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6 Books Every Writer Should Have on His/Her Bookshelf

Writers know that to write, you need to read, read, read. Not only is it helpful to read in your own genre, but to also get outside of it and read other genres and styles. Read about writing and read good writing.

Any of the following books will boost your writing…but don’t just put them on your shelves – take them down and read them!

Stephen King’s On Writing 

Not just a good read for the fiction writer, this book will inspire anyone with an aspiration to write. Written as a memoir as well as a writing tool, King gives us his personal story, complete with his struggles, along with excellent writing advice that anyone can put to use.

Chip Heath & Dan Heath’s Made to Stick, Why some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Kind of like going back to the basics, the Heath brothers remind writers to say it simply and say it strong. This easy-to-read book focuses on grabbing the reader, keeping his attention, and getting your ideas to stick.

Full of great advice and witty examples, this book on communication will benefit anyone interested in writing for any kind of audience.

Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style

This classic style guide’s longevity has survived for a reason – it’s valuable. Though writing styles do change through the years, this is a book that should sit proudly on every writer’s shelf. Many writers used it as a textbook and/or bible in writing classes, and it can still guide any of us along today as a guide to English style and correct usage.

William Zinsser’s On Writing Well

This is another great resource that will guide any writer – from student, to professional, to all in between – through the many aspects of the writing world, from finding a voice to fine tuning rewrites. Required in many writing classes, it is one to hold on to. If you’ve never had to have it, it’s a great add-on to that shelf.

Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life

To see the importance of reading on writing, this book should have a place on your shelf. Conroy recounts his youth and the love of reading that inspired him to be the writer he is, and it will in turn inspire anyone to be a better writer (and reader).

Lynn Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Truss, an English journalist, shows us the importance of correct and proper punctuation through the use of witty examples that not only get her point across, but will stick with you long after you’ve put the back on your shelf.  She is a strong advocate of correct punctuation and grammar, despite the current take on ‘less is more’.

A Book (or Two…) by Your Favorite Writer 

Whether it is by J.K. Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Grisham, Ernest Hemingway, or Charles Dickens, hold on to your favorite novels – the ones you can crack open at any time and reread your favorite passages, the ones you know by heart and hold dear like a good friend. These are the ones that will inspire you to write and to write your best.

Keep your shelves well stocked with good books – those that are about writing, those that are well written, those written to teach, and those written to elicit response.

Think of your shelf like your mind’s refrigerator: Stock it well and you will always be well fed.

Heather Legg is a freelance writer who keeps her bookshelves well stocked…a little too well stocked. She writes on a variety of topics from owning your own business to her dog to internet reputation topics for

Category: book reviews

14 Comments on "6 Books Every Writer Should Have on His/Her Bookshelf"

  1. Hi Heather —

    I just recently read ‘On Writing’ after it was recommended to me by Jon Morrow, and it is terrific.

    The glaring omission here to me is ‘Bird by Bird’ by Annie Lamott. Also just a terrific guide to navigating the terrors and overcoming to get it on the page.

    • Second the recommendation for “Bird by Bird.” It’s mostly geared towards fiction writers, but I still found it to be tremendously helpful.

      Also, if you find “The Elements of Style” to be too dry, there’s a parody version called “The Elements of F***ing Style” that’s way more fun to read 🙂

      Thanks for the great list, Oni!

    • Tim Huntley says:

      I read King’s book and loved it. I wouldn’t have guessed he would have such a sense of humor and be so “normal.”

      Also loved “Bird by Bird.”

      An additional recommendation is “The New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Non-Fiction Writers on their Craft.”


  2. Mike Manciel says:


    Great stuff. I have realized the best way to gain new ideas is to consume the thoughts of other great writers. I have become very big on reading as much material as needed to maintain a high level of inspiration daily. Keep up the good work. Mike

  3. Kingsley Agu says:

    Heather – nice piece. I’ve been hearing a lot about Steven king lately,I guess it’s high time I gave his books some green light.

    Thanks for this article Heather.

  4. I should add I recently had Ben Yagoda on my podcast — his new book is “How to Not Write Bad” — highly recommended for all your readers, especially those who are writing in English as a second language.

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Carol! I’ll definitely be checking that out 🙂

  5. Pratik says:

    I love reading books and my shelf is full of books. I usually find blog like this to know what others recommend, it helps to know about books which i haven’t read. Thanks for such blogs

  6. Gagan says:

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for putting such a great list . I am new to blogging and will definitely check out these books to improve my writing skills.

    Could you please also suggest some free kindle books in your next posts . It will be a great help. Btw, I have already downloaded the Barmidele Writer’s handbook and learning from it.


  7. Gaurang Joshi says:

    Well I am not much into reading books. But will definitely try some of the above recommended stuffs. Esp “Stephen King’s On Writing ” coz I’ve heard about this book a lot.

    BTW thanks for the recommendations.

  8. Lakhyajyoti says:

    Great list of books. I have read most of the books you have mentioned in your post. Thanks for the share.

  9. A good list, but don’t forget about the genius of George Orwell. He came up with a very handy list of useful tips such as not using big words when smaller versions will do, don’t lapse into French terms to look smart/classy, and if it’s posssible to cut a word out do so. I’ve included a link below for everyone to check out his rules in detail. He was an amazing writer – really he should have won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s a shame he wasn’t up for it.

  10. Roger says:

    I have read “On Writing” by Stephen King. It is a must-read book for all writers. Apart from that, I am really looking forward to read “My Reading Life”. It seems to be very interesting book. Thanks for the list!

  11. Heather says:

    Thank you all for the great feedback and additional books to read!! Keep reading and writing! – Heather


Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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