Writers On Writing: 9 Books On Craft

Having just finished Haruki Murakami’s book Novelist as a Vocation, I thought it would be fun to look through some of the various books about the craft of writing. The fact that so many books exist I think is a great indicator that many people are interested either in becoming writers or learning more about writers as people. I’ve read the books below for both purposes. This healthy interest is reassuring that books will continue to thrive in our society.

The number of books out there is also proof that the craft of writing is inherently personal and there is no “standard” to the practice aside from putting words on paper (or in digital program). I often need this reminder, especially of late as I’ve failed to work on any writing projects. I have two sets of “rules” hanging on my office wall to remind me of the important parts of writing. Time is my nemesis at the moment, but I hope to develop a strong discipline to help me work toward my goals of writing several novels.

Now back to the list of books by writers on the craft of writing.

Novelist as a VocationAs I mentioned, I recently finished Haruki Murakami’s book Novelist as a Vocation which I found insightful for many reasons. It was first released in 2015 but recently released in English for the first time. This book gives insight into Murakami himself, but also a history of publishing in and outside of Japan, how unstable writing as a career can be, and also how much luck he had in starting and maintaining his career as a writer. In the end, my takeaway was that Murakami stayed true to himself, as we all should, and worked hard, diligently, and persevered. Times have definitely changed since he began writing novels, but this book gives a realistic “look behind the curtain” to what it means to work hard at this craft. He removes some of the romantic notions often circling the image of author which may be one of the most valuable takeaways for most writers.

I haven’t read too many books on writing recently, but I have read several throughout the past decade or so, and I keep a copy readily available of those I liked if I ever want to revisit or look up any particular portion. Continue reading

The Vonnegut Novels (Ranked)

I read all 14 of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels in the last several months. I had read 3 several years ago, so re-read them to have all books fresh in my mind and also because I found a new appreciation for Vonnegut’s work. I figured it would be fun to “rank” the novels from “worst to first” based on how much I liked them. Quick caveat: I don’t think any of his novels are bad. Some definitely could have been better, and several were near-perfect, but I enjoyed them all for various reasons.

14. Galapagos (1985)

13. Deadeye Dick (1982)

12. Breakfast of Champions (1973)

11. Slapstick (1976)

10. Hocus Pocus (1990)

9. Timequake (1997)

8. Jailbird (1979)

7. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

6. Mother Night (1961)

5. Player Piano (1952)

4. Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

3. Bluebeard (1987)

2. The Sirens of Titan (1959)

1. Cat’s Cradle (1963)

Cat’s Cradle was the novel that sent me on this journey through Vonnegut-world. I read it for the first time and found it incredible, so jumped into the rest. I also read the biography on Vonnegut which also added to my appreciation of his work as well as some of his short stories and other writings.

I recently finished a re-read of Slaughterhouse Five as I wrapped up my readthrough of all 14 novels listed above. I use GoodReads, which tracks reading dates, progress, etc. and I found a funny little datum about my reading this book. I first read it in 2015, in early January, and read it in five days. My re-read I completed in early January 2023, and I read it in five days. I just thought that was interesting.

I added the dates next to the titles for my own benefit to see how my ranking played out against how they were released. I think I have a favor toward his early work with the exception of Bluebeard which really surprised me. I think it may be the book with the best “human” moment of all listed. I hadn’t even heard of the book prior to my decision to read all of Vonnegut’s work. Perhaps that is why I liked it so much. I had no expectations for it. However, the same could be said of Deadeye Dick and Galapagos and I will likely never read those again.

Perhaps you agree, or disagree, with my list. That is okay. The perspective and/or relationship of a book and a reader is extremely individual and can be dependent upon many variables. Perhaps Cat’s Cradle just came to me at the right time in my life. I know I didn’t have a great perspective when reading Vonnegut back in 2014-2015, and now I do have a better one and new appreciation for his work. Time is a funny thing and it is often at the center of Vonnegut’s novels.

