At Write It Great, we know a thing or two about professional writing. In 2022, our ghostwriters wrote half a million words! (This article is about 1,000.) However, quantity is nothing without quality. While we learn a lot by writing every day, we learn just as much by reading...and we read a ton! When it comes to recommending books on writing, we know what we're talking about.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 must-read books on professional writing, as recommended by the pros at Write It Great:
Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft by Stephen King
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Write Useful Books: A Modern Approach to Designing and Refining Recommendable Nonfiction by Rob Fitzpatrick
Stein on Writing: A Master Editor Shares His Craft, Techniques, and Strategies by Sol Stein
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg, PhD
Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
This book is perfect for anyone who wants to improve their writing skills. In Sense of Style, Pinker breaks down the basic principles of modern literary style and provides examples (often humorous) of how to apply practical techniques in your writing. He covers topics such as grammar, punctuation, and word choice, and his advice is always clear and concise. If you're looking for a style guide that will help you take your writing to the next level, Pinker is sure to deliver.
Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark
In the 10th anniversary edition of this essential book on writing, Clark shares 55 tools that every writer needs in their toolkit. Whether you're a seasoned pro or early in your career, you'll find valuable advice on everything from how to choose the right words to how to structure your ideas. This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to hone their craft and become a better writer.
On Writing by Stephen King
On Writing is one part memoir, one part writing guide, and one part masterclass on the art of storytelling. In this slim book (relative to most of King's other works), King shares his journey from his humble beginnings to his eventual success as one of the world's most beloved storytellers. He also provides helpful advice on topics such as plotting, character development, and dealing with rejection. If you're looking for inspiration and practical advice from one of the masters of literary fiction, On Writing is a must-read.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
One of the most daunting parts of writing is the act of writing itself. Writing a book takes a long time, and when we're standing at the starting point, the path forward feels insurmountable. We resist starting so we don't fail to finish. In The War of Art, Pressfield explores the concept of "resistance" and how it affects us as writers (and humans) in our day-to-day lives. He argues that resistance is an invisible force that stands in our way whenever we try to do something creative or meaningful—and that the only way to overcome it is through sheer determination and hard work. If you're struggling to break through your creative barriers, this book will provide motivation, inspiration, and a solid kick in the behind to get you on your way.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
In this classic book on writing, Lamott tackles everything from finding your voice to dealing with rejection. She also shares her journey as a writer, from her early struggles to her eventual success. Her advice is always honest, funny, and down-to-earth, making Bird by Bird an enjoyable read for any aspiring writer.
Write Useful Books by Rob Fitzpatrick
In this punchy book, Fitzpatrick explores what it takes to write a truly useful work of nonfiction. He offers practical advice on topics such as identifying your audience, crafting a compelling argument, and marketing your work. If you're interested in writing nonfiction that's actually useful (and not just another self-help book), then this is the book for you.
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
In Stein on Writing, Sol Stein offers readers a comprehensive guide to everything from grammar rules to story structure. While our writers are first to admit this is a less enjoyable read, the wisdom contained between the covers is undeniably resourceful. Stein covers all the basics (and then some), making this an essential read for any aspiring writer.
Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
In Rest, Pang makes a case for why rest is just as important for writers (and creatives) as work. He explores how rest can improve our productivity, creativity, and overall well-being. If you're struggling with burnout or just looking for ways to be more productive, this book is worth checking out.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
The Hero with a Thousand Faces has been called "the Bible of myth." In it, Campbell explores the common themes that run through all myths and stories—the hero's journey—and how those themes can be applied to our own lives. This book is essential reading for any aspiring writer (or human being) who wants to understand what makes us tick.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD
Nonviolent Communication is not technically a "writing" book, our professional writers insisted this one is required reading. It's essential for any aspiring writer who wants to communicate effectively both on and off the page. In this tender guide, Rosenberg breaks down the basics of nonviolent communication and provides readers with a framework they can use to improve their relationships with others (and themselves). If you want to learn how to communicate more effectively (in life and in your writing), this short read is invaluable.
While there are many other great books out there on the subject, we believe that these 10 are essential reading for any aspiring writer who wants to improve their craft. So what are you waiting for? Pick up one (or all) of these books today and start honing your skills! You'll be glad you did!