Writing: Non-Fiction / Book Recs

The following three book recommendations are about writing, though each one is entertaining as well as educational. Two of them are memoirs, in which writing plays a natural part in the story, but you don’t need to be a writer to learn through their life experiences and discipline to their craft.

On Writing by Stephen King

I personally haven’t read any of Stephen King’s horror stories, and I don’t have any plans to, but this book came highly recommended. A memoir as well as writing advice, this book is filled with gold.

It does start a bit slow, as it begins when he’s young, but quickly picks up when he begins to write. I particularly enjoyed reading about the publication of his first novel, Carrie, and the rise to being a well-known author. It reminded me that even well-regarded authors have to start somewhere, and that somewhere has no guarantee of success.

I find Stephen King’s writing style to be highly entertaining and humorous, as he approaches life with a forward manner. He appreciates hard work and constructive criticism and knows what it is to further a skill and make habits. He knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t ramble unnecessarily.

I want to be more specific about why I love this book and why I think you should read it, but in reality nothing I say is as good as what Stephen King says in the book. Even my favourite parts (where I laughed out loud or realised something great about writing) can’t be condensed in a review; if I tried, I think they’d fall flat.

I suppose a good summary is this: he brings the reader to the very basics of writing, to the foundation of what we all should know but still somehow rarely implement. And he makes it personal because he’s lived through so many books and has had to learn how to make it work, and how to get good at writing.

My rating: 5/5 stars

The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth

Explaining the proper term for tools we use in writing, this book shed light on so, so much. I never knew why some writing is memorable, or stands out, but this book breaks down the device and examples of it being used. From Biblical references to Shakespeare to lyrics, this book covers a lot of ground.

Some terms I already knew, like alliteration and antithesis. Others I was using in my writing without realising they had proper names, such as synaesthesia. (This is where one sense is described using another. For instance: she looks the way rain smells.)

Weaving humour and insight, this book is a great reference to turn back to time and time again.

My rating: 5/5 stars

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I only picked this up on Friday, but yesterday consisted of non-stop reading. Despite being translated, this memoir is easy to read and flows from page to page. At the end of each chapter I had to keep going.

A memoir about Haruki Murakami’s journey as he began running at age 33. This book was fascinating in the dedication he has to life. He runs every day for an hour or more (sometimes 3 or 6 hours), waking up with the sun and writing habitually. In between writing novels he participates in marathons, which I find incredibly, incredibly motivating; he makes sure to do at least one a year. Not that I’m drawn toward such serious running, but there is a certain appeal about the whole thing.

I like the way he correlates running with writing, and though there are no great revelations or pieces of advice, there is so much to learn through this book as you read his experiences in both.

I also appreciate the way the author approaches the topic. He’s very humble and matter-of-fact about his life without pushing anything onto the reader. He doesn’t tell you to run, doesn’t tell you to exercise like he does. He doesn’t tell you that his routine is the best; he simply writes about his life experience and how running has become a contemplative part of daily routine.

This book is rich, and I think I will always be able to go back and read through the pages.

My rating: 5/5 stars

Happy Sunday, and happy reading!

Sarah xx

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