The top eight on this list are books I would recommend. I have recommended the top six via posts on this blog. Again, this list is from this one reader’s preference and experience, but I hope it is beneficial or at lease interesting for you.

As always, Happy Reading.

Ryan’s Favorite Reads of 2022

Wow. I have failed this month of December in creating anything new for you to read. My apologies. It’s been a strange time. I’ve had little time to read, and what I’ve read I have not loved enough to recommend to you. Part of the reason I’ve read so little this month is due to work (my busiest time of year is at year’s end), and the other part is that after 2.5 years of avoiding it, I fell victim to Covid. Though it was terrible, I was lucky it required little-to-no medical intervention and I recovered after about a week’s time.

But now it is near the end of the year, so it felt right to make a post with a list of my favorite reads of the year. Without further ado…

The Sound of WavesThe Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

The first book I’ve read by Yukio Mishima and I read it in a day. I really enjoyed it and the simplistic story told in an expert way was refreshing. It is, as bare bones, the tale of a young fisherman on a small island who finds love in a community too small to keep secrets.

I plan to read Mishima’s masterpiece (according to the author himself) which is the four-book saga The Sea of Fertility. I have the first book and hope to begin it in the new year after I finish the next few books I have lined up.

How Not To Die book coverHow Not to Die & How Not to Diet by Michael Greger

These two books I really enjoyed as I was reading and learning about nutrition earlier this year while focusing on becoming a healthier self, father, and husband. I lost 40 lbs and have kept it off through simple dietary changes. My exercise and healthy eating habits have wavered of late (Christmas cookies are partially to blame), but I’m still mostly healthy due to great habits I incorporated and I plan to get back to exercising and eating better after the holidays.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood coverFullmetal Alchemist

This manga series, adapted faithfully into the 2009 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime, is absolutely an incredible story overall and one of my favorites of all time. I first discovered it via the show which was my gateway into the immense world of anime, and it remains a favorite of that medium. The original manga are just as good (though the music in the show really sets some scenes) and I read it for the first time this year.

Kokoro book coverKokoro by Natume Soseki

Read at the start of 2022, this book was interesting mostly because it was written over 100 years ago. The story may be considered slow or lacking, but I think that is what makes it a good book. It takes it slow and has a human element not often found in many stories.

The story is about a young student who finds a mentor and slowly unravels what made his teacher the recluse he had become. This mystery is unraveled quickly as the book is not very long.

Pity The Reader CoverAnd So It GoesI spent the second half of the year mostly reading Vonnegut’s novels and other works. It all started when I read Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style by Suzanne Collins and Kurt Vonnegut. It is a book about the craft of writing, but also gives insight into Vonnegut’s life as the two were closely intertwined. In between reading all of his novels, I also read a great biography about Vonnegut written by Chris Shields and titled And So It Goes – Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. It really put his novels in a new perspective and helped me enjoy them more than I otherwise might have.

I will wrap up the last few of his novels in the new year. The few I really enjoyed this year were Bluebeard, Jailbird, Mother Night, Player Piano, and Cat’s Cradle. 

BluebeardJailbirdMother NightPlayer PianoCat's Cradle

Fantasy Favorites

Another list I’ve put together for this holiday season to recommend books to read, gift, or put on wish lists. This list is a handful of fantasy books I’ve enjoyed and will likely re-read at a later time. Some of these are obvious/popular stories you may have already read, but they deserve a spot on this list for those who have either not heard of the or have been putting of finally reading them. Again, I’ve already recommended many of these books so you can find more info about each of them if you are interested.

The Stormcaller

This book is the first of five in a series by Tom Lloyd. I read the first three and remember enjoying them but failed to read the subsequent books as they released. I need to re-read them and finish the series.

The Eyes of God

John Marco’s trilogy that starts with The Eyes of God was a favorite of mine a long time ago. A fourth novel has since come out that I haven’t read so I may revisit the originals and read the new installment.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

This title may be V. E. Schwab’s masterpiece.

