Great Reads,  Lists,  Writing

Six To Consider: Writing Books Worth a Look

I’ve always got a stack of things to read, don’t you? My stack’s typically related to my latest interest or project. I’m a nonfiction reader, my current stack a mish-mash of art techniques and inspiration, small business ownership, and the craft of writing. When writing evaded me over the past year, I figured I’d read about writing until my own writing mojo found its way back! And my dear husband, who reads mostly on his iPad or iPhone (BIG screen) feeds my wish to have books near me… Christmas 2014 found a stack of Writing books and Writing magazine subscriptions under the tree…. a welcome diversion in a year that was often silent.

Here are a few that make my short list in an other otherwise long list of Writing resources, some found in the quiet of 2015 and several from years past:

cover of stephen king's on writing: a memoir of the craftFirst up – Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a fascinating read about the man behind the typewriter. The best part is, you don’t have to be a fan of his fiction to get a lot out of this book, though it’s definitely a bonus.  One of hundreds of tips to ponder as you read his book:

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”  

Remember his gruesome accident in 1999, when he was hit by a car while out for a walk? That chance encounter makes a small appearance in this book….


cover of a book, how to write short, by roy peter clarkAnother favorite is one I wrote about [here] in 2014, How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark. In that post, I ask:

How many words was your last blog post or article?  Under 100? 500? 1,000?  Did you get your message across? How do you know? Could you have said it in fewer words without losing its essence? What would have been the benefit of doing so?

Mr. Clark discusses the history of language and communication in this book, with an emphasis on short-form communication, a style that continues to be one of my favorites.  I’ve read a few of his books, even buying a copy for a few friends…. good stuff!


book cover: 140 CharactersThird on my list, 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form, by Dom Sagolla, one of the co-creators of Twitter, is a nod to short-form communication, too, with a pretty cool discussion about the telegraph and Twitter. I originally blogged about this book in 2010 and did a remix in 2014 [here]. Brevity. Practicing.  😉


Next up on my list is a little book with a big message that was actually the second one I read by author, Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!




book cover: A Writer Teaches Writing A newer favorite, A Writer Teaches Writing, Second Edition, by Donald M. Murray, is ironically a much older publication, but a serendipitous discovery while reading Roy Peter Clark’s work. He referenced his ‘good friend Donald M. Murray,’ and in an instant I was taken back to a time I couldn’t remember clearly, but the name tickled my brain. Turns out, the copyright date is 1985, the year I graduated from high school, and the book appears to be a soft-cover textbook, like the ones found in high school and college composition classes … I suspect we crossed paths during my tumultuous high school and early college years – the book and I – it waiting patiently for me to be ‘ready’ to read it… which came 30 years later.

I also suspect I may have read some of his work back then and just don’t remember it specifically.  He summarizes his first chapter titled, Learning to Allow Learning, this way:

Several key assumptions underlie this book:

  1.  Writing is Thinking
  2. Writing is a Process
  3. Effective Teaching is Responsive
  4. Writing is an Interaction of the Global and the Particular
  5. There is No One Way

When I read this book in the past year, I remember thinking, It’s as if I wrote some parts of this book, like he was in my head! Now, I’m no Donald M. Murray, but my teaching/learning/writing philosophies are incredibly similar… Somehow, this man’s writing must have influenced me earlier on… lucky me, indeed.


book cover: A year of writing dangerouslyThe last book is one that arrived in the Christmas 2014 stack, but only recently made its migration from bookshelf to nightstand when I ‘re’discovered it on one of my Amazon Wish Lists and was about to buy the Kindle copy (because I was too impatient for Amazon Prime …overnight or two-day just wouldn’t do!) and realized, ‘Hey! I think I’ve got this book!’ Sure enough, waiting for me to find it when I was ready, A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement, sat quietly on my bookshelf.

Barbara Abercrombie’s compilation of anecdotal stories and quotes from fellow writers is a pleasant read and a joy to share.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are there others you’d recommend? I’m always looking for new titles to replenish that nightstand stack. 😉



  • Carrie Rubin

    I’ve read King’s book and loved it. For more craft-detailed books, I love Larry Brooks’s books. Perfect for my left-brained thinking. I wrote a post about them recently. They’ve really helped guide my structure.

  • paulabroome427

    What a terrific list of writing books. I’ve read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and I agree with you, it should be on every writer’s bookshelf.

    Other books I would recommend? Hmmm. Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” is one that I absolutely enjoyed reading with a great deal of solid advice.

    Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life” is another book that goes a long way to nurture and inspire the successful and/or struggling writer…but perhaps all writers struggle, so I definitely recommend that one!

    Thanks for a great post.

    • RobinLK

      Hi Paul,

      You’re welcome and thank you. I’m glad you like it!

      Yes, I agree about both, “Bird by Bird” and “The Writing Life,” both sitting quietly on my bookshelf (like the others were). I’ve dipped in and out of both over the past few years and enjoyed them. I tend to ‘graze read’ – a benefit of nonfiction reading. I will take your recommendation and get to reading both… thank you!

      By the way, I feel compelled to call you Dr. Broome – all my years in Education, I guess. 🙂

      • paulabroome427

        Well bless your heart. To tell the truth, I’d much rather “Paul.” I visited the campus last summer and in a way it was good to hear “Dr. Broome” ring up and down the halls, but that world has literally faded. I’m in a whole new element now. And I love it.
        Hmmm, I do the same with books on writing. I even have to stage a boycott every now and then just to get away from them. It’s as if all the advice has the opposite effect. It makes me dull…too much wine, sort of thing! Oh, a related thought. I’m re-arranging books and I came across E.M. Forster’s “Aspects of the Novel.” It’s a classic and still amazingly readable. S

        One other thing, sorry. You mentioned “all my years in education.” Were you a teacher?

        • RobinLK

          So Paul it is!

          Yes, I understand the notion of a new element… it’s a place I look forward to in the future – a transition that puts me squarely in all things creative. 🙂 Until then, yes, I’m an educator, in my 22nd year, most of those a teacher-mentor, along with teaching in the middle school, high school and college levels. I serve as an instructional coach now in Career and Technical Education, so I no longer have my own classroom and students, but work with peers and their students daily. My peers are career-changers, coming from industry to teach their craft, with no pedagogical experience, so my time is devoted to helping them learn about instruction and classroom management/organization. It’s a wonderful role! I considered pursuing my Ph.D. after completing my master’s, but decided at this point in my career, it wasn’t really the direction I wanted to go…

          I understand the ‘too much of a good thing’ thought…. I try to balance learning with experimenting, always aware of the process and how I feel in it. Though I write mostly nonfiction, I do appreciate narrative nonfiction, so I’ll check out E.M. Forster’s books. Thank you for the recommendation!

          By the way, the time lapse for my reply is indicative of my crazy schedule in the ‘day gig’ – still very much entrenched in a school schedule, and later than in years past, because it’s postsecondary and late afternoons/evenings/weekends have become part of my norm, making my writing and art so much more important to me – they are my balance!

          That said, today is Presidents’ Day, a non-instructional day, which means I’m knee-deep in writing, painting, and sewing. Have a wonderful day!

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