books I read this year on writing

This post was first shared in issue 9 of the writing advice column of my newsletter These Sacred Words.

This month’s reading tips is simply a list of all the books I’ve read this year on writing. Bottom line, I wholeheartedly recommend all of them if you’re looking to grow as a writer!

“[The best memoirs]…were written with love. They elevate the pain of the past with forgiveness, and thereby arrive at a larger truth about families in various stages of brokenness.”

William Zinsser

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser: I actually listened to the On Writing Well audio collection rather than reading the physical copy of the book, and I’m really glad I did. I love when the author reads the audio version of their own book because it feels so conversational, the words seem to have more personality. This book is the first book I would recommend to someone looking to grow as a writer. William Zinsser explains how the most successful writing is simple, concise, and clear, which is exactly how this book is written and how the audio collection is compiled. His principles of writing were so incredibly helpful, and he delivered them in a way that was engaging and will stick with me for a long time. I definitely recommend this audio collection for anyone looking to develop their writing skills.

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott: This book was gifted to me by a dear friend and it has been such a good one to dive into. As you can see from the quote, Anne has a beautiful and poetic way with words, but she isn’t just a beautiful and poetic writer. She also writes with a clarity and an intimacy that made me feel like I was talking to a friend who just “got” me. This book was rich with advice to the writer and wisdom from an author who has faced the perils of writing and emerged on the other side. I highly recommend this read to all my writer friends!

The Storytelling Edge, by Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow: I started reading this book for work, as a way to help me grow in my ability to tell compelling stories of what God is doing through our ministry. But I wasn’t prepared for how wonderfully engaging and helpful it would be – every few paragraphs I would yell to my coworkers, “guys, this is so good!” For anyone looking to grow in their ability to write, tell stories, or build an audience for your business, I would definitely recommend reading this book.

“So what is it about writing that makes it – for some of us – as necessary as breathing? It is in the thousands of days of trying, failing, sitting, thinking, resisting, dreaming, raveling, unraveling that we are our most engaged, alert, and alive.”

Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro: I picked this one up per the rec of one of my great writing friends, and I was not disappointed. This book reminded me of the beauty of writing. It reminded me of the importance of not just saying something to say something, but of weaving words together in a way that is captivating and compelling. Shapiro accurately describes the joys and frustrations and wonder and loneliness of writing in a way that made me feel understood and hopeful. Such a good read for any of my fellow creatives!

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Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller: I ordered this book to read for my job, but it has proved to be helpful in so many other areas as well. I’ve read a few other book by Donald Miller and have appreciated them for his ability to tell engaging and compelling stories. This book builds off of the “story” concepts in some ways, as Miller coaches organizations and individuals on how to build their own “Storybrand” – essentially the journey you take a customer or reader on when they engage with you or your company. The biggest thing I took away is the concept of making your customer (or reader or client) the hero of the story – what do they want and how does what you sell (or write or offer) meet their need? There’s too much goodness to fit in one short review, but overall I would highly suggest this book for anyone looking to grow their brand, sell a product, or clarify and centralize the message of their writing.

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