I read a half dozen books on writing and publishing in 2013. I culled this selection from a sea of writings on the topic, based on solid recommendations. These books have helped me gear up for my best year of writing yet. If, like me, you have writing aspirations in 2014, I encourage you to read:
1. On Writing, by Stephen King -- Although I had never read his fiction, I listened to King's memoir over a long drive. It is uniquely brilliant. No other work covers the theory and practice of writing so powerfully. Hearing King's voice reading his words made the experience all the richer. His insights on the craft ring true and inspirational. He will help fire you up to write, and to write better. King's personal story is also engaging, entertaining, and worth knowing, as few if any authors can claim such prolific success in our era. I resolve to read at least one of King's fiction books in 2014.
2. The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White -- I bought this gem in law school and have continued learning from it in bits and pieces over recent years. Following many other authors' suggestions (including King's), I recently decided to give it a complete re-read. Simply put, this is the best book for improving your craft. You have to know the rules.
3. Let's Get Digital, by David Gaughran -- This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in self-publishing. It is comprehensive, inspiring, and practical. While portions have become somewhat dated, I'd still put this first among the many books on this topic.
Other Good Reads
4. APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, by Guy Kawasaki -- This is a very helpful resource on the business side. Some of the tips have limited relevance for the average "artisanal publisher" (LOVE that phrase), as Kawasaki already has a massive following. But I recommend APEing, because don't we all want such a following?
5. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott -- Much of the praise for this well-known book is warranted, but not all of it. Although the book is well written and full of good insights, something about Lamott's vignettes and self-absorbed tone did not resonate with me. If your biggest challenge is getting words on a page, this might help.
6. Write. Publish. Repeat., by Sean Platt & Johnny Truant -- This book is a solid resource from honest and funny authors, but I found it repetitive and over-reliant on anecdotes. My fear is that the process the authors advocate -- cranking out words with business mentality -- leads to much of the duplicative and chatty style in this book. It could have been much shorter. If you've read the books above and you're hungry for more, this is worth a skim.
2014 and Beyond
My 2014 bookshelf has only one book on writing: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I plan to spend more time writing and reading fiction this year. But perhaps I'm missing a diamond in this crowded field of writings on writing. If so, please let me know!
Make your words count -- J.B.