Sunday, November 11, 2018

Nonfiction November Be the Expert: My List of the Best Books for Writers About Writing

Hooray, Nonfiction November is here! Nonfiction November is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction. Each week, we’ll have a different prompt and a different host looking at different ideas about reading and loving nonfiction.

Week 3 (Nov. 12 to Nov. 16)

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Hosted by Julie at Julz ReadsThree ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I'm an expert on lots of odd genres of nonfiction books.

Books I'd Give to Readers Who Have Never Read...Oh Dear...Nonfiction

I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was five. I wrote it on a Rainbow Tablet. It was a collection of stories. Each story was on a different color of paper.

My friend and I wrote books together when I was in elementary school. We wrote mysteries with a main character named Walter. He was, as I remember him, bumbling. None of our Walter stories have survived, but I remember my friend and I laughing hysterically as we spent entire summer afternoons writing about Walter's adventures.

I've always kept a journal and I have taken writing classes off and on at the community college and through the Inprint Teachers as Writers program for over thirty years.

But the truth is that I'm not so much a writer as I am a reader of books about writing.

In honor of Nonfiction November and NaNoWriMo, here is my list of The Best Books for Writers About Writing:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Art and Fear: Observations of the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor
Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg
If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit
You Must Revise Your Life by William Stafford
Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Writing Mojo by Grant Faulkner
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry
Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are
Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, illustrated by Maira Kalman
by Sol Stein
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

What kinds of nonfiction are you most familiar with?
Are you a writer? Have you read any of these?
Do you have any books to add to my list?


  1. I'm not a writer but here is one which appealed to me. I read much more fiction. I hope links are ok? This is the goodreads link:

    Anne - Books of My Heart

  2. I am not a writer, but I have read Bird by Bird (Lamott), which I thought was very good.

    I love your list with all the links and will bookmark this page for future reference. You are a nonfiction expert and a great resource! Thanks, Deb.

  3. Thanks for sharing those books...and my nonfiction reading leans toward memoirs. Especially written by authors or celebrities. Sometimes I gravitate toward political tomes, especially those that reveal corruption.

    Enjoy your reading, and here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

  4. I don't have certain topics that I like best in non-fiction as long as they are narrative.

  5. This is such a great list! I'd be interested in your Armchair Foodie Travel books, too. :)

  6. What kinds of nonfiction are you most familiar with? Probably books on writing, biographies and memoirs, and some histories of the region I live in, the Caribbean, and some other regions (as I tend to read something of wherever I land). Though I prefer reading fiction (of various places and people), in general.
    Are you a writer? Have you read any of these? I am a writer, yes (my books are The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight: 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure – different genres – adult to children’s fiction; hope you and your readers will check one or more of them out). From your list, I have read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg, and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (I don’t think mine was illustrated though).
    Do you have any books to add to my list? Writing Fiction by Janet Burraway has been my bible and I’m also especially fond of On Writing by Stephen King and Create Dangerously by Edwidge Dandicat. I’ve also found Brian Kitely’s 3 A. M. Epiphany helpful. Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Traveler by Ann Morgan (not a book on writing but a book of the world of writing), Writing down the Vision: Essays and Prophecies by Kei Miller, The Writer on Her Work edited by Janet Sternburg; I’d even add Dispatches from the Edge by Andersoon Cooper (about feature reporting), and In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens and Living by the Word by Alice Walker.

    1. Wow. What a lovely contribution you have made to my post. Now I must be off to take a look for these books.

  7. The most recent non-fiction book I have read was Beneath the Scarlet Sky and I cried during some of it. It was to real for me. Anything about Wars is to read for me. So many people that have died. It is just a tragedy. Have a great week.

    Mary #SundayRoundup #44!

  8. I loved your list of lists. I went through several of them, and I know and love many of the same books you do.

    1. It is always lovely to find someone who loves the same books you do.

  9. Stephen King's On Writing is really good, and I keep wanting to read Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir. I read the Goldberg and Zinsser way back in college for a creative writing course. And now I want to look for the Kalman illustrated edition of the Strunk and White!

  10. Lovely list! The ones I know make me want to read the rest. The Annie Dillard is so good.

    Thinking about your list made me go back to Rollo May's The Courage to Create. He's very good on the psychological aspects. In fact, browsing it, I think I've talked myself into rereading it. Again.

    I also liked for technical questions How Fiction Works by James Wood.

    Good luck with your NaNoWriMo!


I love to hear what you think.