5 Books that will inspire you to write

“The Six Golden Rules of Writing: Read, read, read, write, write, write.” 
Ernest Gaines

Like most writers, I started because I love reading. I read every day; I’ve done a book-a-day challenge (but all of these are less than 150 pages, so I cheat a little with this hack), I take note of new nonfiction every month and keep in touch with Penguin Random House as part of their proof-copy team.

Naturally, by reading, my job here at The Book Shelf is made easier as I can edit, brain-storm, and give creative ideas to the team, such as bookish travelgifts for book lovers, and how to start a love affair with reading when you are estranged to it. So I’ve held some of the books below dear to my readerly heart. However, some of these creative nonfiction/self-help guides have been on my to-read list for a while. So here are five nonfiction books you can read which will inspire you to write:

When Strangers Meet by Kio Stark

Kio Stark’s When Strangers Meet was simple, short, and astute. Let me preface this by saying all of these books are practical and well done, making you want to put their ideas into practice straight away. Stark’s book sits neatly on my desk, a small nonfiction piece about your place in the world and within a universe of strangers. Stark’s book offers a space for creative transformation.

Kio Stark: “When you talk to strangers, you’re making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life — and theirs.”

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I first came across Julia Cameron’s book last year when reading Medium’s section of Nonfiction Recommendations; Odyssa’s freewriting exercise from the book inspired me; to write three pages a day in one sitting (even if it’s complete nonsense). I wrote this way for a week. We’ve all experienced writer’s block, but embracing the lack of creativity helped me understand what creative writing truly is. Now, Julia Cameron is a little… spiritual, but fear not; she helps you tap into that mindfulness that most don’t pay much attention to.

The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker

I first noticed Rob Walker’s work when I read his articles on Marker, a subset of Medium where I write often. Rob has a way of writing about the creative eye, which gives you something luminary, an inspirational spark which only seems to get bigger. His book The Art of Noticing is structured with 131 writing exercises I would use alongside The Artist’s Way. Rob also has a fantastic newsletter, exactly like ours, for its creativity, inspiration and publishing news. One of the quotes I use, as a writer who feels as if I don’t write enough or write the right things, is:

​​“Every day is filled with opportunities to be amazed, surprised, enthralled — to experience the enchanting every day. To stay eager. To be, in a word, alive.”

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Now, onto the fairy godmother of all books here, Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. When I was depressed about writing, Kleon’s confident voice came to me like a spiritual experience. It’s a tightly-packed book; accessible, friendly, artistic, and playful. Creative nonfiction books like this draw the reader in. Like Kio Stark, Kleon started this book as a blog from a random, gritty notebook scribble (maybe he tried out Julia Cameron’s writing exercise!) One of my favourite quotes is, “The only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.” (I also wrote about this in a blog.)

The New York Times best-selling manifesto for creativity in the digital age.
Get the 10th-anniversary gift edition!

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

Now, this would be a Book Shelf blog without a bit of stoicism, we appreciate the art of stoics, and therefore I must value Ryan, Daily Stoic, for his book Growth Hacker Marketing. I know Ryan for his ability to turn an article into an ebook, an ebook into a paperback with global distribution! This was how so many writers transformed their most popular articles into independently-launched 10,000-word digital books. Not to brag, but I’ve read most of his works: Perennial Seller, Trust Me, I’m Lying, and Stillness is the Key because they’re so easy to read and digest.

Finding the Strength to Write

Reading is essential to writing; you have to read to write. Let me reiterate; you have to read to write. Reading helped our authors write their stories. There are dozens of books that should have been on this list, so many creative nonfiction books which are independently published or traditionally published… all of which will end up on a list I am planning already.

If you want to find out what they are, I will share them in our monthly newsletter. Or, if you can’t wait, then check out our Writer’s Guide. We’re here to help writers — we’re here to help you.

by Shelby Jones