The Best Books on Writing for 2021

best books on writing

We are always looking for new books on writing for inspiration as we hone the craft. Here we share our favorite books on writing to help you as you learn to express yourself in words. 

Nonfiction writers should read more about how language works to describe the world around us. Learning about language order and grammar rules is a great foundation for creating stories and essays. If you're not writing but often talk about writing as if it were a hobby then books on writing might be a better fit for you.

Fiction and nonfiction writers will find in these same books some insight into how the creative process works. Don't just settle for one “how-to” book. Take notes and use examples from your writing projects to create a notebook that contains your best writing ideas. You'll realize that the best way to become a better writer is to think through your stories and essays first using creative exercises and then revise them based on what you learn from these projects. So, let's get started. Here are some books on writing suggestions we hope you'll find interesting.

FTC Disclosure: Bad Grammarian may receive compensation, with no added cost to you, from the products we showcase. 

In order to become a better writer you must read:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction” by William Zinsser

Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts, or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sold, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. 

Elements of Style, by William Strunk, is a stable cornerstone on which to build your writing skills. Written in the storied hallways of Cornell University, the guide has been read and examined by thousands of eager eyes. Elements of Style has grown to become the American English writing style guide often required in U.S. high school and university composition classes.

The Chicago Manual of Style

This edition continues to reflect expert insights gathered from Chicago’s own staff and from an advisory board of publishing experts from across the profession. It also includes suggestions inspired by emails, calls, and even tweets from readers. No matter how much the means of communication change, The Chicago Manual of Style remains the ultimate resource for those who care about getting the details right.

The Associated Press Stylebook

The AP Stylebook will help you master the AP's rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, word and numeral usage, and when to use “more than” instead of “over.” To make navigating these specialty chapters even easier, the Stylebook includes a comprehensive index.

Storycraft, Second Edition: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction” by Jack Hart

Since its publication in 2011, his book Storycraft has become the definitive guide to crafting narrative nonfiction. In this new edition, Hart has expanded the book’s range to delve into podcasting and has incorporated new insights from recent research into storytelling and the brain. He has also added dozens of new examples that illustrate effective narrative nonfiction.

Writing Fiction, Tenth Edition: A Guide to Narrative Craft” by Janet Burroway

A creative writer’s shelf should hold at least three essential books: a dictionary, a style guide, and Writing Fiction. Janet Burroway’s best-selling classic is the most widely used creative writing text in America, and for more than three decades it has helped hundreds of thousands of students learn the craft. This book is a master class in creative writing that also calls on us to renew our love of storytelling and celebrate the skill of writing well.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression” by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman

The bestselling Emotion Thesaurus is often hailed as “the gold standard for writers” and credited with transforming how writers craft emotion.

One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters’ feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding and frowning too much. If you need inspiration for creating characters’ emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don’t-tell guide for emotion can help.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)” by Lisa Cron

In Story Genius, Lisa Cron takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of a novel from the first glimmer of an idea, to a complete multilayered blueprint—including fully realized scenes—that evolves into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a riveting sixth or seventh draft.

Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer” by Roy Peter Clark

Writing Tools has become a classic guidebook for novices and experts alike and remains one of the best-loved books on writing available. Organized into four sections, “Nuts and Bolts,” “Special Effects,” “Blueprints for Stories,” and “Useful Habits,” Writing Tools is infused with more than 200 examples from journalism and literature. This new edition includes five brand new, never-before-shared tools.

The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment” by Susan Thurman

This book is the ideal resource for everyone who wants to produce writing that is clear, concise, and grammatically excellent. Whether you're creating perfect professional documents, spectacular school papers, or effective personal letters, you'll find this handbook indispensable.

The Birds and Bees of Words: A Guide to the Most Common Errors in Usage, Spelling, and Grammar” by Mary Embree

More than 1,000 words are featured on the book’s list of new and inventive words; nearly 30,000 more words are discussed in sections including a look at word roots and how they are used in modern language; a list of words that are commonly misspelled or misunderstood; and a style guide to usage rules and how and why they can be broken. Anyone who is intrigued by language, who is fascinated by words, or who simply wants to use our language clearly and effectively will enjoy The Birds and Bees of Words.

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

Written with the wit, warmth, and accessibility that the podcasts are known for, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing covers the grammar rules and word-choice guidelines that can confound even the best writers.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work. One of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Nonfiction books of all time. 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott

An essential volume for generations of writers young and old, Bird by Bird is a modern classic. This twenty-fifth-anniversary edition will continue to spark creative minds for years to come. More than a million readers—scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities—have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice.

Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark” by Cecelia Watson

Through her rollicking biography of the semicolon, Cecelia Watson writes a guide to grammar that explains why we don’t need guides at all and refocuses our attention on the deepest, most primary value of language: true communication.

Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life after Which Everything Was Different” by Chuck Palahniuk

In this spellbinding blend of memoir and insight, bestselling author Chuck Palahniuk shares stories and generous advice on what makes writing powerful and what makes for powerful writing.

With advice grounded in years of careful study and a keenly observed life, Palahniuk combines practical advice and concrete examples from beloved classics, his own books, and a “kitchen-table MFA” culled from an evolving circle of beloved authors and artists, with anecdotes, postcards from the road, and much more.

Working” by Robert Caro

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson: an unprecedented gathering of vivid, candid, deeply moving recollections about his experiences researching and writing his acclaimed books.

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book” by Courtney Maum

There are countless books on the market about how to write better but very few books on how to break into the marketplace with your first book. Cutting through the noise (and very mixed advice) online, while both dispelling rumors and remaining positive, Courtney Maum's Before and After the Book Deal is a one–of–a–kind resource that can help you get your book published.

How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time” by Nina Amir

This book is a completely updated guide to writing and publishing a saleable book based on a blog. Expert author and blogger Nina Amir guides you through the process of developing targeted blog content that increases your chances of attracting a publisher and maximizing your visibility and authority as an author.

What is your favorite book on writing? Tell us in the comments below.

Take a look at our favorite books on Public Speaking.

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