Four invaluable books to help you transform your writing from good to great

Prescribing books and curating reading lists for other people based on their individual needs, interests and circumstances is my passion; as is writing non-fiction books on personal development together with poetry. Taking a break from writing I wondered how I could improve my own writing skills. This casual pondering led me to create a reading list for myself that could help me hone these. The result was the below reading list and my key takeaways from each one. Fabulous and inspiring, I’d recommend getting kindle or pocket copies of all of them. They serve as great reference points and are little ‘pocket cheerleaders’ with their warm and encouraging style.

On Writing Well: The Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Often quoted as ‘the writers’ bible’, On Writing Well is a classic for both the aspiring writer and seasoned writer. It prescribes core ground rules for elegant writing on any genre, particularly nonfiction. Its clear, practical and encouraging guidance together with timeless advice on crafting engaging writing makes it mandatory reading for anyone who is required to write on a daily basis. The most valuable lessons learnt from the book:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr

The gold standard of writing well, this book clearly sets out all the rules that will transform your writing from good to great using the sheer power of editing. The four pieces of evergreen advice that stood out:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Inspired by her ten year-old brother’s school assignment on writing a report on birds, this is a phenomenal guide by Anne Lamott on every aspect of writing from getting started, to working with writer’s block to final publication. Filled with humour and inspiring quotes, these were the four gold nuggets of inspiration I took away from the book:

1. Your writing should always reflect some level of hope, as this is what leaves readers inspired and engaged.

2. Writing should become habitual and this can only be achieved by writing every day, setting a routine and striving to get that first draft out even if it feels ‘crap’.

3. Write as though you are dedicating the writing to your favourite author who has inspired you.

4. Writing is about being true to yourself — write with authenticity and tell your truth. Do not let what other people think of your writing get in the way.

A gracious book that will reassure you, reignite your faith in your writing and make you feel like you can complete a great piece of writing that will resonate with your readers.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

For those of you who are interested in writing great fiction, Stephen King’s memoir on writing is a must-read. A highly engaging biography of what it has taken Stephen King to become the writer he is today. From his childhood days, where his sole focus was to master the art of storytelling, to how writing helped his recovery from a road accident in 1999. The memoir focuses on the art of writing revealing important insights about writing well:

1. Making time to read is crucial to writing well and acquiring necessary writing tools. 5 hours a day should be spent reading and writing.

2. The secret to writing great description is about knowing when to stop so that the reader’s imagination can take over from the writer’s.

3. Finding a great editor is game-changing.

4. Kill the adverbs.

Filled with personal anecdotes as well as lots of information on character development, structuring a fictional plot, to creating good writing habits and dealing with rejection. You will want to re-read this even before you have finished it.

Are there any tips you would like to add? Feel free to comment below :) And do share this article with others who may find it helpful!

A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at or

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Book therapist, author, poet & founder of Book Therapy - therapy using the power of literature: and

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