7 books for the nonfiction writer on your holiday list

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It’s not too late to shop for the holidays, right? Here’s a good excuse to visit your local bookstore!

If you have a nonfiction writer on your holiday list, I recommend the following books — my favorites on the writing craft. And trust me, I’ve read A LOT of craft books. My favorite way to procrastinate writing is to READ about writing :) I feel like an expert on craft books at this point!

From my personal bookshelf.

From my personal bookshelf.

Let’s take it from the top:

The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick. When I give writing workshops, I often lead participants through exercises to develop both the inner story and outer story. A good essay/memoir needs both. Gornick’s book explains the inner/outer story in depth.

Screenplay by Syd Field. Memoir or any other narrative nonfiction should be laid out like a story you might find on screen. This book made me view my memoir in a completely new way and I was able to pump out a final draft based on ideas in this book.

Family Trouble, edited by Joy Castro. Writing about family can be troublesome. But as a nonfiction writer, you’re not alone. Essays in this collection show how writers have addressed both truth and family.

On Writing by Stephen King. You would be silly to not take writing advice from the expert. The best part of this book is to learn about King’s lows and rejections. We see a best-seller, but this book portrays the writing life with honesty. Even the most successful writers have struggled.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Zinsser is well known for his books on the nonfiction craft. You can’t go wrong picking up a book by this master.

The Best American Essay series, any year. Each year, a different editor picks the best of the best essays that have been published. Sure, you can learn about the nuts and bolts of writing through craft books, but the best way to become a better writer is to read great essays. Read them, deconstruct them, model your own writing after them. This year’s edition is edited by John Jeremiah Sullivan. I don’t have it yet — hint, hint!

My colorful collection of the Best American Essay series.

My colorful collection of the Best American Essay series.

Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser. See my note about Zinsser above.

This should get you started! Any nonfiction-specific books you would add to this list?

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