National Novel Writing Month

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November is National Novel Writing Month! Check out our booklist (compiled by Reader Advisor Kathryn Patrick) for aspiring writers, featuring language and writing guides and bestselling fiction whose authors participated in the program! Learn more about the program at


Non Fiction

Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; with Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory

Roy Blount


Language expert's personal glossographia, in which he delves into word origins and considers the connection between the sound and the meaning of words. Arranged in an A-to-Z dictionary format, entries range from "ain't"  and "google" to "kvetch" and "wrought." 2008.


A Little Book of Language

David Crystal


British linguist explores the mysteries and vagaries of language--from ancient etymologies to text-messaging--in forty brief chapters. Begins with baby talk and moves on to geographical and personal names, sign language, word play, dictionaries, and more. 2010.


Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Mignon Fogarty


Fogarty presents language usage tips similar to those from her popular podcast Grammar Girl. Explains guidelines for choosing between terms she calls "dirty words" such as "affect" versus "effect" or "i.e." versus "e.g." Provides information on applying basic grammar rules, starting sentences properly, and using punctuation and capitalization correctly. 2008.


How to Read Literature like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines

Thomas C. Foster


English professor uses an informal approach to help readers spot multiple layers of meaning in literary works. Discusses themes, motifs, literary models, and narrative devices and illustrates all with examples from many genres. 2003.

Bestseller, Language

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the Twenty-first Century

Steven Pinker


Author of The Better Angels of Our Nature (DB 78041) and Words and Rules (DB 51199) discusses the state of writing in the early twenty-first century. Discusses how the brain processes language, why prescriptive guides are no longer enough, and communicating via social media. 2014.

Unrated Commercial Audiobook, Language, Writing

How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One

Stanley Eugene Fish          


Professor and New York Times columnist Stanley Fish explains the art of crafting a sentence. Discusses form, content, and style using examples from various writers. 2011.


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King


Prolific, bestselling horror novelist describes his writing technique and gives tips for aspiring authors. King also discusses pertinent events from his childhood and tells of the near-fatal accident in 1999, when he was hit by a truck while taking his daily walk. 2000.

Bestseller, Memoir, Writing, Download Only

Why We Write: Twenty Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do

Meredith Maran


Twenty essays by popular authors on the reasons behind their pursuit of writing. Sue Grafton, author of A is for Alibi (DB 35069), ruminates on the source of "writer's block" and David Baldacci discusses his compulsion for writing. Also includes Isabel Allende, Jodi Picoult, and others. 2013.


Frank and Fiona Build a Fictional Story: Writing Builders

Rachel Lynette


Writing guide introduces Frank and Fiona as they learn how to write a fictional story to enter in a school writing contest. Concepts include story maps, transitions, and dialogue. Activities at the end help readers create their own stories. 2014.

Juvenile, Grades 3-6, Writing

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook

Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter


Two authors playfully mix practical advice and personal anecdotes to demystify the craft of writing a story or novel. Topics covered include finding inspiration, naming characters, developing a narrative voice, crafting dialogue, dealing with writer's block, and establishing good work habits. 2010.

Juvenile, Grades 5-8, Writing

Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write

Victoria Hanley


Presents creative-writing tips and exercises, from freewriting to understanding the elements of fiction. Provides examples for character development, motivation, and perspective. Assesses difficult aspects of writing fiction, such as creating the setting and mood, and infusing your style and voice into the story. 2008.

Young Adult, Writing

Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing

Patricia O’Conner  


A user's manual for writing well. Emphasizes that good prose is more craft than art. Provides tips and techniques to improve writing skills and avoid pitfalls, whether for term papers, reports, newsletters, or a novel. 1999.

Young Adult, Writing


Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen


1931. Veterinary student Jacob Jankowski's world comes crashing down when his parents die in a car accident. Broke, Jacob joins the circus, falls for Marlena, a married circus star, and cares for animals like Rosie the elephant. 2006

Bestseller, Historical Fiction, Animals, Romance

The Darwin Elevator

Jason Hough


Australia, 2283. Earth has fallen to a plague. The only human city left is Darwin, where an alien space elevator protects against the disease. Skyler Luiken--one of the rare "immunes"--leads a scavenging crew to help Darwin survive. Then the elevator begins to malfunction. 2013.

Science Fiction

The Wool Omnibus

Hugh Howey


In the future, Earth has become toxic and survivors live in underground silos. To go outside is a death sentence--but then one person walks away. Originally published as five short e-books. 2012.

Science Fiction

Shades of Milk and Honey

Mary Robinette Kowal


With a nod to Jane Austen, this fantasy tale features the beautiful young Melody Ellsworth and her older sister Jane, a master of the womanly art of glamour. When Melody pursues a disastrous romance, Jane must use all of her magical skills to save the family's honor. 2010.

Romance, Fantasy

The Night Circus

Erin Morgenstern


At the Circus of Dreams magicians Celia and Marco are pitted against each other in an epic magical battle. Their mentors plan for it to have only one survivor, not foreseeing that Celia and Marco will fall in love. 2011.

Bestseller, Romance, Fantasy


Rainbow Rowell


Eighteen-year-old Cath's adoration of fantasy character Simon Snow leads to her penning a fanfiction story that is popular online. Offline, shy Cath is out of her comfort zone at her new college--until romance finds her. 2013.

Young Adult, Family Story, Romance

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Carrie Ryan


Mary seeks knowledge of the world beyond the village's protective fences and the surrounding forest containing the "Unconsecrated"--an aggressive, formerly dead, flesh-eating people. When outsider Gabrielle enters the village, Mary wonders about the Sisterhood's secrets and plans for escape. 2009.

Bestseller, Young Adult, Horror, Science Fiction