The Write Shelf



Here is a list of the books I’ve read on the subject of writing and creativity. Also there are a few books of essays by writers (that touch on craft at times) and a few books on productivity or mindset that are (or could be) helpful to the writing life even if they aren’t specifically written for the creative crowd. Some of them are possibly outdated as I’ve been reading and collecting these sorts of books since the ’80s.

I plan to gradually write a brief review of each one on my shelf. Titles I’ve reviewed will link to that review. But I wanted to make a full list in advance, because what writer doesn’t want to read another book on writing and creativity? It’s the ultimate feel good writing procrastination that actually can serve your craft! But a warning: This can also be a rabbit hole to inaction! I have read all those books in the last 30 odd years but have abandoned my novels because I still succumbed to doubt or avoided my chair.

So I’m going to give you the best advice of all; write and let the writing grow, improve and bring you joy.

The list should probably be alphabetical, or somehow organized, but it’s just in the order I’ve come across them on my shelves. (I’m looking at this page now that I’ve hit publish, and it really does need some sort of organization! I’ll slowly divide the books into categories when I want to feel busy but I’m actually watching Netflix).

Startle and Illuminate – Carol Shields on Writing

Story by Robert McKee

Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

The Notebooks – Interviews and New Fiction from Contemporary Writers edited by Michelle Berry and Natalee Caple

Writing in Flow by Susan K. Perry Ph.D.

Living the Dream, an outline for a life in fiction by Michael Seidman

Novel Voices – 17 award-winning novelists on how to write, edit and get published

The Writer’s Quotation Book – A literary companion

Growing Gills – How to find creative focus when you’re drowning in your daily life by Jessica Abel

Successful Self-publishing by Joanna Penn

The 7 P’s of Publishing Success by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Drive by Daniel Pink

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Morgan and Michael Lennington

Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence by Roz Morris

Productivity for Creative People by Mark McGuinness

Punctuation Without Tears by Dominic Selwood and Delia Johnson

Elements of the Writing Craft by Robert Olmstead

Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers Ph.D.

Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds by Scott Berkun

How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More by Joanna Penn

Verbalize by Damon Suede

1000 Creative writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More by Bryan Cohen

168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam

A Broom of One’s Own – Words on Writing, House cleaning and Life by Nancy Peacock

A Passion for Books by Harold Rabinowitz

The Writer’s Toolbox: Book Marketing, Business and Public Speaking by Joanna Penn

Writing a Novel by Richard Skinner

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

The Van Gogh Blues by Eric Maisel

A Writer’s guide to Persistence by jordan Rosenfeld

Wired For Story by Lisa Cron

Writer For Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success by Kelly James Enger

Robertson Davies – Selected Works on the Art of Writing

Negotiating with the Dead – A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood

The Writer Within – How to discover Your Own Ideas, Get them on Paper and Sell Them for Publication by Lary Bloom

No Excuses – The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy

The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron

Who’s Writing This? Fifty-five Writers on Humor, Courage, Self Loathing, and the Creative Process

Rotten Rejections – a Literary Companion

How to Write and Sell Your First Novel by Oscar Collier with Frances Spatz Leighton

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Long Quiet Highway – Waking Up in America by Natalie Goldberg

If you Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

Beyond Words – the Three Untapped Sources of Creative Fulfillment for Writers by Bonni Goldberg

Writing Life – Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life

Writing Down the Bones – Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Wild Mind – Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg

I’d Rather Be Writing by Marcia Golub

The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

The Productive Writer: Strategies and Systems for Greater Productivity, Profit and Pleasure by Sage Cohen

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Writing Past Dark – Fear Envy and Other Dilemmas in the Writer’s Life by Bonnie Friedman

Inspiration for Writers – A Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead by Ariel Gore

The Writer’s Book of Hope – Getting From Frustration to Publication by Ralph Keyes

The Writing Trade – A Year in the Life by John Jerome

Secrets of a Freelance Writer – How to make $85,000 a Year by Robert W. Bly

Naming the World and other exercises for the creative writer (with ideas from famous writers)

Writer’s and Company – in conversation with CBC Radio’s Eleanor Wachtel

A Writer’s Life – The Margaret Laurence Lectures

My So-Called Freelance Life – How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire by Michelle Goodman

Write Away – One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life by Elizabeth George

Damn, Why didn’t I Write That? How Ordinary People are Raking in $100,000 or more Writing Nonfiction Books & How You Can Too! by Marc McCutcheon

How to Sell More Than 75% of Your Freelance Writing by Gordon Burgett

Your Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

Creating Fiction – Instruction and insights from teachers of the Associated Writing Programs edited by Julie Checkoway

Writing Creative Nonfiction – Instruction and insights from teachers of the Associated Writing Programs edited by carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard

A Passion for Narrative – A Guide for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins

Hooked on Canadian Books by T.F. Rigelhof

Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern

The Big Leap – Take your Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

The Random House Guide to Good Writing – The Essential Handbook for Writers

The Writer’s Mentor – Secrets of success from the World’s Great Writers

Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg

Why I Write – Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction Edited by Will Blythe

Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham

Description and Setting by Ron Rozelle

Coaching the Artist Within by Eric Maisel

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Writer Mama by Christina Katz

One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Finish by Jon Acuff

Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel

The Writer’s Workout – 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach by Christina Katz

Starting Your Career as a Freelance Editor by Mary Embree

Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz

Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

Naked, Drunk and Writing by Adair Lara

Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

The Storytelling Animal – How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

You’ve Got a Book in You by Elizabeth Sims

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty

Language in Thought and Action by S.I. Hayakawa and Alan R. Hayakawa

Still Writing – The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

Walking on Alligators – a Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy

Page After Page by Heather Sellers

Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers

The Grammar Devotional – Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Eats, Shoots & Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

On Writing by Stephen King

Page Fright – Foibles and Fetishes of Famous Writers by Harry Bruce

View from The Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Inside Memory – pages from a writer’s workbook by Timothy Findley

Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau

The Greatest Books You’ll Never Read by Professor Bernard Richards

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley

Lives of Mothers and Daughters – Growing up with Alice Munro by Sheila Munro

First Fiction – an anthology of the first published stories by famous writers

The Red Shoes – Margaret Atwood Starting Out by Rosemary Sullivan

The Life of Margaret Laurence by James King

Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman

Dance on The Earth: a Memoir by Margaret Laurence

Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg

And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft by Mike Sacks

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight

Cup of Comfort for Writers by Colleen Sell

Daily Rituals by Mason Curry

Journal of a Novel – The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck

Real Artists don’t Starve by Jeff Goins

Steinbeck – A life in Letters

Stories about Storytellers by Douglas Gibson

The Travelling Feast – On the road and at the table with my heroes by Rick Bass