Books! Books! And more books! - Writer's Digest

Books! Books! And more books!

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-One of my overflowing bookcases-

I am obsessed with books. What writer isn’t? It’s a problem actually—the piles of books beside the nightstand, under the coffee table, all over the kitchen table. And then there are the three overflowing bookcases. My mother actually gave my husband and me a huge bookcase last year for Christmas—I still wonder where we’d put all those books beforehand? Now, the thing is stuffed and it seems we need yet another one. And the thing is—I am still asking for more books. Please! More! But there are so many you haven’t yet read, my husband says. More! I don’t care! I think it’s my only true obsession.

Here are some of my favorite books I’ve received in case you need some very last minute holiday gift ideas for the writer in your life... or well, if you want to add a book to your own list last minute.


  1. The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction. Love this chunky little book. It’s full of quotes and interviews and writing advice and it’s broken up into sections like Point of View, Theme, Dialogue. I love skimming specific sections when I’m stuck, have a craft issue, or just generally need a burst of inspiration.
  2. Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers. This book contains 23 conversations between “much admired writers and the writers they admire.” Tons of insights from writers like George Saunders, Tobias Wolff, and Jamaica Kincaid. I love reading interviews and these are even better—they’re more like eavesdropping on a personal writerly chat.
  3. The Elements of Style. My husband gave me this book last year. I love my red hardback version and its funky illustrations. Bonus: It looks good on the coffee table!
  4. Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market. It’s more about the business side of writing; it contains listings for publishers, magazines, literary agents, etc. Every writer ready to pursue publication should have the most recent one, I swear. There are also great interviews with writers and editors at the beginning of the book—a peek into the process of publication.
  5. The Artist’s Way. Oh my. I was gifted this years ago by a friend in college. My first real “writer inspiration” book. It’s really a creative and spiritual “course” (the book is broken up into a 12 week program) complete with exercises to help discover what type of artist you are, what roadblocks you may face, and ways to trudge on and through. It’s mind opening. I love both The Right to Write and The Sounds of Paper, too (also by Cameron). Both books are made up of inspiring personal essays combined with practical writing advice, prompts, and exercises.
  6. How I Write The Secret Lives of Authors. This was a gift I bought myself. It’s another great coffee table book, a hefty one filled with quotes by famous authors about how they write. There are some beautiful images in it, too. Rick Moody, Nicole Krauss, Melissa Bank and many other writers talk about their rituals, where they write, when they write, and more.
  7. Not really a book—but I always love receiving subscriptions to literary magazines. Some of my favorites are One Story, McSweeneys, and Tin House. A great gift that gives all year!

Obviously this list is mostly made up of non-fiction suggestions, but as a fiction writer I always believe that one of the best gifts one can give or receive is a copy of a favorite novel with a handwritten note inside. Those are the gifts I treasure most. And you always have them to look back on and reread. In fact, my brother John (my “man of honor”) walked down the aisle at my wedding with a copy of my late grandfather’s Wuthering Heights tucked under his arm. One of my most valued possessions!

Hope you give and get some wonderful books this holiday season. Read on!

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."

-Charles W. Eliot

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