What are the most helpful books about writing and publishing?
The most popular pages on this website, in terms of sheer volume of visitors, are those in my guide to getting a book published. (They account for the site’s top eight pages by volume; my rendering of the Daode jing comes in at no. 9.) Compared to this blog, the guide is more oriented to people without a lot of experience in publishing. For them — but for others as well — I would like to offer some suggestions for further reading. I’ve begun a page — hosted by Powell’s Books — of books for writers that can be recommended in good conscience. (Disclosure: as a Powell’s affiliate, I get, in theory, a small percentage on sales generated through this site.)
The list focuses on the kind of extended prose writing that is the main commodity of publishing, so I haven’t included books about translation or poetry, although I would be interested in hearing what people would recommend. I have also left off a few often-recommended titles that seem to me overrated, as well as books I haven’t read. In the latter category, some possibilities include the John Gardner books, On Becoming a Novelist and Art of Fiction; Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life; Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Winning the Creative Battle; William Stafford’s books on poetry; and Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town. Can anyone vouch for these?
So far I’ve listed the following (in no special order):
- Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Bringhurst
- Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, by Erich Auerbach
- Six Memos for the Next Millennium, by Italo Calvino
- ABC of Reading, by Ezra Pound
- The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers by University of Chicago Press
- Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
- The First Five Pages : a Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah T. Lukeman
- Steering the Craft : Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator Or the Mutinous Crew, by Ursula K. Le Guin
But that’s just a start, and I’m sure there are many excellent books that I’m forgetting that should be on the list. So, when it comes to the craft of writing and the art and business of publishing, which books would you nominate? What are your favorites?