Elements of Style by Strunk and White
I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway. Read this book. I once read that every writer should reread this book once a year: not a bad idea. The new version even has fun pictures. Some may say a book on grammar is an unbearably boring read, but I genuinely enjoy reading this book annually. Hilariously peevish, this book will set you straight on your grammar essentials.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
As someone who is especially offended by incorrect punctuation usage, I highly recommend this book. You need to master everything it contains. Just do it. Don’t worry; it’s funny, too.
On Writing by Stephen King
Like the first two books on this list, King’s memoir/writing guide belongs near the top of all similar lists and on every writer’s bookshelf. Leave it to the master of horror to write the most engaging and heartfelt guide to writing and life, ever.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Lamott does not shy away from the brutal, painful, unglamorous aspects of writing. She reminds writers that we write, not because it is fun and easy and lucrative, but because we must. Like King, she draws deeply from her personal experiences in writing, editing, teaching, and living. She shares an important lesson: “the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” And what a relief it is, to learn that all writers also happen to be human.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Another essential, unfiltered, honest guide to writing. While this book is primarily a guide to writing nonfiction, I find that it is good to know the rules in order to break them for fiction. Zinsser guilts you into becoming a good writer. He helps you become your own worst critic.
Of course there are many other books equally worthy of aiding you in your journey to being the best writer you can be, but this sample platter will get you started. Congratulations, you are on your way!