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How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  162 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Have you ever wondered about the creative process of your favorite authors? Ever wondered who loves money more than life? What doors do the secret keys unlock? What old lady wears fur jackets? Who needs to punch a boxing ball before work? With primary evidence from the very private lives of those contemporary authors that are lingering on the doorstep of the literary canon ...more
Hardcover, 191 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by Rizzoli
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Coffee table book, thick, with glossy pages adorned with art designs. Published authors sharing their “secrets” of the trade, what helps them write and write well, what inspires them, what they cannot do without while pursuing their craft, in short, easy to read pieces. Their names right there, arranged alphabetically, on the book’s cover.

Two caught my fancy. One is by the chef and food journalist Anthony Bourdain entitled “Nicotine.” By itself his piece of just one paragraph says nothing much.
John G.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! Unique approach to writing and the writing process in how writers coax their muse out from hiding. Also about why they write and beautiful language all throughout. Had a gorgeous ribbon bookmark that I didn't find until 2/3 finished! Wonderful bio in the back of each contributing writer with tons of interesting books for me to track down!
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Revealing little glimpses into the writing lives of a wide variety of writers presented in a beautiful coffee table type book. I was very happy with the layout and how each writer's pages reflected their personality as referenced in the passage submitted. I do wish that there was more to it, but then it really wouldn't be a coffee table book, would it? Still, definitely worth purchasing, and certainly a book experience that can't be effectively reflected in an e-book. Buy the paper version of th ...more
M. Sarki
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: nobody
Recommended to M. by: nobody
Nothing to write home about. A coffee-table size book with not a lot in it. Some pretty pictures. The less better said.
Elora Ramirez
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: creative, non-fiction
A 2.5-star rating.

"Against the wall of my study hangs a boxer's speedball. Its swollen plumlike shape is sexy and potent. It beckons me several times a day... There is something pleasing about the conceit of a boxing speedball turned into a writing tool. Novel writing is not a team sport. Neither is boxing. The boxer steps into the ring alone and stands or falls by his own skills and strength. Like the writer. And like the fighter, the novelist obsessively searches for the sweet punch. Is not th
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: anthology, writing
This handsome hardcover is interesting and entertaining since it's an anthology of the authors' secrets as revealed to their readers. It won't definitely be boring due to its artistically-designed fonts, colors, photos, etc. Therefore, it's quite costly (US$35) and I hope there would be a paperback edition soon. From its 69 authors, Alain de Botton is my favorite because I've enjoyed reading most of his books. As for some others I'm sorry to tell you I knew them vaguely, unable to find time to r ...more
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This wasn't what I was expecting, but it was good. Basically, the books' authors sent out requests to many accomplished writers and asked them to describe and/or send them an item or place or exercise that they find central/necessary to their writing process. The book contained pictures of a lot of these items or places and, in the questioned author's own words, an explanation of the impact the activity or piece of memorabilia has on their writing process. Coffee, nicotine, and chocolate were (n ...more
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
Writers have their crutches. Like only drinking tea or using a cork board to outline plots or needing a specific ratty stuffed animal near them when they write. These are the secret lives of writers.

This book was a fascinating read. The ones that stood out to me the most were Alain de Botton, with his huge desk that made me gape; Douglas Coupland, with his obsession with dark chocolate; and Chip Kidd, whose use of Quark to write made me laugh out loud. I'll be honest - many of the names in this
Shonna Froebel
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What a great idea this book is! The editors asked a number of authors to send information, including photos of objects, about what inspired their writing. The responses vary widely, which makes it all the more fun. The book design by art director Vince Frost enhances the responses and adds to the knowledge, especially for readers like me, who are very visual. Some entries are only one line, some run to extra pages. The authors reply candidly for the most part and I found many fascinating insight ...more
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
At first glance, I didn't like this book: it looked like a coffee-table book — cool design, but no substance, I thought. I was wrong.

