If you have a writer or an aspiring writer on your gift list this year, a book that helps inspire them on the tough days is always a good choice. Below, I’ve listed some of the books to which I return year after year.

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. She talks about how to make the time to write, how to balance writing with everything else, and keep your sanity throughout the process. She’s also a big advocate of writing 1000 words a day for the rest of your life, a technique I’ve found helpful.

The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. This volume is a must for the freelancer, with great advice on how to set up your business, how to find work, and how to set up your systems to save time and earn more money. The writing is charming as well as instructive, lively and practical all at once. Fiction writers can also apply many of the techniques to their work.

Sometimes the Magic Works
by Terry Brooks. His essays on his process and his sense of humor about how he discovered what works and doesn’t work for him make this one of the best and most refreshing books to read when you’re discouraged.

Thunder and Lightening by Natalie Goldberg. This is my favorite of her writing books. It has wonderful techniques to open up your writing and make it simultaneously personal and universal.

Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg. Berg is one of my favorite novelists, and this book, about her writing process, is filled with wonderful ideas and wonderful exercises. She also has recipes in the back of the book – her blueberry butter cake is one of the best recipes I’ve ever used.

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. Most of her books don’t work for me, because they are for someone trying to find the way back to art, and I live my life in art. But this one is more practical and concise, with tangible techniques you can apply not only to writing, but to anything about which you’re passionate.

Write Away by Elizabeth George. I find her journal entries about her books fascinating. George’s process is much more structured than mine, but I find it fascinating. The book has many wonderful suggestions to incorporate into your own process.

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner. Lerner is both editor and writer, and guides writers step-by-step through the process of polishing and honing a manuscript until it’s good enough to submit.

Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. This is the most well-known of her journals, and still my favorite. The writing is beautiful, and the way she describes both her daily joys and frustrations are touching. One can learn as much about what not to do as what to do from the book.

My Staggerford Journal by Jon Hassler. In 1975, Jon Hassler took a sabbatical from his teaching job to write a novel. This thin volume tracking his progress is one of the warmest and most inspiring books I’ve ever read.

The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates 1973-1982 by Joyce Carol Oates. This large volume only came out this year, but I can tell I’ll keep going back to it year after year. Her insights and meditations on life and writing are fascinating. She is one of the most prolific and versatile authors of our time, and her process is astonishing.

There are hundreds of writing books out there, but these are my favorites. Enjoy!

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