Reading Material for Writers

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As promised, I’m back with further gift ideas for the writers in your life, with a focus on buying them things to read. You may, of course, choose to simply provide your special writer with an enormous gift card to the book retailer of your choice, and no doubt that will make them very happy. However, if you want to be a bit more specific and personal, here are a few recommendations to check out.

Certain writing-related books get named quite frequently. They are wonderful classics, and deserve to be mentioned, but you should also keep in mind that many writers already have dogeared copies of these babies. But for the sake of thoroughness, I’ll run through them:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott — General writing advice mixed with personal history/anecdotes.

On Writing by Stephen King — Part memoir, part excellent writing advice.

Story by Robert McKee — On story structure, focusing primarily on screenwriting, but applicable to all fiction.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass — Advice on taking your writing to the next level.

These barely scrape the surface, of course, as books about writing seem almost as abundant as books in general some days. However, they are some of the most popular, and for good reason.

I also like to recommend the following writing-related books. Some are also well known, others less so, but I find they each offer good tips and inspiration.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose — Thoughtful analysis on the reading process and how writers can learn from the works they read.

The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante — A step-by-step guide focusing on short fiction, but applicable to all storytelling craft.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks — Another way of looking at story structure.

The Write-Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer — A huge collection of writing exercises to help get the words flowing.

The Elements of Style Illustrated by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White — The classic style guide, updated with fun illustrations.

Beyond books, subscriptions make great gifts for writers. They’re the gift that keeps giving all year long, plus in some cases they help the writer get a fix on what a certain publication is looking for so that they can in turn submit their own efforts. Here’s an assortment of both informational and entertaining periodicals for the various writers on your shopping list.

The Writer — A magazine filled with advice, interviews, and other information pertaining to the writing life.

Poets &¬†Writers — A bi-monthly magazine focused on more literary writing, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with an excellent list of upcoming contest deadlines, grants, etc., and annual issues dealing with MFA programs, writers’ retreats, and so on.

Publishers Weekly — The industry magazine for publishing. Much more business oriented than writing oriented.

Top 50 Literary Magazines – One site’s list of top literary magazines with links to each one. An easy reference to some of the most popular magazines currently published.

Asimov’s Science Fiction — Magazine for short science fiction, reviews, etc.

Apex – A magazine for science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine — Publishes short crime and mystery fiction.

There are many, many additional publications available, especially if you are shopping for a reader open to digital subscriptions, as some online publications do not issue print copies. For writers who love their e-readers, another option is a subscription reading service such as Oyster or Scribd, which allows unlimited access to their library of books for a monthly charge. Be sure you know what type of e-reader the person has before making digital purchases, as some services are not compatible with older models.

Wishing you all happy shopping, and some great reading of your own!

4 thoughts on “Reading Material for Writers

  1. I really love Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING: THE PLEASURES AND PERILS OF A CREATIVE LIFE. It’s right up there with ON WRITING and BIRD BY BIRD for me.

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