say, “I NEED more books like this.” 

…the book that made you want to become a writer in the first place. Go read it again.

The best book on writing is your all-time favorite book, the one you would rate 11/10, if you could. Of course, I can only give it half a point because you’ve already read it…

…but that’s not enough. Go read it again. I’m giving you permission to quit whatever mediocre book you’re reading right now, and dig through your old library, and find the book that first ignited your writing spark. 

Because nothing is better fuel for a writer than the perfect book written for the perfect reader: you.

It’s time to fall in love all over again...

Conclusion

I’ve read each one of these books. Some I’ve read multiple times, because they're so useful. The inspiration and ideas in these pages are what make these books the best education for writers.

Each one changed my approach to writing for good.

I hope that you will read these 7 (and a half) books too, because I guarantee they will fundamentally improve your craft.

Of course, this list isn't exhaustive. Here's a few more great books for writers that I didn't have time to talk about:

Honorable Mentions

  • The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman: a detailed, financial look at what it means to be a professional writer.
  • Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn: a fantastic overview of the best publishing options for indie authors today. 
  • Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin: a gorgeous guidebook for the more nuanced and technical aspects of writing prose. This is very ground-level advice from one of the best Science Fiction authors.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White: If you want to improve the clarity of your language, this is your book. It’s a classic for a reason.
  • Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman: Feel like there’s never enough time? This book will change your mind, and help you grow the tools to create a more meaningful life.

One comment on “The 7.5 Best Books to Become a Great Writer”

  1. Hi there! Hope you enjoyed this post on the best books for writers.

    A few questions for you:

    What books made you fall in love with writing?

    And what did you think of these books?

    Did I miss any of your favorites?

    Lend me your thoughts in the comments below!

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P. S. Hoffman
About P. S. Hoffman
P. S. Hoffman writes Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is obsessed with all things futuristic, primarily Artificial Intelligence and the transformation of societies. Here, he shows others how to sharpen their fiction-writing skills by dissecting the techniques used by the world's best authors.

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