Creating the Essential Writer’s Library

What are the books that you, as a writer, cannot live without?

I asked myself that recently while trying to downsize my book collection.  I took a look at the books I was using on a regular basis, and came up with this list of the essentials. Obviously, this list will vary depending on your writing goals.

Reference Books

Every writer should have a selection of reference books. I love my ancient, worn-out dictionary and thesaurus, but for many writers, their word-processing program does the job just fine. I also prefer to keep on hand a couple of old-fashioned reference books like a book of maps, a literature anthology, and The Joy of Cooking. For me, these have a certain authenticity you can’t get with Wikipedia.

The Fab Five

As far as I’m concerned, every writer worth their salt should have the following in their library:

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

On Writing by Stephen King

Page after Page by Heather Sellers

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty

Writer’s Memoirs

In addition to reading about the craft of writing, I think it’s important to read about writers’ lives.  Some of my favorite memoirs are those by Natalie Goldberg, Amy Tan, and Faulkner Fox.


Sometimes I don’t need advice on craft, I just need a little shot in the arm. For inspiration, two of my favorites borrow their wisdom from the East.

Dojo Wisdom for Writers: 100 Simple Ways to Become a More Inspired, Successful and Fearless Writer by Jennifer Lawler

Wabi Sabi For Writers: Find Inspiration. Respect Imperfection. Create Peerless Beauty by Richard Powell

I love the concept of wabi sabi, a Japanese philosophy that means “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” It’s how I view my writer’s library, always evolving and changing, and always in need of a new book.

Let me know what I’m missing!

2 thoughts on “Creating the Essential Writer’s Library

  1. The most important section for me, I think, is Aspirations. I have an ever-growing collections of books by the authors I want to BE LIKE. For me it’s mostly YA Lit, because that’s what I like to write, but it could obviously be anything at all.


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