Reads that Help Writers

What do writers read?

Anything and everything, right? Novels, memoir, how-to—but also magazine articles, cereal boxes, and comics. 

Anything we read can help us improve our craft. Speaking of craft, there are books on the craft of writing that I read over and over through the years—books such as Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, and The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. 

Newer books that I find myself returning to are Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative, by Austin Kleon and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

In my opinion, any book can help us improve our craft. The first time I read a novel, I usually read it as a reader: I get lost in the story. But I often reread books: more accurately, I re-listen. My son likes to listen to stories over and over, so often I drive around listening to the same story three times in a row. If the story doesn’t captivate me on the second or third time through—some middle-grade books do, but some don’t—I find myself listening as a writer: trying to figure out how the writer created the effect they did. Then I’m as fascinated—or more fascinated—than I was the first time I heard the book. 

It also shows me how important it is to read my own work aloud. Or, even better, to have someone else read it aloud so I can hear it—what works, what doesn’t work. Hearing my piece read to me sometimes makes the weaknesses obvious. If not, my reader often points them out!

One tool (it’s not a book, it’s a journal) that’s really helped my writing, my productivity, and my business: The Ship It Journal, by Seth Godin. You can buy a 5-pack on Amazon, but you can also get the PDF for free from Seth Godin’s blog. As Seth says in the post with the download, it won’t work if you don’t fill it out! 

What’s the most helpful book or tool you’ve found for your writing life?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website,

3 thoughts on “Reads that Help Writers

  1. Science confirms that reading has a positive influence on your brain : blood flows to it, improving brain’s functioning and connectivity; moreover, it has been proved that this functioning improves for days! So, read books — and you will help your brain function better.

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