• Things I Don’t Want to Know

    Deborah Levy

    A response to George Orwell’s essay “Why I Write,” much of this book is less obviously about writing than I was expecting. But looking through Orwell’s four motives for writing just now [Sheer egoism; Aesthetic enthusiasm; Historical impulse; Political purpose],...more

  • The Half-Known World

    Robert Boswell

    While mainly written for writers of fiction, The Half-Known World is almost like a literature class in a book, as each chapter references certain novels or stories, indicated at the beginning, though reading them is also not necessary to understand the concepts presented in the essays. I hadn’t read most of the referenced...more

  • Reading My Father

    Alexandra Styron

    Alexandra Styron is the daughter of William Styron, the novelist best known for Sophie’s Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner. Her book Reading My Father...more

  • Speaking and Language

    Paul Goodman

    I can’t remember how this book arrived on my to-read list, but I went through the trouble of tracking down a used copy, so it must have been a convincing recommendation.

    The “Defense of Poetry” subtitle is largely a tease — a reference to other works with similar titles that Goodman was apparently thinking about when he wrote...more

  • Reality Hunger

    David Shields

    You know you’re in for some bold and broad declarations when a book starts off, “Every artistic moment from the beginning of time is an attempt to figure out a way to smuggle more of what the artist thinks is reality into the work of art.”

    Reality Hunger calls itself a manifesto, yet it feels less a...more

  • On Writing

    Stephen King

    It’s been a while since I read a book focused on writing. Many writing books are useful for thinking about creativity in general or for applying to any type of writing, but this one is geared toward fiction, at least in the specifically advising sections that are technically the core of the...more

  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

    Haruki Murakami

    I really loved this memoir, though I have to say that the translation probably isn’t the best. It’s hard for me to be entirely certain since I can’t read the original in Japanese, but I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that Philip Gabriel has translated two of my less favorite Murakami novels (...more

  • Journal of a Solitude

    May Sarton

    I got this from the library after Keri Smith made reference to it a few times. I thought maybe it would help me figure out how to start writing in my journal more consistently again, to remind me how to think on a page, and so far it seems to be working. Also it has been...more

  • One Writer’s Beginnings

    Eudora Welty

    For some reason I had the expectation that this book was more specifically about writing, but instead it is a loosely sketched memoir of how honing in on her senses led her to be a writer with a lot of family history. It was far more interesting as a memoir than as any kind of guidance for fiction writing....more