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Best Books for Writers

This round of the blog chain, Kate chose the topic.

This time...I'd like to focus on the flip side of the writing coin - reading. Specifically, what books have influenced you? This can be books that influenced you as a writer, or simply books that touched you as a human being. If you want to talk about one book, a top three, ten, or even twenty go right ahead.
Now, you all are fortunate that I only have a set amount of time to finish this post, otherwise we'd all be in trouble, because I love books!

I'm going to focus first on my favorite books for writers, because I think that's what will most interest the reader. Then I'll talk a bit about some favorite psychology books.

First come the books that help keep me going when things look bleak. You've heard me rave about these books before: The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsey Lerner, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes, and The Writer's Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication, also by Ralph Keyes. These books emphasize attitude and persistence to reach success, two things you can control. I've blogged about confidence and determination in the past, and these three books were key in helping me form the beliefs I shared with you. I believe every writer should not just read them but keep them handy for the days the doubt, frustration, and rejection is getting to you.

Then there are the books that taught me to edit. I've told you before that I do some pretty serious editing on both my own work and others, and I like to think I'm pretty good at it. (Others seem to agree, so either I really am or those monthly bribery checks are working! *wink*) In any case, here are two books that really helped me: Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques for Effective Writing-For Fiction and Nonfiction by Gary Provost and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne.

When it comes to ideas, I find The Writer's Partner: 1001 Breakthrough Ideas to Stimulate Your Imagination by Martin Roth particularly useful (I probably pull this book off my shelf more than any other).

On the nonfiction side, I could never have written an effective proposal to sell my book without the following resources. I like to work from examples, so I found Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman invaluable. I also used How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen and Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody can Write by Elizabeth Lyon.

While I was writing my book proposal, I had to include a Marketing and Promotion section, and for that I needed some ideas. I relied heavily on Guerrilla Marketing for Writers : 100 Weapons to Help You Sell Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Michael Larsen. I honestly can't believe the book has gone out of print -- it's so valuable! I also recently read and liked Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors by Steve Weber. It's got a strong Amazon bias (ie it talks a lot about marketing on Amazon), but it's definitely worth a read.

On to psychology. What psychologist could live without her Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition (Text Revision)? (If you want a sneak peek at how we diagnose but you don't want to spend $75, browse through Behavenet Capsules.) To get a sense of how clinicians conduct interviews and establish rapport, try The Clinical Interview Using DSM-IV-TR, Vol. 1: Fundamentals. I also have a fantastic book I think writers who are writing about therapy and therapists would enjoy called Clinician's Thesaurus, 6th Edition: The Guide to Conducting Interviews and Writing Psychological Reports. It's a big fat cheat sheet on lingo, how evaluations are written, what kinds of things clinicians look for during an interview, and questions to ask if you suspect (or see) certain disorders.

Finally, my favorite book on the psychology of writing is Alice Flaherty's The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain. The other book that might interest you on the topic is Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.

What are your favorite books, writing, psychology, or otherwise? Post in the comments below!

And don't forget to check out Michelle's answer before me and Sandra's after me.


  1. Unknown said...
    Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is fantastic. I posted a list of my favorite writing books not long ago on my own blog: "The Best of My Writing Library."
    Kate Karyus Quinn said...
    Oooh, love The Forest for The Trees. I might have to put that self-editing on my TBR list - right now I am definitely feeling like I could use some tips!
    Unknown said...
    Thaks for the information. I'll have to check some of them out. I'm a book addict.

    One of the best books I’ve read on psychology is a book called, Man Against Himself by Karl Menninger.

    It’s about the impulse toward self-destructiveness. I couldn’t put it down until I had read the whole book. It was first published in 1938 and has been reprinted at later dates.
    Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...
    Haven't read that one, Trish. Might have to get a copy of it. I love Erich Fromm's The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, which talks about some of the same things. It has case studies of people like Hitler, Goering, and Stalin. You have to love an author (ie Fromm) who can write a book like that and then go on to write something called The Art of Loving.
    Danyelle L. said...
    Thanks for all the wonderful book recs!
    Unknown said...
    That sounds like a great book, Carolyn. I would love to read that one.

    I ordered my book on the internet as I had tried all the bookshops and libraries and they couldn’t get it anywhere. It was recommended by another book that I had read about Tourettes Syndrome. It also recommended a book called Twitch and Shout, by Lowell Handler, which I read. It’s an autobiography about a young man who has Tourettes Syndrome. I highly recommend that one. I read it three times.

    I also recommend MY Wicked Wicked Ways: The Autobiography of Errol Flynn, by Errol Flynn. I couldn’t put this one down until I finished it. It made me laugh and cry. I saw Errol Flynn as a real person, good, bad and extremely funny. This book was recommended along with Man Against Himself, by Karl Menninger.
    Angela Ackerman said...
    I love:

    Self Editing for Fiction Writers (Renni Browne)

    Writing the Breakout Novel (Maass)

    Description (Monica Wood)

    On Writing (The King)
    Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...
    Good books, Angela! I have all of those, too. Do you have the Writing the Breakout Novel workbook? That's pretty good too. Trish -- isn't the internet great? You can find stuff you'd never be able to get hold of otherwise!
    Traci said...
    Wonderful list of books. Love your blog! ;-)
    Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...
    Thanks, Litgirl! :-D (Great avatar, btw)
    Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...
    I have the Self-Editing book and found it very helpful. I have too many other writing books to mention them all!
    Elana Johnson said...
    Hey! I have read one of those books. The Self-Editing one. It sounds like The Forest for the Trees would be helpful for me too. If only my reading goals lined up with reading something like that. I feel I'm going to be the odd one out on this chain.

    Great list!
    Anonymous said...
    OOhh you picked some of my favorites as Courage to Write, and Write the Perfect Book Proposal and The Midnight Disease...Such fantastic books. I will have to add several of the others on my list of books to read...(that list sure is getting long...:) )
    Michelle McLean said...
    Definitely adding these to my list! I'm loving this topic...I have a feeling I'm going to have quite a long book list by the time we are done :D
    Alisia Leavitt said...
    Nice post! I'm definitely going to check out Alice Flaherty's book — I love reading about what makes people tick!
    Annie Louden said...
    I've heard of most of these, but I don't think I've read any! But I just added a handful to my Amazon wishlist.
    I've read Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind, which I know isn't about creativity exactly, but I couldn't put it down. Adding the one you mentioned to my list now!

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