7 Books Every Songwriter Should Read (Revised 2021)

Writing and reading lessens our isolation and prods our imagination. Music makes our souls dance, and great art leaves an impression that lasts for centuries.


Over my 23 years as a professional songwriter, I’ve read just about every book on creativity I could get my hands on. I’m convinced I will never fully understand this magical, mythical experience of creative inspiration. But, these books have helped me tap into my creative energy more often along on my songwriting journey. Some of these books directly involve songwriting while the others will spark and refine your creative process as a songwriter.



On Writing, by Stephen King

An inspirational and authentic view of an artist’s journey.

Upon reading this book I was instantly struck by how much novelists and songwriters have in common. On Songwriting very well could have been title On Songwriting. Stephen’s biography outlines the work, dedication, disappointment, and joy of any artist’s life. It’s part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time.

On Writing offers a practical view of the writer’s craft and King’s advice is a real-life guide for anyone thinking of choosing a creative career.




 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Think you have a creative artist inside of you? Writer Anne Lamott’s quirky and honest voice will help you find your true passion and voice. Bird by Bird is  a complete guide on how to write, and even more importantly, how to manage a writer’s life.

Chapters deal with a range of topics from “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?”

Lamott encourages us, instructs us, and inspires us to reach new creative heights. She offers advice on  writing groups, writer’s block and publishing. Brutaly honest, she is happens to be one of the funniest people alive.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, this book is for you.



 The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

What’s stopping you from doing what you truly long to do? This book helps you understand the naysayer within. Then, break through the internal barriers that every artist faces. It’s a real and practical guide for succeeding in any creative arena from writer to entrepreneur.



Song Building- Book

Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing

by Marty Dodson and Bill O’Hanlon

A comprehensive, insightful overview of successful lyric writing by 6-time #1 hit songwriter Marty Dodson. (Co-authored with noted book author Bill O’Hanlon.) A must-read for any musician or songwriter embarking on a career involving writing songs. This also appeals to the seasoned writer who wants to improve their craft level and speed throughout the writing process.



artists way- book-songtown

The Artist’s Way  by Julia Cameron

This book has been making its way through artistic circles for a couple of decades. Whether you are a musician, poet, or painter, this book will help you discover and develop the true artist within.



Letter-to-a-Young-Poet, book

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

A beautiful collection of 10 letters written by Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Franz Xaver Kappus, a 19-year-old officer cadet at the Theresian Military Academy. In these letters, Rilke advises Kappus on deciding between pursuing his dream of a literary career or choosing a career in the Austro-Hungarian Army.


songwriting, co-writing, book

The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-Writing

by Marty Dodson, Clay Mills, and Bill O’ Hanlon

From the great musical duos of John Lennon/Paul McCartney to Elton John/Bernie Taupin, co-writing has long been an important skill for songwriters. Surprisingly, there are very few pro books on this subject!  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-Writing will help you identify your strengths as a collaborator and elevate your writing by creating the perfect co-writing combinations in your music world. Therefore, eliminate your writing weaknesses and increase your chances of songwriting success!


Write On! ~CM

clay mills, hit songwriter, songtown

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.

22 thoughts on “7 Books Every Songwriter Should Read (Revised 2021)

  1. I’m an upcoming artist in Nigeria and basically focusing on afro music but I’ve stock in writing and sometimes find it hard to get melodies please which is the for me to improve in writing lyrics?

  2. I just started reading “Song Building” yesterday. I’m trying my first song blue print latter today. It’s a great book! Thanks for your article.

  3. hello, Would you reccomend any of these books for high schooler? My daughter is 16 and majors in Vocal and instrumental at her performing arts school. She just wrote her first song, which is a Christmas song. its been hard with the pandemic getting out there so she wants to keep writing and singing her own songs , maybe start her own you tube channel? idk we will see

    1. Yes, the Song Building Book is a great foundation builder for her songwriting. Also, we have high school and college members of songtown.com and there are lots of great courses that come with membership.

      1. Thank you- I will give her the info and buy some of the books above Christmas right around corner – Happy Holidays-stay safe

  4. I have many of the books you recommended. Carried through the 12 week program and during that time ‘unblocked” a song idea I’d been working on for years (changed the point of view !) As a writer who has had minimal music lessons, I particularly appreciate Jimmy Webb’s “Tunesmith”. It’s my “get-away-from-the-guitar” and sometimes bedtime reading. There are now 25 post-it-notes in that book! Another source for theory that is helping me big time is the Hooktheory books and the Hookpad. I love that you can hear the examples as many times as you need to, and the explanation of inversion of chords uses color. Why am I struggling to learn theory? Many of the writers, producers are able to give a special feel to the music by using inversions and combinations of chords, and I want to know more about it. Don’t think it has hurt my lyrics any!

  5. I ordered my copy of A Songwriter’s Guide to Mastering Co-writing! I’m so excited to get my hands
    on this book! Thank you for gifting us with your knowledge!-Dana Matthews

  6. She used one of my songs in that book. She was my first songwriting instructor. Brilliant woman.

    ~Clay Mills

  7. Thank you so much for the great information I look forward in hearing from you in future and learning all I can about songwriting .

    1. It’s a great one too. I’ve read it a couple times. It gets very technical and into theory in the second half of the book so it’s not for everyone.

  8. I have one book, then got 2 through Audible, including On Writing which is read by Stephen King. It is very interesting listening to him talk!

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