If you're an aspiring writer, you know that you have to read all kinds of books in order to hone your technique, but sometimes it might seem as if every writing book you look at is tailored toward people who want to write books in other genres. Not to worry, wordsmith, I have the No. 1 must-read book for aspiring writers in every genre below, so you can start building a library of writing references that work for you and your craft.
Now, before we dig into these books, please note that I'm talking about genre and not subgenre. No matter if you write steampunk, space westerns, or post-apocalyptic stories, you're looking for the Science Fiction recommendation below. Similarly, whether you want to make your mark on sword and sorcery, paranormal, or grimdark, the book listed under Fantasy is for you. I know that all six of those subgenres are very clearly defined and different from one another, but I'm aiming for broad utility here.
By that same note, yes, I know that a wide variety of genres get lumped together under the "children's book" and "YA" umbrellas, but I have only listed one book for each of those categories below. Why? Because, even though the grammar and narrative pacing are mostly identical, authors writing books marketed to children and teens must abide by different rules than those penning adult fiction.
Check out my must-read books for writers of every genre below, and share your favorite guides to the craft with me on Twitter!
If You Want To Write Children's Books, Read 'Writing Irresistible Kidlit' by Mary Kole
I've read enough awful children's books to know that a lot of adults need help remembering what it was like to be a kid. Editor and former literary agent Mary Kole is here to save the bacon of all future juvenile literature authors with Writing Irresistible Kidlit.
If You Want To Write Fantasy, Read 'Wonderbook' by Jeff VanderMeer
Annihilation author Jeff VanderMeer pours his writing know-how into Wonderbook, a lush, fully-illustrated guide to building worlds filled with fleshed-out plotlines and fully realized characters.
If You Want To Write Historical Fiction, Read 'Once Upon a Time It Was Now' by James Alexander Thom
If you've got the perfect idea for a work of historical fiction, you need this book. Novelist James Alexander Thom shares his secrets for researching your chosen time period and avoiding anachronisms in Once Upon a Time It Was Now.
If You Want To Write Horror, Read 'On Writing Horror: A Handbook by The Horror Writers Association,' edited by Mort Castle
Put together by The Horror Writers Association and edited by Mort Castle, On Writing Horror contains writing advice in the form of articles from Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, and more.
If You Want To Write Literary Fiction, Read 'DIY MFA' by Gabriela Pereira
MFA survivor Gabriela Pereira gives you the formula for the creative-writing degree experience without all of the financial baggage in DIY MFA, and aspiring literary fiction authors should take notice.
If You Want To Write Memoir, Read 'The Art of Memoir' by Mary Karr
The Liars' Club author Mary Karr doesn't just write memoir. She teaches it as well. Read The Art of Memoir to learn how to turn your experiences into a literary masterpiece for the ages.
If You Want To Write Mysteries, Read 'Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot' by Jane K. Cleland
Mystery and thriller novels hinge on great build-up, so be sure you pick up Jane K. Cleland's Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot if you want to be the next Janet Evanovich.
If You Want To Write New Adult Fiction, Read 'Writing New Adult Fiction' by Deborah Halverson
New Adult fiction bridges the gap between YA and adult fiction, so writing it can be a tricky business. Thankfully, Honk If You Hate Me author Deborah Halverson is here to help you navigate the still-being-charted territory of this new genre with Writing New Adult Fiction.
If You Want To Write Poetry, Read 'A Poetry Handbook' by Mary Oliver
Poetry is so much more personal than other forms of writing that it can be incredibly difficult to find good resources that won't reduce you to formulaic arrangements of meter and rhyme. But with both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award under her belt, Mary Oliver is hardly going to steer you wrong in A Poetry Handbook.
If You Want To Write Romance, Read 'Write Naked' by Jennifer Probst
Romance is a huuuuuge genre that is often misunderstood. To find out how you should be writing and marketing yourself as a romance novelist today, check out Jennifer Probst's Write Naked.
If You Want To Write Science Fiction, Read 'World Building' by Stephen L. Gillett
Stephen L. Gillett's World Building is one of four books in the Ben Bova-edited Science Fiction Writing Series, and I would certainly recommend that you pick up the other three — Aliens and Alien Societies, Space Travel, and Time Travel — if you liked this one. World Building will appeal to sci-fi writers of all stripes, however, so be sure to pick it up.
If You Want To Write Screenplays, Read 'Save the Cat!' by Blake Snyder
Blank Check co-writer Blake Snyder has cracked the code to movie and TV narratives, plotholes, and marketing angles, and he shares everything he knows in Save the Cat!, the perfect book for the aspiring screenwriter.
If You Want To Write Stage Plays, Read 'The Art of Dramatic Writing' by Lajos Egri
So you wanna be a playwright? You should probably check out Lajos Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing, which will teach you to tap into the hearts, lives, and minds you want to bring to life on stage.
If You Want To Write YA, Read 'Writing Magic' by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted author Gail Carson Levine knows a thing or two about writing for teens. Every writer who wants to publish a YA novel should pick up a copy of Writing Magic for all the insight she has to share.