Lit Bit: A Short Reading List for Writers

In my years of writing, I’ve run into a lot of books on the topic of writing, how to improve, how to structure your writing, on the nuts and bolts of the craft.  Not all of them have been useful.  In fact, most of them have been awful.  But people like giving advice.

There have been a few I’ve read that have been of great use to me.  My copies are battered and finger smudged from use.  Now, I don’t claim to be a diva of taste, nor the end-all, be-all of literary know how, but for those of you who hare a passion for writing, I wanted to share the three books which have helped me more than anything else to improve my deeply and understand it more deeply.

On writing in general, I have found Natalie Goldberg‘s Writing Down the Bones to be one of the best books I’ve read on the topic.  Goldberg is personal, honest, and engaging.  Most of all, she is human, and her words about words have given me direction when I didn’t yet know how to pull in and focus.

On the narrative art, the writing of prose, Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Steering the Craft has been one of the best collections of exercises meant to hone the techniques of writing, and bring together all the possibilities of written and spoken language.  Le Guin is a true master, and her well-balanced sentences have long held me captivated, begging me to read them aloud.  Her sense of play is apparent throughout the book.  For anyone who wants to better their prose, this book is invaluable.

For poetry, I hold a text book, of all things, in highest regard.  Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry, by John Frederick Nims and David Mason, which ought to be subtitled “The Mechanic’s Guide to Poetry,” is one of the clearest most concise books on the subject.  It’s a delicious read, filled with practicality, and its breadth of covered technique satisfying.

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