My Top 5 Books on Writing: Improve Your Writing Now

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Do you want to become a better writer? You’re looking for better tools to improve your writing, but with an abundance of books on writing, where do you start? Let me help with my Top 5 books on writing. You may not be a Stephen King fan, but my number one pick is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

There’s lots of good books for writers, but here’s how I respond to a question I’m asked all the time…

I’m frequently asked, “What are the best books on writing?” Whether you want to write children’s books, comic books, novels, essays, mysteries, cook books, inspirational Christian books, self-help books, fiction or non-fiction, it is well worth your time and energy to invest fifty or so bucks for the best writing books. There are many wonderful choices, but reading too many writing books can distract you from the writing life! Good writers read a lot and creative writers are always seeking new ways to improve their writing.

So, if I was stuck on a deserted island and I could only bring five books on writing, here are my top 5 choices that have challenged and helped me in the craft of writing. Filled with practical ideas and laced with interesting stories, these books will inspire you to improve your craft today. These top five books on writing are in order of preference and the sheer pleasure of reading.

  1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
    Filled with hilarious stories and practical advice, this book is a great read even if you’re not a writer! You’ll be amazed by King’s discipline (10 pages a day, every day, for years!). He’s also a voracious reader!
  2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LaMott
    Zany and neurotic, Anne LaMott is also grace-filled and compassionate to the many writers she has taught over the years. This book is filled with practical wisdom for the writer’s life.
  3. Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
    Mainly written for screenwriters, this book by Karl Iglesias has dramatically pushed me as a writer. Especially his “one-page” test. People read books and go to movies to feel! Does every page move the reader to laugh, cry, weep, cringe, scream or sympathize with the main character? Is every page moving the story or reader forward? If not, I suggest you pick up Writing for Emotional Impact. You’ll find Iglesias’ ideas helpful for many kinds of writing.
  4. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
    Simply one of the best books on writing. Period. This books covers many essential writing topics on the principles, forms and methods of writing well. Zinsser is a giant.
  5. The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition by Strunk & White
    Remember Charlotte’s Web? If you’ve never read The Elements of Style, you’re missing a barn full of practical ideas on understanding English grammar and core writing skills. Written by E.B. White and his professor (Strunk), this simple, elegant book is a quick read. A must for every writer’s library.

What are your favorite books on writing? My list is not exhaustive and I’m always looking for new writing books to improve my craft? I’d love to hear your ideas!

You can purchase My Top 5 Books on Writing in the Art, Life & Faith Store.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Karey Fellers Draper

    This is great Joey… I’ve heard of several but not all of these books. Definitely want to get the one by Stephen King.

  • Joey O’Connor

    Hey Karey! Hope you’re doing well in England! On Writing by Stephen King is a very cool, surprising read. I’ve read a number of his books, but when you read this book, you get so much of his life story and the process he goes through with his writing. I found it very helpful…what are you writing these days?

  • Marlayne Giron

    Great blog with useful information. I have 2 of the five!

    • Joey O’Connor

      What 2 writing books do you have? Any other recommendations? Thanks for writing!

  • Sundi Jo

    Thanks for posting this. Had no idea Stephen King had a writing book.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Sundi…yes, it’s an excellent book! I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow…I think I’ll bring it along! I visited your blog. Nice website you have. Very clean.

  • Naomi Williams

    I would definitely like to check out “Writing for Emotinal Impact”. At least from a reader’s perspective, my favorite books have always been the ones that are emmotionally driven. Naturally, I would want my writing to do the same thing. Thanks for the great recommendations Joey!

    • Joey O’Connor

      Hi Naomi,

      I just returned from vacation and completely reread On Writing by Stephen King. It was a great refresher. Karl Iglesia’s book is also a great read, one that I typically reread as I’m working on a new screenply. How goes your writing projects?

  • Allie

    Just reaching for S. King’s On Writing this week because they asked me to teach a writing seminar at work. One of my fave writing books. Also, Bird on Bird. Another is Thirty-six Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti but that’s more for plays and scripts. Also, Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, and a writer’s bible, if you will: The Art & Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall. Will definitely have to check out Writing for Emotional Impact. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the link to your blog, Joey!

    • Joey O’Connor

      Hey Allie! Best wishes on your writing seminar this week! I will include your list of writing books in a Master List as people continue to comment. Writing for Emotional Impact is a great book. I’ll be writing about it in an upcoming post! Blessings to you!

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  • techne

    i’ve always enjoyed john v. hicks’ side glances: notes on the writer’s craft.

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