Roy Peter Clark


Good books on good writing from a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes.



Roy Peter Clark Roy Peter Clark is vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, one of the most prestigious schools for journalists in the world. He has taught writing at every level—to schoolchildren and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors—for more than thirty years, and has spoken about the writer's craft on the Oprah Winfrey Show, NPR, and the Today show. His most recent book, The Glamour of Grammar, is a practical guide to writing that aims to put the glamour back into grammar. Responding to Guest Books Clark writes, "The best books on writing turn the insights that come from close reading into tools that every aspiring writer can use. Here are three that worked for me:"


Books by Roy Peter Clark



A Collection of Essays

By George Orwell


"I searched for a recording of the voice of George Orwell only to discover that none is known to exist, not even in the deep archives of the BBC. He was said to have a weak and wheezy voice, described once as 'unsuitable' for radio. No matter. We are left with the lion's roar of his literary voice. His stated goal was to 'make political writing into an art.' Examples are plentiful in his dystopian novels and these essays, especially the ones that directly concern language use and abuse. Democracy, he argued, requires honest writers who can tell difficult truths in a language that is clear, vivid, and original."




Language in Thought and Action

By S.I. Hayakawa


"I prefer the original title, Language in Action, which S.I. Hayakawa slapped on a set of mimeographed pages for his college students in 1938. This book brims with action. It frames the English language not as a sedate subject for study but as a tool for civic understanding, tolerance, and persuasion. He wrote the book, which added the 'ladder of abstraction' to the writer's tool shed, in direct response to Nazi propaganda. Without critical literacy, he warned, our political liberties could 'remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue.'"




Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott


"The work of Anne Lamott builds a bridge between problems of craft and crises of confidence that undermine the writer. In her world of spiritual journeys and self-reflections, there is room for 'shitty first drafts.' The Bird in Bird by Bird is no Paraclete (my spell checker wants me to change this to Parakeet). But acts of reading and writing are works of a holy human spirit. 'They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.' Even the title turns out to be a writing strategy. When her older brother struggled on a school writing project on birds, her father offered this advice: 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"


April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.