November is National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo―an organization that was created to encourage people around the world to begin to write—offers guidance and a community for aspiring writers to launch and hone their craft. To inspire and celebrate, we’ve put together a list of books that we think are perfect for any kind of writer.
Read a Writing Class:
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer
Chockful of advice, insider wisdom, and fun facts, this book will prove to be invaluable to everyone who wants to shore up their writing skills, mandatory for people who spend their time editing and shaping other people’s prose, and—perhaps best of all—an utter treat for anyone who simply revels in language.
As Random House’s copy chief, Dreyer has upheld the standards of the legendary publisher for more than two decades. He is beloved by authors and editors alike—not to mention his followers on social media—for deconstructing the English language with playful erudition. Now he distills everything he has learned from the myriad books he has copyedited and overseen into a useful guide not just for writers but for everyone who wants to put their best prose foot forward.
As authoritative as it is amusing, Dreyer’s English offers lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash; the rules and nonrules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive; and why it’s best to avoid the doldrums of the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers, including “very,” “rather,” “of course,” and the dreaded “actually.” Dreyer will let you know whether “alright” is all right (sometimes) and even help you brush up on your spelling—though, as he notes, “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.”
And yes: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.”
Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook, and Audio Editions.
Want More? Check Out the Card Game Perfect for Grammar Geeks: Stet! Dreyer’s English—a Game for Language Lovers, Grammar Geeks, and Bibliophiles.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
From the New York Times bestselling, Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves—and our world today.
For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.
In his introduction, Saunders writes, “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?” He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.
Coming in January!
Soon to be Available in Hardcover, eBook, and Audio Editions.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
“I’m convinced that none of the writers of my acquaintance can go another day without a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s magical manual Writing Down the Bones.”—Linda Weltner, The Boston Globe
With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write. Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach (“Writing Is Not a McDonald’s Hamburger,” “Man Eats Car,” “Be an Animal”), will inspire anyone who writes—or who longs to.
Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, and eBook Editions.
Mastering the Process: From Idea to Novel by Elizabeth George
As the author of twenty-four novels, Elizabeth George is one of the most successful—and prolific—novelists today. In Mastering the Process, George offers readers a master class in the art and science of crafting a novel. This is a subject she knows well, having taught creative writing both nationally and internationally for over thirty years.
For many writers, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to take that earliest glimmer of inspiration and shape it into a full-length novel. How do you even begin to transform a single idea into a complete book?
In these pages, award-winning, number one New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth George takes us behind the scenes through each step of her writing process, revealing exactly what it takes to craft a novel.
Drawing from her personal photos, early notes, character analyses, and rough drafts, George shows us every stage of how she wrote her novel Careless in Red, from researching location to imagining plot to creating characters to the actual writing and revision processes themselves. George offers us an intimate look at the procedures she follows, while also providing invaluable advice for writers about what has worked for her—and what hasn’t. Mastering the Process gives writers practical, prescriptive, and achievable tools for creating a novel, editing a novel, and problem solving when in the midst of a novel, from a master storyteller writing at the top of her game.
Available in Hardcover, eBook, and Audio Editions.
Fiction That Any Writer Can Enjoy:
The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams
An exhilarating debut novel from a formidably brilliant young writer, The Liar’s Dictionary celebrates the rigidity, fragility, absurdity, and joy of language.
Mountweazel n. the phenomenon of false entries within dictionaries and works of reference. Often used as a safeguard against copyright infringement.
Peter Winceworth, Victorian lexicographer, is toiling away at the letter S for Swansby’s multivolume Encyclopaedic Dictionary. His disaffection compels him to insert unauthorized fictitious entries into the dictionary in an attempt to assert some sense of individual purpose and artistic freedom.
In the present day, Mallory, a young intern employed by the publisher, is tasked with uncovering these mountweazels before the work is digitized. She also has to contend with threatening phone calls from an anonymous caller. Is the change in the definition of marriage really that upsetting? And does the caller really intend for the Swansby’s staff to ‘burn in hell’?
As these two narratives combine, both Winceworth and Mallory discover how they might negotiate the complexities of the often nonsensical, relentless, untrustworthy, hoax-strewn, and undefinable path we call life.
Coming in January!
Soon to Be Available in Hardcover, eBook, and Audio Editions.
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Charming, haunting, and triumphant, Paris by the Book follows one woman’s journey as she writes her own story, exploring the power of family and the magic that hides within the pages of a book.
When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected spot, plane tickets to Paris.
Hoping to uncover clues—and her husband—Leah sets off for France with her girls. Upon their arrival, she discovers an unfinished manuscript, one Robert had been writing without her knowledge . . . and that he had set in Paris. The Eady girls follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. Leah finds herself accepting the offer on the spot.
As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they trace the literary paths of some beloved Parisian classics, including Madeline and The Red Balloon, hoping more clues arise. But a series of startling discoveries forces Leah to consider that she may not be ready for what solving this mystery might do to her family—and the Paris she thought she knew.
Available in Trade Paperback, eBook, and Audio Editions.
Listens for NaNoWrimo:
Improv for Writers: 10 Secrets to Help Novelists and Screenwriters Bypass Writer’s Block and Generate Infinite Ideas by Jorjeana Marie; Read by the Author
Improv instructor and writer Jorjeana Marie presents the first book to harness the creative power of improvisation exercises to help both aspiring and seasoned authors defeat writer’s block and generate new ideas.
Suffering from writer’s block and inner critics? Having trouble generating ideas for plots, settings, and characters? Introducing the rules and techniques of improvisation as they apply to fiction writing, improv instructor and writer Jorjeana Marie addresses each major element of storytelling by applying writer’s-block-busting games and inner-critic-quieting exercises to get the creative ideas flowing. Armed with the power of improve—and freeing exercises like Ad Agency, Your Local Library, and Family Portraits—you’ll soon be an idea machine. With Improv for Writers, your creative storytelling well will never run dry again.
Available in Trade Paperback, eBook, and Audio Editions.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro; Read by the Author
“Still Writing offers up a cornucopia of wisdom, insights, and practical lessons gleaned from Dani Shapiro’s long experience as a celebrated writer and teacher of writing. The beneficiaries are beginning writers, veteran writers and everyone in between.” —Jennifer Egan
From Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Devotion and Slow Motion, comes a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the exhilarating and challenging process of storytelling. At once a memoir, a meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate companion to living a creative life. Writers—and anyone with an artistic temperament—will find inspiration and comfort in these pages. Offering lessons learned over twenty years of teaching and writing, Shapiro shares her own revealing insights to weave an indispensable almanac for modern writers.
Available in Audio.