It can be a real sludgefest when it comes to finding the right book to help writers with their writing. Over the summer I've been picking away at updates to our 'Writer' book lists and the publishing niche is just so convoluted that it's nearly impossible to keep up with. There's a lot of people out there trying to get the most out of their literary ambitions and a ton of writers willing to write books to tell them how.
It's pretty easy, right off the bat, to avoid any books with the words 'SELL', 'BESTSELLER', or 'MONEY' in the title, but that still leaves me with hundreds of books with space in my list for about twenty. After sampling dozens of titles I got a lucky break during a camping trip when I had a chance to finally start reading Tom Bissell's 2012 book of essays, Magic Hours.
Four essays in I encountered an authoritative voice on the subject of how-to-write manuals. The essay is titled"Writing about Writing about Writing" and anyone considering consultation in the how-to section might want to get their hands on Magic Hours first. In his own insecure search for authoritative guidance Bissell seems to have familiarized himself with many of the classic staple how-to-write books and his perspective on the subject is blunt, honest, and valuable.
After a discussion of whether writing is teachable, whether how-tos are useless, and declaring John Gardner's On Becoming A Novelist as the book that literally taught him how to write, Bissell usefully separates the different types of manuals into four categories: 1) "The User's Manual", 2) "Golden Parachute", 3) "Nuts, Bolts, Tea & Angels", and 4) "Olympus".
I'll be going into detail for each of Bissell's categories as I compare his recommendations with our collection, hoping to create the ultimate writer's booklist, but in the meantime here are the most prominent titles from each category...
Stay tuned for the final, updated 'Nook booklists. And please leave a comment below to tell us about the books you've encountered that must make the list.