Writers are readers. Reading the work of great writers helps us form mental models of great writing. Rule-based books, like style guides, help us avoid horrid blunders.
Then, there’s another group of books writers like. They’re books about the craft. They mix suggestions and how-to’s with inspiration. The books below are about the craft of writing. Give them as gifts to the writers in your life. If you’re a writer, give one or more to yourself.
One Book Every Writer Should Have
William Zinsser was the writing coach all the rest of us want to grow up to be. If you have nothing else on your bookshelf about the craft of writing, pick up a copy of, On Writing Well. If the writer you’re buying for doesn’t have this book, be sure to remedy the lack.
Help with Any Kind of Writing
We’re always trying to write better. We want to be persuasive. We want readers to remember what we write. That’s true whether we’re writing a blog post or copy for a web page or a novel or a business book.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip and Dan Heath, can help. It’s excellent. They give you six ways to judge any piece of writing and make it better. I review my notes from this book regularly.
Writing a Better Book
Stephen King is one of the most wildly successful writers of my generation. In addition to a clutch of great novels, he has also written On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft.
King mixes solid writing advice with the details of his own story. It will help any writer, but it’s especially good for writers doing book-length work.
Writing Feature Articles
For years, William E. Blundell wrote the front-page column for The Wall Street Journal. It’s been more than a quarter of a century since he turned his seminars on writing feature articles into the book, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing. My copy is from 1988 and I still refer to it. You won’t find anything about the internet or email, but you will find a lot of great advice about how to tell fact-based stories.
Writing Slogans and Stuff Like That
Sam Horn is a great writer, and she is the absolute master of the short slogan. Sam puts that strength on display and demonstrates how you can do it too in her book POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd.
POP! stands for purposeful, original, and pithy. This book will help you or the writer in your life craft slogans, headlines, and memorable prose.
A Personal Favorite
Here’s one more recommendation. This book is Khrushchev’s Shoe. The subtitle is “And Other Ways to Captivate an Audience of 1 to 1,000.”
You may not be old enough to remember Nikita Khrushchev or his alleged shoe-banging incident at the United Nations. That’s okay. Roy Underhill took what he learned speaking to large and small audiences. He mixed it with psychological research on communication so you get the best of both. I love this book. I think you or the writer in your life will love it, too.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Art and Craft of Feature Writing by William E. Blundell
POP!: Stand Out in Any Crowd by Sam Horn
Khrushchev’s Shoe: and Other Ways to Captivate an Audience of 1 to 1,000 by Roy Underhill
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