5 Books About Writing That Made Me a Better Writer

References for everything from note-taking to the history of publishing

Todd Brison


Image purchased by the author via iStock

It’s odd work, making stuff for a living.

Yancey Strickler, one of my favorite writers and thinkers, put it best:

“Broadly, I am on the right path. I am doing intellectual work. I spend much of my time thinking and dreaming.

Day to day, I’m all over the place.”

That’s how my last couple of weeks have been — all over the place. Right now, I’m sitting in bed with a newly un-paralyzed french bulldog lying on my feet. Tim Denning and I are lining up a new deep dive into LinkedIn. Green beans are boiling on the stove. I’ve just gotten my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The thoughts I’ve been exploring about fame, about art, about the internet, are all resting in my notes. I am too tired to fish them out.

So today, you get a list.

A practical, boring, helpful list.

Here are five of my favorite books I’ve read using since entering into this full-time writer/self-employment/stay-at-home-dog-dad thing.

1) How to Take Smart Notes

Imagine if you could build a private Wikipedia that served to cultivate all your sources, network your personal thoughts, and make your writing easier and faster.

That’s Smart Notes.

Smart Notes is derived from a method called Zettelkasten, a practice for learning and writing faster. That method, and the science behind why it works so darn well, is discussed at length in How to Take Smart Notes.

Read the book. Start taking better notes.

As a bonus, try out this tool called Roam Research. It’s what I use to manage my own Zettelkasten.

(PS, Zettelkasten is much simpler than it sounds. Dropping that name in casual conversation makes you sound super smart, though)

2) The Sense of Style

This book was written by a scientist, not a writer, which makes it all the more interesting.