The Magician

The beginning of Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle, this initiates a four-book saga that extends further with subsequent books. I read a few beyond the core four books and it is a fun time.

Howl’s Moving Castle

A great story by Diana Wynne Jones that differs a bit from the movie it inspired made by Studio Ghibli. It has two companion novels (not quite sequels) that are also great reads.

The Wheel of Time

Robert Jordan’s 15 book series begins with The Eye of the World and is a journey in itself quite worth the time if you love fantasy.

The Lord of the Rings

The classic that has inspired much that has followed, The Lord of the Rings is well worth the read despite the incredible movie adaptations. This year premiered The Rings of Power as well which delves into the events prior to what takes place in the original trilogy. I enjoyed the first season and am excited to see what comes next.

The Name of the Wind

Yes, fans of this trilogy are still awaiting volume three which we can only hope will be released next year, but the first two books are incredible and I am sure the third will be worth the wait. I recommend this for those interested but it may be worth waiting until you can binge the entire story.

Harry Potter

A series that influenced many of my generation and many outside my generation.

Biography/Memoir Favorites

Another list I’ve put together for this holiday season as recommendations for books to read, gift, or put on wish lists. This list is a double handful of biographies and memoirs I found interesting. Luckily, I’ve recommended most of these books previously so you can find more info about each of them if you are interested.

A Princess Diarist

It is hard to believe Carrie Fisher has been gone for six years now. This memoir reflects on her time filming the first Star Wars movie which would subsequently launch her into fame and fandom as the iconic Princess Leia. The more I learn about her, the more I like her and wish she were still around.

And So It Goes – Kurt Vonnegut: A Life

This biography of Kurt Vonnegut is insightful and I think explanatory of much of his writing as he pulled much of his own life into his work. I am nearing the end of my read-through of all his novels and having read this biography made me appreciate his work more than I probably would have.


Robin Williams is another celebrity lost too soon. It has been eight years since we lost this fun, compassionate man. This biography by David Itzkoff is thoroughly researched and gives much insight into the man who was Robin.

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

This is Diana Wynne Jones’s memoir on writing as well as reflections on her childhood and adult life. It was fun to look more into her experiences and who she was.

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

This biography by Humphrey Carpenter may be the best one out there on this prolific author. Tolkien has shaped a lot of writers and heavily influenced fantasy and storytelling in general. Love him or hate him, this book is a great look at who he was and the life he led.

In Pharoah’s Army

This memoir covers Tobias Wolff’s experience while a soldier in the Vietnam war. For those interested in Wolff or the war, it is a good read.

As You Wish

This book is Cary Elwes’s memoir during the filming of The Princess Bride and is a great read for the fans of this iconic movie that somehow became a cult classic after flopping at the box office.


Tara Westover’s memoir about her life in a family that didn’t believe in public education, or health services, is a fascinating read about how some people think. She doesn’t condemn the way she is raised, but ultimately had to decide how to interact with her family after going out on her own to learn about the world.

Amazing Fantastic Incredible

A graphic novel memoir about the graphic novel icon Stan Lee. A quick read that is more a cursory look at his life and work with some obvious bias, but overall a good, fun, book.

Tesla: Man Out of Time

A definitive biography on the enigma that is Nikola Tesla. What more is there to say? Margaret Cheney does a great job putting his life on the page.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert M. Pirsig’s philosophical memoir is not for everyone but had/has stirred up a lot of interesting conversations. It may be tough for many readers to get through, but it is an interesting read.

A Moveable Feast

A shorter, fun look into Hemingway’s life in Europe with a event alongside F. Scott Fitzgerald. Great for fans of either writer.

What If Our World Is Their Heaven?

This is actually a transcription of the final interview of Philip K. Dick which is a fantastic insight into who he was, and what he was working on before he passed away. He had a book in-progress that never was finished or published in any way, so what he gives us in this interview is all we will ever get. Sounded good too.