Writing is an art that takes constant work, reevaluation and exercises. You can write every day but if you don't read and study, you miss out on a whole new level of your art. Craft books, essays by writers writing about writing, are a great place to start. Below are some of my favorites.
This book is an amazing resource for any writer. Charles Baxter digs deep into every element of literature and tears it to pieces so he can examine how they work. He also offers writing prompts that will help you implement the techniques he attempts to teach. It's a dense and detailed book that will take you some time to dig through, but you'll be all the better for it.
2. Bird By Bird
While I recommend every book on this list, this one if by far my favorite. Anne Lamot's craft analysis is not only helpful, but also engaging and beautifully written. She weaves analysis in with personal essays about her life. This is a book you can read for pleasure not just education.
You know how amazing it feels when you take a class with a teacher who is super passionate about the subject? That's what reading this book feels like. Francine Prose takes your favorite books, short stories and essays and analyzes them, sometimes line by line. She points out how you can learn from everything you read to make your writing better.
Honestly, I wish this book was a requirement for everyone to read in high school. It goes over the most basic elements of writing. Punctuation, setting, characters, dialogue. This is the kind of craft book that you begin to read, roll your eyes and say "I already know this," but there's something refreshing about going back to the basics. Every writer should read this book once in a while to remind themselves where they started.
One of my biggest challenges even in my second or third drafts is helping my characters express their emotions. What I always think is subtle sadness, my readers interpret as insignificant details. The Emotion Thesaurus lets you look up specific emotions, tells you the varying degrees, the opposite and the ways it might be expressed physically. This books has been essential in making my characters read as lifelike, relatable and realistic.