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Writing to Change the World

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  853 ratings  ·  107 reviews
In these tumultuous times, don't we all want to be heard? Who doesn't want to transform the world? And who doesn't harbor a secret ambition to write? Writing to Change the World is intended to help people who have a message they're passionate about to convey it clearly through writing. Inspired by a course of the same name that Mary Pipher taught at the University of ...more
Hardcover, 236 pages
Published April 20th 2006 by Riverhead Books (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-books
I bought a copy of this book when I was approaching a daunting writing project. Having read Pipher's "Reviving Ophelia", I knew she would have something profound to share. I was right, and instead of trying to sum it up myself, I will use her words:

'With connection comes responsibility...Writers help readers construct larger, more expansive frames of reference so that more of the world can be more accurately perceived...Our goal as writers is to convey to readers the greatest meaning with the
Loree Burns
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found WRITING TO CHANGE THE WORLD at my local bookstore last year and couldn’t resist the flap copy: “[this:] is a book that will shake up your beliefs, expand your mind, and possibly even inspire you to make your own mark on the world.” Seemed to me a rather tall order for a single book. I'm happy to report that Mary Pipher delivered with quiet style.

Early on, as an example of activist writing, Pipher shared an article she wrote for the September 2004 issue of Psychotherapy Networker. It is a
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was absolutely amazed with this book. It is actually one of the best books I have written on writing. She is very passionate about the subject and gives you lots of information. I fully recommend this to any person who wants to write and carries around a soapbox in their purse/on their person. (That's my thing - I have a soapbox and I'm not afraid to pull it out and use it haha.)

Towards the end of the book, she says the following (I think it speaks volumes):

"The finest thing we can do in life
Julie Christine
Very lovely, like the embrace of a trusted friend. There is a lot of gentle, beginning-writer guidance and I was expecting more of a call to action, more examples of change-specific writing; perhaps less instructional and more motivational. But, there are beautiful words of encouragement and inspiration. A reference to return to when it seems change is too hard to come by.
Mary Guthrie
Sep 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My creative writing teacher assigned my class to read a "developing style" book this semester and gave us a list to pick from. Dr. Pipher's book was on that list. It immediately appealed to the anime fanatic in me with its grand title, reminding me of "Death Note" (although what Yagami Raito wrote changed the world in an entirely different way). I had also recently written an essay to apply for a scholarship; in it, I explained what I hoped to accomplish from writing. I ended the essay with ...more
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Mixed feelings about this book. There are chapters - primarily in the beginning and at the end -- that were inspiring and helpful. As a novice writer, I was looking for concrete guidance on how to construct non-fiction writing that was in support of change. Too much was so general that it was meaningless. Some examples she used were mediocre at best. She didn't use concrete examples to illustrate technique. And her own point of view as a therapist, really limited her ability to guide someone who ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I lost enthusiasm for reading this one about half way through. A bit preachy.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
has given me plenty of ideas to write and I've written a few pieces now because of it.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
I first read this book nine years ago, and it resonated. I chose this book to read this past semester with several of my high school students, and this time I found it dated and irrelevant, especially when reading through the lens of today's teen.
Kelly Holmes
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, writing, owned
This book was an impulse buy at my local bookstore, and I'm so glad I own it because I plan to read it again one day. One of my main motivations for writing is summed up by this quip: Books change people, people change the world. So I really enjoyed looking at writing from that point of view throughout this book.

Here are a few of my favorite parts of the book:
* Whereas writers of propaganda encourage readers to accept certain answers, writers who want to transform their readers encourage the
Rebekah Choat
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
All the readers and writers I know agree that words are powerful tools, and that they can, indeed, bring about great changes in individual lives, communities, and entire cultures. However, wielding words effectively is a skill that even those with a natural gift for writing may fine-tune and improve with guidance and feedback from their peers.

Writer/therapist/activist Mary Pipher offers clear and practical advice for discerning appropriate forms and tones of writing to convey information,
Jun 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
For a such a gifted writer, Mary Pipher's title sure is trite. I initially bought this book for its high recommendations from the critics circle, and for being a cheapie remainder through Amazon. Luckily, within a few chapters, I was relieved to discover that you can't always just a book by it's cover title. Some people don't like "touchy-feely" how-to books -- and I'm certainly one of them -- yet Pipher effortlessly transcends this tired genre by delving deep into the essential human need to ...more
Joe Bell
The seemingly over-ambitious title put me off at first.


