How much is too much to pay for a writing/craft book? What if it truly “goes far beyond” what you’ve learned and read elsewhere? What if it doesn’t? What financial risk are you will to take for a book that makes such a claim?
My personal acceptable risk? If the book was written by someone whose work I greatly admired and believed had something important to teach me? Maybe $75. Maybe more. I’m probably a sucker in that regard. Someone whose work I was completely unfamiliar with? I don’t know. Maybe $15-20 if I heard good things from somebody whose opinion I respected.
I have no idea if A Poetics of Fiction: Six Chapters of Imaginative Prose by Tom Jenks from Narrative Magazine is worth the whopping $225 list price ($199 pre-order!). But the news of this upcoming title certainly got my attention. To put it politely, I’m skeptical. That’s almost the same retail price (although you can find online for around $152) as C. G. Jung’s The Red Book, a fabulously gorgeous, illuminated 8 pound, 400 page volume of the man’s soul that people waited many decades to become available. I did buy The Red Book when it first came out and I would do it again in a heartbeat. There’s a great deal I learned about the creative process in those pages and it’s certainly not a craft book. While over the years I have purchased a number of craft books, probably spent over $200 in total, I don’t suspect that I’ll be plunking down that kind of cash for A Poetics of Fiction.
If you want to spend that kind of money, consider buying 10-15 of the following (in no particular order) recommended writing/craft books (listed are the retail prices, many of the books you can find cheaper).
Recommended by Reb Livingston: Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing by Lance Olsen and Trevor Dodge (Raw Dog Screaming Press) $15.95
Recommended by Reb Livingston: Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer & Illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams) $24.95
Recommended by Kelly Luce: Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (Harper Perennial) $15.99
Recommended by Kelly Luce: Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter (Graywolf) $16
Recommended by Kelly Luce: On Writing by Stephen King (Scribner) $17
Recommended by Natasha Moni: The Daily Poet Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano (Two Sylvias Press) $16.99
Recommended by Natasha Moni: The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux (W.W. Norton) $17.95
Recommended by Natasha Moni: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind (Da Capo Press) $16
Recommended by Anna Lena: The Rose Metal Press Guide to Flash Nonfiction by Dinty W. Moore (Rose Metal Press) $15.95
Recommended by Anna Lena: An Exaltation of Forms by Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes (University of Michigan Press) $29.95
Recommended by Anna Lena: A Pocket Book of Forms by Anna Lena $12-20 (sliding scale)
Recommended by Guillaume Morissette: The Half-Known World on Writing Fiction by Robert Boswell (Graywolf) $16
Recommended by Sam Allingham: The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley (Writers Digest) $15.99
Recommended by Carissa Halston: Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern (W.W. Norton) $15.95
Recommended by Graham Oliver: Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers by Sarah Stone and Ron Nyren (Longman) $83.60
Recommended by Justin Bryant: The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop by Stephen Koch (Random House) $16
Recommended by Danielle Lazarin: Naming the World by Bret Anthony Johnston (Random House) $16
Recommended by Amsterdam Writing Workshops: Becoming a Writer by Dorthea Brande (Tarcher) $14.95
Recommended by James Conrad: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp (Simon & Schuster) $10.95
Recommended by Casey Patrick: The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo (W.W. Norton) $13.95
Recommended by Christina Collins: The Book of Forms by Lewis Turco (University Press of New England) $24.95
Recommended by Kenyatta Jean-Paul Garcia: The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk; Translated by Nazim Dikbaş (Harvard University Press) $22.95
Recommended by Upper Rubber Boot: