12 best books for writing


There you have it—my Christmas classic package of books on writing. Laid out during the 12 days of Christmas. Check the last 11 blog posts to see each one. Happy Little Christmas and enjoy a year of wonderful, delicious writing.





  1. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg 1986
  2. The Right to Write by Julia Cameron 1999
  3. Turning Memories Into Memoir: a Handbook for Writing Lifestories by Denis Ledoux 1993
  4. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King 1999
  5. Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington 1997
  6. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir by William Zinsser 1998
  7. The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins 1994
  8. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose 2007
  9. The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers by Ayn Rand 2000
  10. The Intuitive Writer: Listening to Your Own Voice by Gail Sher 2002
  11. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown & Dave King 2004
  12. Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks 2011

Each of these twelve books is dog-eared, has writing in margins where I have agreed, been confused, had an ‘aha,’ or written a reminder to use with a chapter, or essay or to describe a character. Some of the margin notes just have an explanation point or ‘wow’ when the phrases simply swept me away. The post-its are like a historical markers of my own writing, showing when I used an author’s words in a workshop handout or shared with another writer in a writing support group. These books all claim prime location lodging on my bookshelves. They make up my writing tool kit, used again and again.

Just like the Christmas movies my husband and I watch each holiday season, these books have taught me and are reread for the favorite parts. Calkins, King, and Brooks gave me an organization for my writing. Cameron and Goldberg bolster my confidence when my inner critic rises up and asks, “What makes you think anyone will want to read this?” Sher’s essays remind me I can soar with my words. Prose and Rand lay out a road for the future of my writing.

Taken together, these books increase the depth and breadth of a skill set for successful writing. What are your classics? I’ve got plenty of room in my writing tool kit.