It's an anthology of very short statements from over sixty authors on how they write — specifically on the wierd habits or objects that have become an essential part of their process. Johathan Lethem's list of names, Jay McInerney's axe artifact, Lionel Shriver's toy Clippity, A.S. Byatt's "Antonia Writing Time!" notice, Jonathan Franzen's old and ugly office chair
Jo Kaiser
May 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As many people have noted in other reviews, the style of this books is very much on the 'coffee-table' front; it's appealing to and easy on the eye with playful colours and images that suit the perceived character of each of the writers included. The stories so beautifully presented in this book are numerous in number and nature; no two are the same though many are similar, as can be expected for they talk of the same matter: writing. As a writer, it's inspiring to read these accounts however I ...more
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
When I first cracked open the book and read a few essays, I wasn't too excited. Although it was not quite what I expected it to be, it was ok in terms of a quick read and seeing what vices and object help or hinder some of the writers.

Also, to be honest, I was not familiar with many of the authors that were showcased in the book, so perhaps that played a bit into my disinterest. Over all it is interesting to take a glimpse into writer's lives, but be prepared... a tiny keyhole glimpse is all you
De Lettervrouw
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: schrijfboeken
Dit boek had beter "Where I Write" kunnen heten, want het bevat tientallen foto's van de werkplekken van bekende en minder bekende auteurs - van de imposante muur vol post-it-blaadjes van Will Self en het gipsen heiligenhoofd op de werktafel van Audrey Niffenegger tot de merklappen van overgrootoma in de schrijfkamer van Marie Darrieussecq en de babyfoto's boven het bureau van Alain de Botton. Let ook op het gestreepte kussen op de bureaustoel van de laatste.
Geweldig van vormgeving en typografie
Phillip Sawyer
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: graphically minded visualists who have a passing interest in literature
Shelves: books-on-writing
Neat looking book with strong graphics and layouts. Anglo-centric with a few hidden gems amongst generally interesting authors' descriptions of the quirky things that inspire, motivate, or accompany them as they ply their craft. Quick short entries from each author make this a "pick up and put down for later" book that doesn't require much time to enjoy. Would give it 4 1/2 stars if I could. A 1/2 deducted for authors that I would have chosen that weren't included...
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of nearly 70 essays by writers about how they write. A common thread seems to be procrastination and how authors get themselves into a mindset to write. Many authors shared stories and pictures about objects in their office.

Designer Vince Frost was apparently given free reign to put the book together. I found the design and layouts he chose for each essay to be as fascinating as the essays.
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I only borrowed it because Anthony Bourdain had an essay in there. I read a couple of the other essays. They were insightful, I suppose, but I don't want to become a professional writer, so it was not too helpful to me. His essay was meh, thouugh. I guess he smoked a lot when he wrote, but I think he doesn't smoke anymore. So, meh!
Dec 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
Even though it's intended to be a coffee table book, I found myself caught up in the lives of these authors - some of who I've never heard of - and their little obsessions about writing. Little rituals and objects that seem to keep them going, even though they feel ready to give it all up, but they won't, because they genuinely love it.
Jason Walker
Oct 29, 2010 rated it liked it
This isn't an informative book about writing, it's a book about the oddities of people: What is important to one person just seems strange to another. Still, it is worth pondering the how's' and why's' that make up those that are compelled to write and who write well.
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
A fun book. Short essays by writers about their writing spaces and obessesions accompanied by actual photos and drawings. A little like a coffee table book. I enjoyed reading it if only to laugh or not feel so weird about myself as a writer.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Writers writing about how, where, and when they write often times accompanied by their own personal photos of their workspace, talimanic items or inspiration.

Oscillates between being insightful and funny to verbose and pretentious.

Interesting nonetheless.
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, books
Single or double page essays from various authors on how, why, where, etc., they write. Short reads for a time when your attention span is lacking. I enjoyed the art and layout, as well.
Jan 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
I loved the idea behind this book, but I wish there were a few more mainstream authors included.
Bonita Rose
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
love this book, makes me realize other authors
out there are just like me!
We are all kindred spirits!
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Totally not what I expected but still interesting!
K Grant
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting little glimpses into authors' lives.
Donna Mork
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting. Was more about talismans than the process of how the writers produce their manuscripts.
Dec 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Some of the contributions were interesting. Some made me want to write. Some were just descriptions of objects (and of those some, many were boring and most were skimmed or skipped).
Jul 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
neato pictures, not enough poets
CB Davis
rated it it was amazing
Mar 08, 2009
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