I have always been someone who loves to write, but never knows how to start. Am I writing anything worthwhile? What kind of story do I want to tell? What if what I write is bad? These awful internal voices torment the minds of most beginning writers, including myself. Thankfully, there are a lot of great books that help make writing that first sentence a little bit less daunting. Here are a few of my personal recommendations for writing advice and inspiration.
1) The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
If you are studying any form of writing, "The Elements of Style" is probably listed on your syllabus and for good reason. Written by Strunk and revised by White,"The Elements of Style" has earned a reputation as the definitive guide for writers. Whether you are studying fiction, non-fiction, journalism, creative writing or anything in-between, there is something for everyone to take away from this book.
2) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
If you are someone who doesn’t like stuffy, how-to manuals about writing, this might be the writing aid for you. As a best-selling author known as “the Master of Horror,” Stephen King knows what he is talking about when it comes to being a successful writer. "On Writing" is a collection of tips, tricks and anecdotes from King, all told with his signature frankness, humor and the occasional curse word. Equal parts entertaining and educational, this book is a treasure trove of wisdom for any aspiring writer looking for inspiration, advice or permission to try.
3) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
If you want to study non-fiction, "In Cold Blood" is one of the most influential books in the genre. Truman Capote, with the help of fellow author Harper Lee, pieces together a family’s murder from the crime committed to the subsequent capture and execution of the criminals. While it might not be the first of its kind, "In Cold Blood" popularized narrative nonfiction genre, breathing life into a small-town news story that captured the attention of the nation.
4) All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
"All the President’s Men" chronicles one of the most iconic journalistic investigations in American history: the Watergate scandal. Bernstein and Woodward, the two Pulitzer-winning journalists behind the story, provide their first-hand accounts of their investigation which brought down a presidential administration. Even now, Watergate remains the standard by which many political scandals are held, a comparison that has been brought up many times during the current administration. In this current political climate, stories like "All the President’s Men" are reminders of the incredible impact great investigative journalism can have.
5) Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits by Dave Barry
Not everyone wants to be a “serious” journalist; some of the best journalists are those with a sense of humor. Dave Barry has received both the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism for his humor column in the Miami Herald. Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits is a collection of some of his early columns, including the satirical “Can New York Save Itself?” and “Pithy Into the Wind,” a critique of Pulitzer Prize-seeking journalists which ironically helped Barry win his Pulitzer. A word of warning: do not attempt to multitask while reading this book unless you want to snort coffee mid-laugh in a highly public place.
6) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Writing guides and critically-acclaimed examples of great writing are all well and good, but sometimes the best inspiration comes from a book that reflects its reader. "Fangirl" follows Cath, an aspiring college author, as she navigates her potential writing career while fighting to stay true to her original passion for the craft. Cath’s journey is one that most college writers will face: plagiarism, writer’s block, harsh criticism from others and even harsher critiques from herself. It is her ability to rise above and fight for a career in writing that makes "Fangirl" a great book for any college writer in need of a little encouragement to keep calm and carry on.
Whether you are looking for a specific genre or just looking to experiment, there is hopefully something on this list for everyone. At the very least, these books are great entertainment. Writing is not an easy task by any means, however, it is not an impossible one. All you need to do is pick up a pen or open up your laptop and try. As Stephen King puts it, “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”