I was pleasantly surprised to find how humble the voice was in Pipher's book. It's very unassuming and quiet in how it tells us that it's possible to change the world without writing a best-seller, without being Dan Brown. Which is nice. Given that many of us aspiring writers see those twenty or thirty big names and are totally and completely intimidated by them. Thinking we'll never be there. Etc.

It was a little too light for me,
Melissa Kidd
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for my college English class and enjoyed it so much I finished it early. It is not a book about how to write, but on how to use writing to "change the world". As a writer myself, Pipher struck some deep chords within me. I also believe that the world is in a bad way so the idea of being able to do something about it is very appealing. I didn't think much about it before because I prefer to write fiction, but as a writer I CAN do something to make a contribution to society. ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book for me personally wasn't too interesting. It might be a good read for those who have no education in linguistics or other related fields and no knowledge on basic human psychology. Since I've studied those subjects and read many books, unfortunately I didn't find anything new to take away from this book. I also felt the author's writing style is too touchy-feely, and it seems that she is trying too hard. However, I did get something out of "Writing to Change the World" - some ...more
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a quick and easy read with lots of good quotes, insights, and inspirations. Mary Pipher focuses on social justice and how to use writing to help promote social justice throughout your state, country, or even the world. One of my favorite quotes in the book is:

"There is a sense in which our most intimate lifelong relationship is with our own comfort zone."

I highly recommend this book if you are into social justice.
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is indeed a good book, but its not necessarily a book for me. The analogies she includes are really great, and her overall explanation as to why we need to write is profound, but i already had a certain grasp as to why i need to write, this just added more to that grasp i had. That is why i liked it, it further improved my thoughts of writing, and encouraged me to write more often than what i actually do.
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is such a great motivation for me to write, write, write! The author, Mary Pipher, is a talented, hard-working writer and her example shows that writing can bring forth change in important ways. Every step is a step closer to change, to open up realizations, to share stories. I will keep this book on my shelf, for sure, and expect to refer back to it many times.
Karen Floyd
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
"America is deeply ambivalent about its change agents. Simply put, we tend to like them after they die. To most Americans, 'radical' is a negative word, and even 'reformer' evokes our cultural uncertainty about systemic change. On the other hand, we tend to like rebels and outlaws, just so long as they don't really challenge the status quo." Mary Pipher

4/20/2017 - Coherent and to-the-point suggestions on finding your voice, writing better, doing your research, and writing to your particular
OK, I just needed to take a break from my hectic life and say I LOVE this book. A must read for writers and therapists interested in writing or journaling.
"Quiet catastrophes, without good visuals, tend to be overlooked. In our great postmodern supermarket of ideas, good writers point readers toward meaning." - Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World
Ann Douglas
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read. Pipher discusses the art of persuasive writing: how words can be used to change minds and perhaps even change the world. It's a practical and hopeful book -- the perfect guide for any writer who seeks to better the world through his/or her writing.
Jun 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writingbooks
The "I am from" writing exercise in the front of the book was very productive for my own writing projects. Her examples of writing that connected versus writing that was merely pretty informed my own approach. I only regret the lack of exercises - after "I am from" I wanted more!
♥ Ibrahim ♥
It starts out well, inspirational, but then it shifts to telling stories from her own life and I lost patience and I couldn't finish. it's an okay book. I am not going to read and read and in the end discover it's not adding much to my writing expertise.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
Eh. She's a little longwinded and self-promotes a lot. Came highly recommended from someone I respect, but couldn't finish it.
Mark Dykeman
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great book on writing. This writer creates excellent paragraphs - that's one thing I remember about this book. That and she has lots of great advice. Worth checking out.
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Great inspiration from a thoughtful writer/therapist. Thanks, Mary!
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-work, 2011
I find Mary's writing so reassuring and comforting; this was a truly inspiring book.
Beverly Diehl
Beautifully written, it will help and inspire any writer looking to do more than cash in on the "easy money" of writing.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it did not like it

I know Reviving Ophelia was "amazing," that Writing to Change the World is a NY Times bestseller, that she's a licensed therapist. So yes, she does have authority on writing. But she writes like she KNOWS she has authority and that the reader should KNOW she has authority and should thus defer to said authority. She writes like her ethos has already been established with the reader. If that makes any sense...Either way, no matter how successful a writer is, I think that they should never walk
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
"Long after buildings and aqueducts have crumbled, writers' words live on."

I expected a lot more from this book, and I'm sad to say I was a little disappointed when I started reading it.
This how-to guide for activist writers is divided into three parts: "What We Alone Can Say," "The Writing Process," and "Calls to Action." Parts two and three were by far the most interesting parts of the book, providing both examples and advice on how to be a better change writer. However, part one was a
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