Best book on writing?

I’m asked all the time, especially by new and aspiring writers, what is the best book to learn more about the art and craft of writing. Here are a three I’d recommend (followed by a link to its Amazon page):

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
The timeless classic that can be read in a single sitting. Even if you read it in college this book is worth re-reading every few years. Available on Amazon

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
More than twenty years old, this book is still relevant for today’s writer.  Funny, insightful, and with lots of charm, this book is part how-to and large part inspiration. The book’s title is taken from an exchange between Lamott’s brother and father:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'”  Available on Amazon

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Probably my favorite writing book of all time, On Writing is an autobiography coupled with advice to writers. Even if you’re not a writer you’ll enjoy this book, especially if you’re a fan of SK. Writers looking for insider tips and tricks may be disappointed as King’s advice–while insightful and extremely helpful boils down to two pieces of advice: read a lot and write. Not a big fan of writers groups, retreats, or other communal writing activities, King asserts that writing is a solitary act that is best achieved by rolling one’s sleeves and working. Available on Amazon.

Richard Russo’s Latest: Everybody’s Fool

Just finished reading Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool, which is something of a sequel to his Nobody’s Fool from 23 years ago. Russo is one of my favorite authors and he doesn’t disappoint here. I highly recommend this book if you like literary fiction with doses of physical comedy. Here’s an excerpt from a review by the Washington Post Critic posted on the book’s Amazon page:

“How could twenty-three years have slipped by since Nobody’s Fool? . . . Russo is probably the best writer of physical comedy that we have [but] even the zaniest elements of the story are interspersed with episodes of wincing cruelty. . . . The abiding wonder [is that] Russo’s novel bears down on two calamitous days and exploits the action in every single minute . . . mudslides, grave robbery, collapsing buildings, poisonous snakes, drug deals, arson, lightning strikes and toxic goo. North Bath is a sleepy little town that never sleeps [and] no tangent ever feels tangential.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

Highly recommended: Available at Amazon