I’ve been a writer for over a decade, but I still love, love, love reading about writing. My favorite kind of writing books are less about how-to and more about beautifully written stories that honestly describe the heartbreaks and soul-satisfactions that come with living a creative life.
The titles I’m sharing below are just a handful of the books I return to whenever I feel daunted by a new project or I need to remember why I do what I do.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
“Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.”
As “Dear Sugar” (an anonymous advice columnist for the Rumpus, an online magazine), Strayed dispensed deeply empathetic, expletive-laced, and moving advice about love, creativity, and life itself. This collection of some of her most poignant responses to advice seekers’ letters is worth returning to again and again.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
Relying on research and her own experience, Gilbert delivers generous advice and plenty of information in this inspiring work of nonfiction.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”
Woolf’s classic feminist essay about women’s literal and figurative space in the literary world holds new riches with every rereading.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
“Then I went back to writing and I entered far into the story and was lost in it.”
Published posthumously, this collection reveals as much about Hemingway’s incredible capacities and talent as it does about his life in 1920s Paris.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
“I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t.”
Writing and running are both solitary pursuits, and Murakami describes them so well that he helps readers feel how, for him, the two are inextricably intertwined.
The Left Handed Story: Writing & the Writing Life by Nancy Willard
“You are not writing from what you know. You are writing from more than you know.”
I was lucky enough to study with Nancy Willard when I was an undergraduate at Vassar College. I love this collection because it evokes the same feelings of awe, wonder, and possibility that Professor Willard created in her classroom.